Audi has sold one million A3s in Europe and 3.5 million globally since its launch in 1996. Twenty years on and the latest generation A3 is due in Ireland for 162 registration. We went to Munich to test a car that accounts for 30 per cent of Audi sales in Europe.
So what is new? Audi uses the phrase product improvement (PI) rather than facelift to describe its model’s mid-life makeovers, but clearly superficial cosmetic work has been done. The A3’s face gets a new wider one-piece grille and new xenon headlights as standard.
There is the option of full LED or the firm’s new LED Matrix headlights. The front also gets bigger faux air intakes. There are no changes to the flanks while at the rear there is a new diffuser at the bumper and tail lights.
Under the bonnet the six engine range has been tweaked. There is a new and very impressive one-litre petrol TFSI engine that replaces the 1.2 litre. The three-cylinder TFSI pushes out a healthy 115hp and an impressive 200nm of torque. Emissions are low as is fuel consumption.
A3 comes in four body styles with the Saloon currently the biggest selling A3 in Ireland followed by Sportback (five-door), then three-door hatch and finally cabriolet. We took a Sportback with the new TFSI 1 litre coupled to a seven-speed S- tropic automatic out for a test on a mix of roads.
The physically tiny engine delivered big performance and felt more like a 1.6 litre. The impressive delivery of torque made the car surprisingly flexible. On the autobahn the one litre only gave the slightest clue it was a three-pot machine. Little or no vibration came through the accelerator and this added to the claim made to us by
, Audi’s board member for sales and marketing, that the A3 is a truly premium car.
There is a swing back to petrol and for low-mileage users and those who want to keep their clothes and hands free of diesel residue, this TFSI is a serious proposition. If money is less of an object, the new two-litre TFSI Quattro (all-wheel drive) features a new combustion cycle that delivers 190hp and 320nm of torque, making it pleasantly indulgent and lively too as we found out.
The big sellers will remain diesel and the 1.6 (110hp/250nm) and two-litre with either 150hp/340nm or 340nm/ 380nm in Quattro guise. The A3 e-tron petrol (1.4 litre) plug- in hybrid that has a combined power output of 204hp/250nm is now joined by a g-tron: the g stands for gas. G-tron will be sold in markets where LPG is still popular, eg
Performance car fans will enjoy the new S3 as it has been given a power boost: 310hp (+10) and 400nm of torque (+20) is a fantastic blend and we couldn’t resist a quick 200kph+ blast down the autobahn in the cabriolet.
The car burbles and growls in a delicious way when you press on (and off) the throttle. The ESC has been retuned to deliver a better driving experience; 0-100kph takes a glorious 4.5 seconds.
The biggest change to the interior is the availability of the visually stunning virtual cockpit. This feature we have seen introduced on recent Audis like the TT, Q7 and most recently A4. Virtual cockpit features a 12.3-inch TFT display for the driver that delivers a host of information in a very cool way.
Trim levels begin with Attraction then rise to SE with the sportier S Line topping the range. Certain European markets get a new Sports trim, but not Ireland.
Some of the notable gadgetry available includes phone box wireless phone charging and Audi connect internet. A vast amount of new electronic driving aids are available in the new A3.
Traffic jam assist does what the name implies. The car will follow the vehicle in front at a set distance and stop and move off again if needed and also steer itself at speeds of up to 65kph. Cross traffic assist is new to A3 and this is a valuable aid when reversing, as it will help prevent collisions by automatically braking for unsighted passing traffic.
Emergency assist is another clever safety aid that senses when there has been no interaction from the driver for a brief period and after issuing an audible warning it will bring the car slowly to a halt, keeping it in its lane, and switch on the hazard lights. Active lane assist, precollision safety and many more are available too.
German pricing starts from €23,300. Audi Ireland is in ongoing price negotiations but says due to more standard equipment buyers can expect a circa €600 increase on the current €27,810 starting price.
Audi says that A3 has been the number one premium compact seller in Ireland since its launch and it hopes to continue that success.