Audi A3: car review
Get to know this car and you’ll be rewarded with an excellent driving experience.
What is it?
The all-new Audi A3 continues to be one of the leading up-market hatchbacks.
Would it help me stay safe?
It has the full independent Euro NCAP five stars for safety.
Who should buy it and how much does it cost?
A buyer of the all-new A3 is someone who values good engineering, owning a prestige marque, and appreciates efforts in reducing emissions (1.8 TFSI by 21% ) whilst still increasing performance (1.8 TFSI by 20PS). Prices start from £19,205.
Tom Scanlan’s review: Good Motoring, Winter 2012
DRIVING AND PERFORMANCE
Although the most popular new A3 will be a diesel version (so quiet that it’s difficult to detect it’s a diesel), Audi’s TFSI technology is a powerful advocate to remain on petrol. 180PS (we have to get used to European PS figures: in this case about 178bhp) means strong acceleration when you need it, the car’s new lightweight (but stronger) construction compared with the outgoing A3 allows the new car to claim premium-class-leading fuel economy and CO2 exhaust emission figures.
I found the 1.8 TFSI a joy to rive – on the open road; in town, less so. But then I could have delved more deeply into the car’s adaptability to be set up as you particularly like it. In town, using the car’s efficiency programme, the engine response was a touch sluggish when starting from standstill. Perhaps this was to be expected. In ‘Dynamic’, hey presto – a different car; and, even though the test car was in ‘Sport’ trim, the new A3 allows the suspension to be set in ‘comfort’ mode. This is possibly the most significant change introduced: we all expect every new model to produce improved performance, but, for too long, sportier versions have had suspension that was far too hard; Audi’s new A3 has put that into history and we can now all enjoy zappy performance and a comfortable ride at the same time.
The steering and handling of the new A3 is beautiful and the car can be great fun. The test car had Audi’s brilliant 7-speed S tronic auto gearbox as a very desirable option.
SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
The wheelbase of the new A3 is longer and interior space benefits from this. The front is certainly adequate and, once you’ve managed to contort yourself into the back of the three-door version, there is good space for two there, also. However, the transmission tunnel still challenges anyone sitting in the middle of the back to find somewhere to put their feet. Luggage space is best-in-class with all seats in use and still competitive when the seats are folded down, this being a very simple operation both from the side and the back of the car.
Overall, the new A3 provides a typically versatile package that can be a useful and comfortable conveyance for up to four people, or five at a pinch.
Audi’s safety systems include the latest in anti-skid devices, along with helpful features such as ‘active lane assist’ that detects wandering off course (given that white road markings can be seen); Xenon headlights for best quality vision at night; and Audi’s ‘pre-sense basic’ for quickest seat-belt action in an impact. Tyre pressure monitoring is a £75 option. For me, a leading feature is voice control: once learnt, you can instruct the car in a whole variety of tasks without having to take your eyes off the road. Audi says the construction of the new car makes it stronger than before.
The test car came with options costing around £3500 – modest by Audi standards. In Sport trim the new car offers £1225 worth of extra specification over the outgoing car’s, including a colour driver’s information system, voice control, and Audi Drive Select, all at no cost; this is really good value for, respectively, useful information, a sophisticated facility for tailoring the car’s way of performing that can be individualised to your own personal taste, and an important safety feature. Standard equipment on the new A3 includes individually controllable climate control in the front and the back, with top-quality demisting and heating as a result – and I particularly like Audi’s latest design of vent controls.
Also standard is Audi’s Multi Media Interface, controlled by a rotating knob and various switches that will be a doddle to members of our constantly-evolving IT world. The continuing high standard of fit and finish of good quality panelling materials is an important part of the new package; night-time interior and instrument lighting is another attractive feature. Maybe Audi’s rear parking assist should also be standard, even if the new A3 is only a bit longer than before.
The purchase price of the new A3 needs to be judged against the opposition in this class. All manufacturers can come up with a cleverly arranged series of comparisons showing their car as best-in-class in a variety of ways. Audi’s new A3 does at least stand comparison with its rivals.
The independent CAP Monitor says the new A3 will have an RV (industry jargon for ‘residual value’) after three years/60,000 miles of 39%. This, by the way, compares with 45% for a diesel version. However, I would suggest buying a diesel only if reasonably lengthy journeys are the norm, allowing engines to heat up properly and work to their full efficiency in use of fuel, at which point they start to overhaul petrol engine; the mileage arithmetic also needs to work out: diesel fuel is currently around 4% more expensive than petrol.
Audi claims an overall improvement in fuel economy of 12%, a remarkable figure, thanks largely to the new lightweight construction. Running costs for the 1.8TFSI, according to CAP, are 31.21 pence per mile, which is class-leading.
Read the handbook, learn the car and be rewarded with a super driving experience.
AT A GLANCE:
Performance: 0-60 in 7.2 seconds
Economy: 50.4 mpg combined
Tax: Band D (£95)
Figures for the A3 1.8 TFSI Sport