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Audi A3 Saloon 2.0 TDI Sport

Click to view picture gallery“Sometimes you come across a car
  where everything just gels. You
  know, where it all comes together in
  a totally satisfying way, making a
  package that simply works on every
  level. The new Audi A3 saloon is
  just such a car...”


IT'S GOT IT ALL: looks, practicality, quality and probably the best chassis in the medium car class. This is the first time Audi has ever put a saloon 'back-end' on an A3.

The four-door saloon is just over five inches longer than the five-door Sportback hatch, but it has an even better sense of proportion; the rear overhang is slender, for example, and because the saloon sits lower and is very slightly wider than the hatch, it actually looks much sportier.

And there is in fact more boot space (with the seats up) in the saloon than there is in the Sportback: 425 litres versus 380. Of course, you have to grapple with a slender boot aperture and the fact that you can't stack items above the parcel shelf line, but there really is tons of space back here.

“In 2.0 TDI form, the A3
is brilliant. There’s loads
of power and torque
right across the rev-band,
and it’s very refined, too.
Audi claims 68.9mpg
for this engine;
in practice something
hovering around 50mpg
is more realistic...
The 2.0 TDI engine is the one to have in the A3. Forget the 1.6 TDI which is still too unrefined for a car of this quality. I wouldn't blame you if you went for one of the excellent TFSI petrols, either, but for tax reasons the diesel still makes sense if you're a business user.

And in 2.0 TDI form, it's brilliant. There's loads of power and torque (236lb ft of it) right across the rev-band, and it's very refined, too. Audi claims 68.9mpg for this engine; in practice something hovering around 50mpg is more realistic, but that's still decent for an engine outputting 148bhp.

The only downside I can see is that there's almost too much torque, so that in wet conditions you can find the front-end scrabbling around a bit, especially emerging from T-junctions.

The standard six-speed manual is superb, too: slick and positive. It's so much better than Audi's seven-speed S tronic automatic unit (only available on petrol A3 saloons at present), which can occasionally be flummoxed if you try and change gear manually via the paddle-shift system.

The chassis is what really makes the A3 saloon feel so dynamically special. The VW Group's MQB platform is a real piece of art, offering the best combination of handling and ride anywhere this side of a luxury car.

The fluidity and balance of the set-up is fantastic. The car feels so planted on the road, encouraging you to press on through corners, which it deals with fantastically well. And while the electric steering system may not please purists, Audi is proving that it is possible for electric systems to approach hydraulic set-ups in terms of feel.

“The A3’s suspension
can sometimes be on the
firm side, but in my
experience most
passengers prefer this to
that sense of ‘wallow’
you get in softly sprung
cars — and you never
feel uncomfortable in
the A3 at all...
The A3's suspension can sometimes be on the firm side, but in my experience most passengers prefer this to that sense of 'wallow' you get in softly sprung cars. And you never feel uncomfortable in the A3 at all. That was on Sport-spec 17-inch alloys, however; the ride might be more jiggly if you opt for the S line 18-inchers.

If ride is particularly important to you, the standard Sport suspension can be changed (at no cost) to a comfort spec. And in any case there's a drive select adaptive system, so you can flip between comfort and sports settings.

Standard equipment for the Sport and S line includes sports seats, dual-zone climate control, and MMI/DAB radio with folding screen and iPod connection. The cabin shared with the A3 hatchback and boasting identical passenger space is the very definition of quality. S line models add part-leather-upholstery, bigger 18-inch alloys, Xenon and LED lights and extra body kit.

The A3 saloon is so good that I found myself questioning why anyone would ever want an Audi A4 saloon, which is more expensive, doesn't look as good and arguably doesn't drive as well. OK, so you don't get quite as much room inside the A3, but in terms of looks, feel and driving ability the A3 saloon really has got it covered.
Chris Rees

Audi A3 Saloon 2.0 TDI Sport | 24,275
Maximum speed: 137mph | 0-62mph: 8.7 seconds | Test Average: 53mpg
Power: 148bhp | Torque: 236lb ft | CO2 107g/km