Caring for the environment always comes at a cost, just as there's a price to pay if you don't.

For prospective Audi A3 Sportback owner Ryan Flint the issue is whether he is prepared to spend more to buy the petrol-electric e-tron version of the car. A Rockpool chef, he has an eye for quality and the A3 fulfils that brief.
Tipped to cost $60,000 when it goes on sale in March the plug-in hybrid will be about $14,000 dearer than the top-line conventional petrol model.

Explore the 2015 Audi A3 Range

Ownership, however, will cost correspondingly less. The e-tron will travel up to 50km on electric propulsion from its 75kW motor. That's enough to get many to and from their place of work without having the petrol engine kick in to recharge the battery back or provide conventional power.

Audi Drive Experience head Steve Pizzati says the average cost of recharging the lithium-ion batteries using electricity is about $2.50, or $5 for 100km. The most powerful A3 engine, the 1.8-litre turbo quattro, uses a claimed 6.5L/100km. With unleaded at $1.46 a litre, it costs $9.50 to cover the same distance.

The $4.50 difference won't have a big effect on the budget but (assuming e-tron owners recharge using green power) it will have an appreciable impact on the environment, given the petrol engine will emit 149 g of CO2 over that journey.

To ensure the warm and fuzzy feeling of "doing the right thing" isn't just marketing hype, Audi has bought "GreenPower" credits from Origin Energy to ensure the first 10,000km of electric driving is offset by accredited renewable energy.

Flint appreciates this, even if he's unsure whether his budget will stretch to an e-tron. "I like the idea," he says. "It drives well and I thought it might be dearer. I could get to work without using the engine and it still looks like a normal A3." There are fewer compromises compared to many plug-in hybrids. The luggage space is down 100L on a conventional front-wheel drive car but at 280L it an still takes a pair of small suitcases before the rear seats have to be folded.

it corners better than your average A3, a decent handler in its own right

Visually, only the front differs from a regular A3. The four-ringed badge on the grille slides to reveal the plug. The battery is under the rear seat, the fuel tank is 40L rather than 50L but Audi claims a combined range of 940km. With range anxiety covered, Audi also has a package to deal with price anxiety. Arrange a lease or finance on the A3 e-tron and Audi will guarantee a buyback price based on duration of ownership and distance travelled.

The e-tron's rear-mounted battery pack enhances weight distribution and lowers the centre of gravity, so it corners better than your average A3, a decent handler in its own right. Behind the wheel it is hard to spot as a hybrid - other than the silent start-up - given the transition from motor to engine is barely noticeable.

Standard gear includes satnav, auto-parking, rear-view camera, dual-zone aircon and a home charging station that many owners won't have to pay to install (depending on their domestic wiring).