REVIEW DATE: 23 Aug 2007
Audi's latest A3 range includes the punchy 1.9-litre turbo diesel. Steve Ghosley takes a look at the models on offer
The Audi A3 has a formidable line up of models in its range, whether you're looking for the three-door or the five-door Sportback. Quite a few of them feature the 1.9-litre TDI turbo diesel engine brought over from the previous model, so it's worth catching up on what this unit offers. The second generation A3 has gone a long way to restore Audi's image as the up-market Volkswagen that many of its buyers perceive the company to be.
By sharing the same dynamic platform as the latest VW Golf, the A3 doesn't only look the part but can also deliver a sparkling driving experience to match its less exalted cousin. The 1.9-litre TDI powerplant we look at here represents the entry-level engine for the diesel range.
Audi have made great strides concerning the refinement of the TDI engine and the effects are obvious as soon as you turn the key. The TDI system was once derided as being far less effective than the new wave of 'common rail' diesel engines that have become popular and in terms of refinement, this system was starting to look and feel a bit dated. No longer: the difference is now virtually negligible.
The 1.9-litre TDI engine is Euro IV-compliant which means that company users don't get stung for the usual three per cent taxation surcharge. This variant benefits from a specially modified version of the already frugal 105PS diesel with new friction minimizing components and redeveloped ancillary units, combined with a manual gearbox with remapped, economy-biased ratios. There's also an in-dash indicator informing the driver of the most effective gear change points for optimum economy. Helped externally by tyres with reduced rolling resistance, and by extra modifications to further increase aerodynamic efficiency, the A3 1.9 TDI combines 62mpg-plus fuel economy with CO2 output of just 119g/km (making it exempt from the proposed London Congestion Charge).
"Audi have made great strides concerning the refinement of the TDI engine and the effects are obvious as soon as you turn the key"
The current A3 is longer, wider and lower than its predecessor but the most obvious change is the increase in wheelbase. The styling is largely evolutionary, remaining obviously an A3 with the Audi trademark 'single frame' grille now featuring, 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. The extra 30mm of width also helps a little with shoulder room.
The three-door version and the five-door Sportback are offered in four levels of trim. The three-door base-level 1.9-litre TDI kicks off at £16,660 and both the SE and Sport equivalents start at £18,740. The base-level five-door Sportback weighs in at £17,240 with both the SE and Sport costing £19,240. You'll pay a £1,800 premium for flagship S line trim with either bodyshape. Standard safety equipment includes window airbags, electronic stability control, ABS, brake assist, a part-electric power steering system and anti-whiplash head restraints. The cabin has been restyled in this MK2 model 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, as do the round air vents and chrome-rimmed dials. It's still not what you'd call revolutionary, but it's beautifully executed.
The SE trim model gets an up rated radio, cruise control, electronic climate control, automatic dipping rear view mirror, rain sensing wipers, illuminated vanity mirrors and a leather type steering wheel. The Sport version comes equipped with a driver's information system instead of the cruise control of the SE model, aluminium sill strips, gloss finished inlays in the interior cabin, fog lights, sports suspension and a sunblind over the rear parcel shelf. Generally speaking, equipment levels are high throughout the A3 range with even the entry-level models getting a Thatcham category 1 alarm and immobiliser, rear window wash/wipe, electric windows and door mirrors.
Although it lacks the compactness of the three-door car, the five-door Sportback is a smart looking car, certainly a good deal easier on the eye than the rather 'challenging' BMW 1 Series. An 83mm increase in body length and extra wide opening rear doors adds up to easy accessibility and far better rear knee and head room than its three-door counterpart. Space up front is equally good, the transverse engine and front-wheel drive transmission minimising intrusion into the passenger cell. Given that the current generation A3 is 65mm longer in the wheelbase than its predecessor, it's obvious that rear seat passengers will be a whole lot happier in the Sportback than the old A3 five-door. The luggage compartment also grows by 20 litres giving a total of 1,120 litres of space with the rear seat folded flat.
As you would expect from a diesel, this A3 offers plenty of power in the low rev range. It hits 60mph in 11.4 seconds and tops 120mph, which isn't supersonic but certainly respectable. Driving manners across the range have been improved with even the humblest versions riding on multi-link rear suspension.
The Audi A3 TDI 1.9-litre may have an engine carried over from the previous model but that is no drawback. Indeed, the mechanical improvements that Audi have made to this unit have made it indistinguishable from more technically advanced powerplants. Consequently, the A3 1.9-litre TDI represents a shrewd choice for those wishing to switch to diesel power in an up-market hatchback.
The results below show the top A3 deals on buyacar
|Audi A3 1.4 TFSI SE 5dr sportback|
|Price £18,653||Save £1,172|
|Audi A3 1.6 TDi 2dr diesel cabriolet|
|Price £19,610||Save £3,275|
|Audi A3 1.6 TDI SE 5dr diesel sportback|
|Price £19,536||Save £1,239|
|Audi A3 1.6 TDI Sport 5dr diesel sportback|
|Price £20,674||Save £1,326|
|Audi A3 2.0 TDI Sport 5dr diesel sportback|
|Price £21,928||Save £1,422|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT A3 DEALS|
|OVERALL||6.8 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||4|
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