What is it?
It’s Audi’s A3 with a reworked 1.9-litre turbodiesel engine, revised gear ratios, tweaked aerodynamics, low-resistence tyres and a ‘recommended gear’ display on the dash. The result is a CO2 figure of 119g/km, allowing the A3 TDI e to sneak under London’s proposed congestion charge cut-off.
What’s it like?
Frugal; we raised eyebrows at the claimed 62mpg but after a decent blend of motorway miles and urban crawl, we can believe it. But it’s noisy too. There’s real diesel clatter at start-up and it never really settles down; it sounds like a VW, not an Audi.
Curiously, the engine mods have resulted in a linear power delivery, with less turbo whoosh than most modern oil-burners. But then, if you use the suggested gears then you’ll spend most of your time rumbling along at between 1250 and 2500rpm anyway. It will cruise happily – but not silently – at motorway speeds, however.
Elsewhere it’s just an A3: beautifully finished and well laid out but not particularly spacious and, for the money, not that well equipped either.
Should I buy one?
Despite its good intentions, it’s hard to recommend a £16,600 hatchback on the grounds that it will save you money, either on the congestion charge or fuel. But if you want to pay for a patch of ethical high ground, go right ahead.