REVIEW DATE: 23 Aug 2007
You Wouldn't Normally See A Business User Racking Up Huge Mileages In A Car As Compact As Audi's A3. That The Car Can Take It Is Testimony To A Standard Of Quality & Engineering That's More Than Skin-Deep, Says Gerry Tierney After Two Months And 7,000 Miles At The Wheel Of His Beloved A3 1.9 TDI...
It didn't really occur to me until after I'd taken delivery of my new Audi A3 company car just how unusual it was. Not in terms of badge you understand: Audi remains the fastest growing prestige brand in the UK and the motorways are filled with A3s, A4s and A6s. No, in terms of size. I've never run a car quite as compact as this before. But by the same token, I've never enjoyed a company car quite as much as this one.
Let me explain. I rack up the miles. I mean, really rack them up. In the last two months with the Audi, we've covered over 7,000 miles together. Over that kind of use, you get to know a car pretty well and with every week that passes, my respect for OY04 BKD increases. Mine is a 1.9-litre TDI diesel three-door.
Though the engine has used two litres of engine oil in my time with it, that was only a precautionary top-up. Otherwise, I've had to do nothing in terms of maintenance apart from irregular filling station visits. Mind you, I suppose you would expect that for a car requiring an outlay of at least £16,660. As far as the fuel station visits are concerned, I really do mean irregular. I average 44mpg even in town and on motorway trips that figure rises to at least 59mpg.
On the move, the engine torque is a delight especially when over-taking. In many cases, it's often not even necessary to drop down a gear to get past the swaying artic, or whatever it is in front of me putting me behind schedule for the next appointment. Handling is at the very least sure footed and confidence-inspiring (even in the wet) and the brakes are fade-free even when following some of my leaden-footed colleagues!
This is one of those cars that responds particularly well to a spot of TLC. The finish of the red painted exterior, for example, is superb after a car wash. Inside, it's the same story, with the interior coming up like new when I occasionally clean it. Gripes? Well believe it or not, I do have some. The pedal positioning isn't the best and I've noticed more wind noise than I'd expect at motorway speeds.
"With every week that passes, my respect for OY04 BKD increases.."
The 1.9-litre TDI variant I've been using fits into the Audi A3 range just below the 140bhp 2.0TDI model. I have the three-door version but if it was my money being spent, I'd be tempted to pay Audi another £500 and go for the more versatile five-door 'Sportback' variant. Given that the 2.0-litre TDI is only 10% more expensive but offers a 35% power hike, I'd also be tempted to trade up to that.
But here I am mentally spending money I don't really need to spend. The 1.9 TDI model does pretty much everything I need a car to do. Standard safety equipment includes window airbags, electronic stability control, ABS, brake assist, a part-electric power steering system and anti-whiplash head restraints.
If you haven't tried the latest generation A3, the most obvious change you need to know about is the increase in wheelbase. The styling is largely evolutionary, remaining obviously an A3, only looking a little stretched. The additional 65mm in wheelbase has rectified one of the old A3's faults (namely that rear seat accommodation was a bit pinched) extending the interior length by 55mm. The result is 42mm more shoulder room at the front, 30mm more at the rear and 29mm more rear knee room. The luggage compartment benefits too, with a capacity of 350 litres with the rear seat backrest in place and up to 1,100 litres with the backrest tilted down. All that's been helpful at the weekends when the car has doubled as a cinema/disco/shopping kids taxi. The extra 30mm of width also helps a little with shoulder room.
I was also pleased to find that the cabin has been restyled in this latest generation car to offer a little more design flair, Audi realising that high quality alone isn't enough to lure buyers into showrooms. There has to be some style on display too. The fascia struts ape the interior design of the TT sportscar, as do the round air vents and chrome-rimmed dials. It's still not what you'd call revolutionary, but it's beautifully executed. Other more technical improvements on the MK2 As have included a clever rear suspension system, a smart electromechanical power steering and (sadly only on the 2.0 TDI) a revolutionary DSG semi-automatic gearbox
My colleagues in the Road Test department say that the latest Audi A3 line-up makes downsizing look positively attractive. After three months behind the wheel, I'd wholeheartedly agree. Were I the one buying, my only issue would be choosing between 1.9TDI and 2.0-litre TDI engines. But then, that's a nice decision to have to make.
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|Audi A3 1.4 TFSI SE 5dr sportback|
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|Audi A3 1.6 TDI SE 5dr diesel sportback|
|Price £19,536||Save £1,239|
|Audi A3 1.6 TDI Sport 5dr diesel sportback|
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|Audi A3 2.0 TDI Sport 5dr diesel sportback|
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|OVERALL||6.8 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||4|
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