Audi A3 Sportback Review

By: Scott Newman

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Driven: Audi A3 Driven: Audi A3 Driven: Audi A3
Driven: Audi A3 Driven: Audi A3 Driven: Audi A3
Driven: Audi A3 Driven: Audi A3 Driven: Audi A3
Driven: Audi A3 Driven: Audi A3 Driven: Audi A3

Driven: Latest A3 sharpens up its act in the face of tough new rivals

Audi A3 Sportback Review
Driven: Audi A3

 

Audi A3

The late Alfred P. Sloan, long-time President and CEO of General Motors, famously held the belief that there was little point selling small cars, as they cost almost as much as large cars to make yet couldn’t be sold for anywhere near as much.

How, then, would he view the premium compact – small cars with large-car pricetags? Audi claims it invented this lucrative niche with the first A3 in 1996, but 17 years on the marketplace is a lot more crowded. The new A3 faces stiff competition from BMW’s 1-Series and Mercedes-Benz’s flash new A-Class, not to mention in-house pressure from VW’s excellent Golf VII.

One benefit of this battle for buyers is the downward pressure it exerts on prices. The new A3 starts at just $35,600 for the 1.4 TFSI (petrol); $4600 less than the model it replaces and $1350 cheaper than the base A3 at launch in 1997! Above this sit the 1.8 TFSI and 2.0 TDI at $42,500.

Sharp prices all, but a word of warning: Audi still charges extra for toys like sat-nav, electric seats and metallic paint, so add around $5000 to those base prices for a car you’d actually be happy driving off the showroom floor.

Thankfully, prices aren’t the only thing that have been cut. Up to 90kg have been trimmed from the A3, thanks to the use of high-strength steel in the body and aluminium panels. As well as having a positive effect on performance and economy, it can be felt on the road, too.

All three variants feel keen and agile, with subtly different characters that will carry varying appeal to different buyers. With 132kW/250Nm, the 1.8 TFSI is a pseudo warm-hatch, with a surprising turn of speed (0-100km/h in 7.3sec) and the grunt to make the most of the balanced chassis.

The 110kW/320Nm 2.0 TDI’s slower responses dull driver appeal a bit, but it counters with 4.5L/100km fuel consumption. And the 90kW/200Nm 1.4 TFSI? It could be the sweetest of the bunch. It’s not fast (0-100km/h in 9.3sec) but rides nicely on its 16-inch wheels and steers sweetly, lacking the variable steering weight that ‘Drive Select’ adds to the more expensive models.

Every exterior panel is new, though it’s difficult at first glance to spot any dramatic changes. Park the new A3 next to the old, however, and the crisper, sharper look becomes more apparent. Inside, the interior impresses with its quality, minimalist design and technology taken from larger Audis, such as the ability to enter sat-nav or phone instructions by using your finger to ‘write’ letters on top of the MMI controller.

The real question is: With so many similar components, is the new A3 worth the extra over the much cheaper VW Golf? In pragmatic terms, no, but the Audi’s attractive design (particularly inside) and broad breadth of ability mean that those that spend the extra are unlikely to feel shortchanged.



SPECIFICATIONS

Audi A3 1.8 TFSI

 

Engine: 1798cc 4cyl, DOHC, 16v, turbocharger

Power: 132kW @ 5100-6200rpm

Torque: 250Nm @ 1250-5000rpm

Weight: 1280kg

Gearbox: 7-speed dual-clutch

0-100km/h: 7.3sec (claimed)

Top speed: 232km/h (claimed)

Price: $42,500

Our Rating: 8/10

 

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