REVIEW DATE: 04 Aug 2009
Audi's impeccably built A3 may bring to mind the Commodores classic, but there's nothing retro about this well-built baby. June Neary reports.
I must admit to a penchant for small Audis. No, scrub that - any Audi. They seem so well screwed together and so nicely understated that they appeal to my more mature side. The A3 is no exception and from behind the wheel you really do feel as if you're in a much bigger and more expensive car. The bright yellow of the A3 2.0-litre TDI 140 diesel that we had delivered took a little getting used to but it's difficult not to be seduced by an interior that feels bulletproof and doors that thunk shut with all the security of a bank vault. The shape's been tweaked recently but not radically. The front wings and the grille are a little shapelier, the headlights are sharper-looking and the side repeaters are now incorporated into the door mirrors. Choose an S line variant and there are LED daytime running lights that ape the R8. The changes to the three-door car add 2.5cm to its length, while the five-door Sportback model's dimensions remain unchanged.
I liked the latest interior changes. To be honest, I had thought that the A3 was just starting to look a little off the pace in this department. Even far more mundane cars like the Vauxhall Astra and the Fiat Bravo were beginning to show Audi the way forward in terms of materials quality. The latest A3 ups the ante with more aluminium design elements, revised switchgear, a better quality instrument cluster and a rethink for the upholstery choices. Quattro four wheel drive is of course offered on certain variants. The luggage compartment of the three-door car I tried features 350/1,080 litres of fresh air with rear seats in place and then folded, just pipped by the 370/1,220 litres of the Sportback.
The A3 certainly offers a few mouthwatering selections. Increasingly popular are the diesel units - and there's a choice between an entry-level 105bhp 1.6-litre TDI powerplant or 140 and 170bhp versions of the more advanced 2.0 TDI engine at prices from around £17,000. Petrol buyers usually opt for one of the turbocharged TFSI engines: either the 125bhp 1.4, the 160bhp 1.8 or the 200bhp 2.0-litre unit. The S3 uses a version of the 2.0-litre Turbo engine which is tuned to achieve 263bhp and heart-stopping performance. The S tronic gearbox in the car I tried is a glimpse of the future. This twin-clutch sequential gearbox can be fitted to the 2.0 TFSI and 2.0 TDI models in six speed form, where the 1.6, 1.4 TFSI and 1.8 TFSI petrol engines get the option of a seven-speed system. This system can mimic a full automatic gearbox or the driver can blitz through gearchanges at lightning speed using shift paddles mounted behind the steering wheel. 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 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 latest Audi A3 is a car that generates few complaints. It's not too showy - even in yellow - and offers solid engineering and a huge feel good factor. Perhaps the only area where its possible to grouse is over the pricing, especially when you consider that it's based around more humble Golf running gear. If you can swallow the chunky up front asking price, you'll be rewarded with a car that does everything very well in a quiet, unruffled manner. I for one was sorry to see it go.
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|
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