It is not a hybrid, it doesn't run on electricity and there isn't just water coming out of the tailpipe.
Yet, the little A3 "e'' is carrying the banner for "normal'' cars that can — with just a little thought and attention to detail — play a major role in keeping the planet breathing.
The ethos of the "e'' car philosophy — an idea that is destined to flow across the Audi range — is largely common sense and involves using green thinking and design strategies on an existing model.
The TDi e's hybrid-challenging fuel efficiency — 4.5 litres per 100 kilometres on the official government cycle — is the result of a series of small tweaks that result in a measurable (8 per cent) improvement in fuel economy and emissions.
There is a specific tuning of the electronics of the 77kW 1.9-litre turbodiesel engine — the same unit found in the standard A3 and the VW Golf — while lengthening ratios for third and fifth gear in the five-speed manual box results in optimised fuel efficiency, particularly when the driver follows the recommended gear selection as displayed on the dash.
The car has also been lowered to improve efficiency through the air, lightened, fitted with aerodynamic plastic covers for the 16-inch wheels and shod with low-friction Michelin rubber to reduce rolling resistance.
If the driver joins the party and makes a reasonable attempt to drive efficiently fuel economy below 4.2L/100km is well within reach.
Also considered closely in the final voting for the award were last year's winner the Hyundai i30 CRDi, Honda's Civic Hybrid, the Fiat 500 JTD and the Mercedes A180 CDi.
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