REVIEW DATE: 08 Jan 2009
Audi's Black Edition versions of its A3 offer added value to customers at the top end of the hatchback sector. Steve Walker reports.
Black, it's often said, never goes out of fashion. There's always some style guru on TV dressed as though they're on day release from the circus and proclaiming white, fluorescent yellow or tartan as 'the new black', but black just seems to soldier on regardless. As colours go, it's a safe but stylish option with which it's hard to go too far wrong and Audi is hoping to tap in to its unwavering popularity with special Black Edition versions of its A3.
The A3 is Audi's premium hatchback. Think of it as a Ford Focus sized car but with a posh badge and some nicer trim materials and you'll get the picture. Its arch rival is the BMW 1 Series but models like Volvo's C30, Alfa's 147 and the Mercedes CLC also do a similar job for a similar price. Despite stiff competition from these and the crop of more affordable but less prestigious family hatchbacks, the A3 has performed strongly for Audi and the German marque is keen to give sales a further boost with these Black Edition models.
Black Edition customers are presented with a choice of four engine options. Petrol buyers can select from a pair of turbocharged four-cylinder units, the 158bhp 1.8 TFSI and the 2.0-litre TFSI with its 198bhp output. Both make the A3 a properly quick car with an 8s 0-60mph performance time for the 1.8 and 7s attainable in the 2.0-litre. Both units may use turbos but the power delivery is smooth and progressive with fast throttle response throughout the rev range. The diesels are Audi's latest 2.0-litre common-rail injection units with 138bhp or 168bhp power outputs. Performance is less concussive but refinement is very impressive by diesel standards and again, the power is fed on in a pleasantly smooth fashion. The 138bhp 2.0-litre TDI has a 9.5s 0-60mph time and the 168bhp option betters that by 0.7s.
"the manufacturer has come up with a package that shows the car in a very favourable light"
The A3 remains a very rewarding car to drive in a variety of different scenarios, there are sportier options out there if that's your thing but the A3 strikes a fine balance between eagerness and comfort.
The exterior of the latest A3 has been tweaked but not in such a radical way that it puts the kibosh on the residual value of the previous model. 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 as well as a subtle body kit and the Black Edition models inherit these features while shedding the chrome from the front grille.
The interior has also come in for some treatment. Believe it or not, the previous 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 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 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 Black Edition is based on the sporty S-Line model but comes with a generous haul of extra equipment. The premium customers are asked to pay for this is just over £900 on the three-door and five-door Sportback bodystyles. For that, they get the de-chromed front grille, special dark Titanium finish alloy wheels, privacy glass and Piano Black interior inlays but also a high quality BOSE stereo system, rear parking sensors and a special flat-bottomed steering wheel. An A3 Cabriolet Black Edition model is also available.
Predictably, the Black Edition A3 comes in black as standard but other colour options are available for the exterior paint work. You might think that this defeats the object of the Black Edition line but with Ibis White available at no extra cost and Phantom Black, Misano Red and Monza Silver metallic colours as cost options, Audi is making certain that there's a Black Edition for everyone - even those who can't abide black cars.
So you can save money on the purchase of an A3 Black Edition but what good is that if you've then got to hand it all back in running costs? Fortunately, Audi has taken a number of steps with its latest A3 to improve its economy and emissions so despite its fierce performance, the Black Edition is no cash eating monster. All of the latest A3 models feature aerodynamic modifications and other tweaks to help the cars achieve better environmental performance and these help the 138bhp TDI model return 55mpg with 134g/km emissions. The petrol options do less well, peppering the 40mpg mark with their combined economy and emitting around 160g/km of CO2.
Smart customers have long known the secret to running an Audi A3. Whereas some are deterred by the asking price, the more salient number is the three-year cost per mile figure. This is where Audi exacts revenge on its lower-priced rivals. In boasting healthy residuals, the A3 drives down the total cost to the owner quite significantly. This does need to be balanced against the fact that you will be able to buy a bigger-engined rival for about the same running cost as a better quality A3. Swings and roundabouts.
Audi has fashioned the Black Edition versions of its A3 to tempt those who are looking at models from the higher end of the premium hatchback market. Fitting the A3's best engines and supplementing the sporty S Line trim level with some desirable extras, the manufacturer has come up with a package that shows the car in a very favourable light. The A3 remains a highly desirable proposition with a wide range of talents and the Black Edition can only raise its profile.
Audi A3 Black Edition models don't come cheap but instead of scanning the price guides for what else you can get for similar money just concentrate on the quality, the performance and the little extras that Audi has thrown in. The de-chromed grille, dark titanium alloys and privacy glass form the automotive equivalent of a movie star's designer sunglasses while the upgraded BOSE stereo and parking sensors will keep your ears entertained and your moody black paintwork intact.
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|
|For A3 BLACK EDITION|
|OVERALL||7.8 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||7|
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