Saloon 2.0 TDI Sport
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.
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.
In 2.0 TDI form, the A3
is brilliant. Theres loads
of power and torque
right across the rev-band,
and its very refined, too.
Audi claims 68.9mpg
for this engine;
in practice something
hovering around 50mpg
is more realistic...
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.
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.
The A3s suspension
can sometimes be on the
firm side, but in my
passengers prefer this to
that sense of wallow
you get in softly sprung
cars and you never
feel uncomfortable in
the A3 at all...
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
Audi A3 Saloon 2.0 TDI Sport
Maximum speed: 137mph | 0-62mph: 8.7 seconds | Test Average: 53mpg
Power: 148bhp | Torque: 236lb ft | CO2 107g/km