REVIEW DATE: 30 Oct 2008
Audi's A3 Sportback offers a little more of what you fancy. Andy Enright takes a look at this elongated A3
When we first tried Audi's A3, we thought it a great small car with all the concentrated goodness of a much larger one. But what if you could have a larger version of this successful recipe without getting, well, larger? Such is the thinking behind Audi's A3 Sportback.
All right, so in essence, this car is little more than a 5-door version of the 3-door A3. But Audi would like you to see it as more than that. They've tried hard to style it differently (from the middle of the car backwards anyway) and the marketing hype positions the car much more towards the 'lifestyle' end of the premium compact market in which all A3s must compete. To be fair, even if you don't buy into all that stuff, the fact that an A3 Sportback is just, model for model, around £500 more than an equivalent 3-door A3 does make it a tempting proposition.
Although it lacks the nuggety compactness of the three-door car, the five-door Sportback isn't a bad looker at all, 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. Quattro four wheel drive is of course offered on certain variants. It's bigger inside than you might expect and 20 litres more luggage room over the three-door model gives a total of 1,220 litres of space with the rear seat folded flat.
"If you're buying an Audi A3, you can't ignore the Sportback option."
The exterior has been tweaked on this A3 but not in such a radical way that it put 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.
The interior has also come in for some treatment, which was needed if this Audi was to retain its perceived quality advantage over much improved versions of more mundane rivals. So it is that this 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.
So to engines. Petrol buyers get a 102bhp 1.6 at the foot of the range, but most opt for one of the turbocharged TFSI engines: either the 125bhp 1.4, the 160bhp 1.8 or the 200bhp 2.0-litre unit. These are powerplants which sit below the 263bhp 2.0TFSI S3 model. The S3 models are fitted with quattro all-wheel drive transmission as standard, something that is also offered as an option on the 2.0T FSI and the 2.0-litre TDI 170 variants.
The latest changes to the A3 haven't revolutionised the way it drives. That was always pretty impressive, with even the humblest models riding on multi-link rear suspension. Instead the engineers have concentrated on improving the quality of the driving experience using some high-tech features that have filtered down from loftier points in the Audi range. Audi magnetic ride is one of them. Adaptive action shock absorbers filled with a magneto rheological fluid allow the driver to choose between a comfort-oriented normal mode and a tauter sport mode at the touch of a button. An option on more powerful models, it's the way all cars will soon ride.
The S tronic gearbox is also 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, whereas 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. The 2.0-litre 140bhp diesel that many choose offers the sort of performance you'd expect from Audi. It hits 60mph in 9.2 seconds and tops 130mph, which makes it only marginally slower than the equivalent petrol 2.0-litre FSI.
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 A3 Sportback range is available in standard, SE and Sport trims with the S-line upgrade pack to consider. An optional Open Sky twin sunroof system is also available for order.
The A3 Sportback is a good example of the kind of product development which has seen Audi sales sky-rocket in this country. If you're buying an A3, you can't ignore it. And the same is probably true if you're buying virtually any other rival in this sector.
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 SE 5dr diesel sportback|
|Price £19,536||Save £1,239|
|Audi A3 1.6 TDi 2dr diesel cabriolet|
|Price £19,610||Save £3,275|
|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 SPORTBACK RANGE|
|OVERALL||7.2 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||8|
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