Audi’s fine foray into small saloon territory
Value delivered through standard features and polished finishes inside and out
Date Reviewed: July 8, 2013
Audi’s first foray into the small saloon car market comes with the launch of its all-new A3 saloon. This format has always been a popular choice for Irish motorists over the years. However, the big question will be whether it ends ups stealing more sales from the larger A4 than it lures new buyers from the likes of the more affordable bases in Toyota Corolla or Ford Focus territory.
First impressions are that those motorists who take the increased financial step to purchase the new A3 saloon won’t be left feeling short-changed. Prices commence at €29,950 for the 1.4-litre TFSI model complete with 125hp. The standard level of equipment in the entry model is commendable with 16” alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity, air conditioning, leather multifunction steering wheel and an MMI (Multimedia Interface) with a 5.8” retractable screen all included. The SE variant gains such additions as front fog lights, front centre armrest, rear park assist and upgraded upholstery. The high-end S Line A3 saloon gains xenon headlights and 18” alloy wheels among other features.
With order books opening tomorrow, first deliveries are expected in early September. Irish customers can choose from two petrol and one diesel engine at launch. The petrol model line-up will consist of a 1.4-litre TFSI engine which produces 125hp and has a claimed combined fuel consumption of 5.3l/100km (53.3mpg). This is joined by a 1.4-litre TFSI with cylinder on demand that offers 140hp and 250Nm of torque (priced from €30,880).
The sole diesel alternative is a 2.0-litre TDI which produces 150hp and 250Nm of torque, and has a combined fuel consumption of 4.1l/100km (68.9mpg). These powertrains will be joined by a 1.6-litre 105hp TDI diesel unit which arrives in January 2014, and will no doubt become the mainstream seller (priced from €30,530).
Styling stays true
The exterior styling stays true to Audi’s signature design with a single frame grille up front, the rear has a shallow boot line with an integrated lip spoiler. It has a more subtle appearance than its chief rival, the recently launched Mercedes-Benz CLA, which is more striking and sporty in its styling.
The A3’s interior is finished to Audi’s well-renowned elevated standards, and you could be forgiven for believing you’re driving an A4. This car shares the same underpinnings as the A3 Sportback, although it boasts a larger boot with 45 litres more luggage space (totalling 425 litres). Rear legroom is adequate, although head room is somewhat hindered by the sloping rear C pillars. These outsized C pillars also hinder the driver’s rear view. They might create sleeker exterior lines but the price is paid in practicality for owners and occupants.
We took a test drive in both the 1.4-litre TFSI with cylinder on demand and the all-important 1.6-litre TDI diesel model. With 140hp produced this petrol variant has ample power for short and long commutes. It’s available with a choice of a six-speed manual or seven-speed S tronic automatic transmission. Our test car had the S tronic dual-clutch transmission. In the city where progress is time-consuming, this transmission takes the strain out of stop-start traffic. On motorways it’s a proficient unit capable of covering large distances with little fuss.The ride is comfortable, although somewhat firm on country roads. We also had the optional MMI Navigation Plus installed which includes a larger 7” colour screen. It uses images from Google Earth to display navigation directions and can access other online services.
The 1.6-litre TDI variant was equipped with a six-speed manual transmission that offers light and fluid gear changes. There’s a narrow power band from its 105hp diesel engine, you need to change gear prior to 4,000 rpm to extract the best from this engine. Although the 1.6-litre TDI is more fuel efficient than the 1.4-litre petrol model, interestingly they both produce 250Nm of torque. Traditionally you would gain with a large increase in torque when opting for a diesel alternative.
Involved driving experience
As a result we found the 1.4-litre petrol model to offer a more involved driving experience, its additional 35hp is evident, especially when overtaking. The diesel-equipped A3 does offer improved fuel consumption (3.9l/100km, 72.4mpg versus 4.7l/100km, 60.1mpg) it’s also seated in a lower tax band with 99g/km of CO2 (A2) against the petrol’s 109g/km (A3). It’s really a question of choice, but interesting to see the gap between diesel and petrol narrowing.
Since the Audi A3’s introduction in 1996 the German car maker has sold in excess of 3.5 million units. This all-new saloon variant will attract a high degree of conquest sales and possibly some existing A4 owners who may wish to downsize.
The A3 saloon will be the first model within the A3 family to have a cabriolet variant, it will also feature a powerful S3 variant which will be launched in the coming months. It’s a proficient all-rounder but it has a tough competitor in the form of the new Mercedes-Benz CLA.
See also: The full specification of the new Audi A3 saloon range
ENGINE: 1,598cc four-cylinder diesel putting out 105hp at 3,000 - 4,000rpm and 250Nm of torque with a six-speed manual transmission
PERFORMANCE: Figures not available from Audi at this time
ECONOMY: combined 3.9l/100km (72.4mpg)
EMISSIONS: (Motor Tax) 99g/km (€180)
SPECIFICATIONS: SE Model - Standard features on the SE model include 16” alloy wheels, cruise control, rear park assist, front fog lights, colour driver information system, cloth/mono pur upholstery, Bluetooth and MMI radio with 5.8” popup screen.
RIVALS: Mercedes-Benz CLA 180 cdi diesel 1.8l €32,250
PRICE: From €29,950 (€31,880 as tested)
Full specification of the new Audi A3 saloon range http://bit.ly/159Cf9m