SECTOR Premium lower medium PRICE From £19,205 FUEL From 50.3 – 68.9mpg CO2 106 – 130g/km
There’s a temptation to view the launch of the new A3 hatchback as something of an appetiser before the main event later this year when the much bigger-selling Sportback model is unveiled.
Outsold three to one by the five-door model, the A3 hatchback nevertheless is an important car for Audi (and parent company Volkswagen Group as a whole) as it debuts the new chassis architecture which will underpin just about every new group vehicle going forward, including the new Golf.
And impressive it is too, offering an extra 23mm in the wheelbase for greater interior space and also providing a far more supple ride than the current, ageing A3. It still feels like an Audi, with that
traditional flat cornering stance and four-square feel, but there are subtle differences that let you know this is very much a brand new car from the wheels up, rather than an evolution of an old design – as is the case with the current A3.
Subtle is a word which sits well with the new A3. The exterior styling is all new yet unmistakably an Audi thanks to the adoption of the new family face which first appeared on the A6. Even the rear light units echo those found on its bigger stablemate.
The big car features have found their way inside, too, with all models being equipped with a super-slim screen which rises from its hole in the dashboard at the touch of a button. Superb build quality is a given with Audi and the A3 cabin is a lovely place to be, with a minimum of buttons and switches thanks to the adoption of the MMI system throughout the range. Depending on which spec you choose determines what level of functionality the system gives you, from basic stereo controls on a small screen in SE versions, to all-singing full-colour navigation with Google Earth mapping.
Standard equipment is decent, with entry-level SE models coming with alloy wheels, Bluetooth, voice control system, air-conditioning and the Audi Music Interface among others. Not bad when prices start at £19,205 for a 1.4 TSI SE.
Pay an extra £1,225 for Sport trim and you add larger alloys, the Audi Drive Select system which alters the suspension and throttle settings, dual-zone climate
control and aluminium trim. The S Line (a £2,150 increase on Sport) – which will account for 40% of sales – gains 18-inch wheels, body styling, xenon headlights and various sporty trim items inside.
Engine options at launch are limited to a pair of petrols – 1.4 TFSI (122bhp, 54.3mpg, 120g/km) and 1.8 TFSI (180bhp, 50.3mpg, 130g/km) – and a new 2.0-litre TDI diesel (150bhp, 68.9mpg, 106g/km). All three are fitted with start-stop as standard. As with the current line-up, front and quattro four-wheel drive variants will be offered, as well as a choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed S tronic gearboxes.
On the road, all three engines impress – the 1.4 petrol is refined and belies its capacity to deliver strong real-world acceleration while the 1.8 petrol is the most fun. This unit likes to be revved and provides sporting performance and works well with the standard S tronic semi-automatic gearbox. But spec-for spec, the 2.0 TDI is around £1,500 cheaper and with the added economy and emission benefits, its smooth, low-down power delivery and refined manners mean it is the one to go for.
Audi hasn’t pulled any surprises with the new A3, and why would it when the current model is still so popular? Greener engines, a larger interior and the same high quality will boost its appeal, but the A3 will really come into its own when more engines and the Sportback come on line early next year.