From £35,0057

Engine options, top speed, acceleration and refinement

For a model intended to sell partly on easy-to-understand functionality, the e-tron has a lot of driving modes to contend with: EV, Auto, Hold and Charge.

It defaults to the first and, as long as you stay shy of the kickdown or 80mph, will draw on the battery charge and electric motor exclusively, which it does well. There’s almost no whine, and while an electric-only 0-62mph time of 12.7sec isn’t up to VW e-Golf or BMW i3 standards, it feels snappy enough around town. 

The A3 e-tron's 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine is claimed to weigh just 100kg

The intended natural state is Auto mode, in which the e-tron efficiently juggles its power sources. This generally manifests itself as electric motor only up to around 40mph, at which point the petrol engine kicks in, simultaneously supplying further drive and slyly recharging the battery. Lift off and the car decouples its transmission, allowing the A3 to coast to remarkably good effect

In this setting, we managed 65.2mpg over 25 miles of A-road, B-road and town driving. The motor and engine blend to generally good effect with only modest throttle inputs.

There’s an inevitable delay between coasting, motor pick-up and internal combustion assistance, but it is tolerable – if a little inorganic. You can mitigate this by choosing when to switch between EV and Charge modes; the process demands some button pushing and is less efficient (49.8mpg over 25 miles) but does help to preserve battery life (largely by recouping power when it would otherwise be coasting). 

Back to top

Drive without concern for the economy and the e-tron gets less well mannered. That it manages 60mph in 7.9sec or achieves something approaching real vigour in kickdown mode is not in doubt, but try to push on in Auto mode and, along with the aforementioned delay, you’ll find the gearbox and its sluggishly broad ratios are ill-suited to high revs.

Click the shifter into its Sport setting and things get livelier, but only because the drive management defaults into the Hold mode in which the four-pot does all the work. Only by opting to change gear yourself will the electric motor and engine toil in tandem – and then it all becomes too much for the chassis. 

As a relative shortcoming, it isn’t major. The generally sprightly e-tron is a generational triple jump ahead of the cloying progress made by some rivals. But for all its straight-line potential, this is still not a hybrid that really gratifies your impatience.