So far, after slowly getting acquainted over the past few weeks, I've found the A3 e-tron the perfect tonic to daily test cars. It needs to be driven on its own terms to get the best from it, which means slow, deliberate inputs and going along in a fairly saintly fashion, but the reward on shorter runs (and a full charge) is an indicated 128mpg, superb refinement (anyone who harps on about the 'hushed' nature of modern diesels could learn a thing or two from driving one of these) and stress-free travel. In fact the drivetrain is so subdued that I've started to noise road and wind noise more than ever before.
However, KM64 XDC has not had the easiest start to life on our fleet, with Editor-in-Chief Jon Quirk borrowing it for a week, and galavanting off to the Lake District, Wales, and all over the country, covering 1,700 miles in the process. In a range extender like the BMW i3, journeys like this would be long, difficult and fraught with fill-ups of the tiny fuel tank. No such problems affect the A3, and it's the usability allied to those tiny running costs that give it such appeal.
I love the fact that I can sling a full-sized road bike into the boot without worrying if it will fit or not (the batteries are stowed neatly under the rear seats, so the boot is only slightly smaller than on the standard A3), and how easy it is to park. The light controls and optional parking sensors (£250) mean I can squeeze it into the smallest of spaces, which is very handy when everyone else in your neighbourhood drives a vast Porsche Cayenne or Range Rover Sport.
The only downside I have found so far is that if you get lazy and start to use the e-tron just like a normal car, the economy does suffer, and it'll only return around 56mpg unless I charge the battery twice a day. That's not always possible when flitting between car launches, rural video shoots and two different offices during the working week.
It's not all my fault, though. Part of the problem is the frustratingly small charging network. Even right in the heart of London, there's only one charging bay within a two-mile radius of my house, which costs £4.40 per night for one of its electric berths. Even then, the bay in question only has - to my surprise - a standard domestic plug rather than the seven-pin fast-charge connector, meaning the car takes twice as long to charge. To rub salt in the wound, every time you go to use a charging bay at a motorway services, they're invariably not working.
Hopefully over the next couple of months, with a bit more searching, we'll be able to use the A3's electric capabilities a bit more regularly, and explore its performance potential (despite the marketing schtick, it's not quite like owning a hot hatch) and even take it on some proper road trips, all of which we'll be keeping you posted about.
Don't get me wrong, I love the looks and innovation of the i3, but the A3 feels like an electrified car that you can use right now, everyday, and not when the infrastructure finally catches up...
Find out what happened when we took the A3 e-tron to Le Mans in our second report.