classy 155mph S3 Sportback
comes with five doors and more
than enough performance to blow
them off their hinges! In a downsizing
world it offers a gleam of sunshine
if you have the necessary £27,970...
YOU CAN'T KEEP A GOOD CAR DOWN. Audi UK has just aired its 2009 model
range to the UK's motoring press as it pushes towards another record
year of sales despite the severe downturn in the new car market. In fact, Audi
is one of only three manufacturers to show a sales increase in the new registration
plate month of September; Jaguar and Smart were the other two.
At the time of this review, Audi have 25,000 advance UK orders for their cars.
Furthermore, eight out of every ten Audis are 'customer tagged' or built to
order, which says even more about the brand's standing with its customers. In
fact, the way things are going, and boosted by the introduction of additional
new models and variants (for example, the new Q5 mid-sized 4x4 SUV is due here
in December followed by A1, Q3, A5 Cabrio, A7, TT RS, R8 V10 and R8 Spider),
it is quite possible that Audi could overhaul BMW for new vehicle sales in the
UK in 2009 to become the number one German premium brand.
Of the raft of model changes put on display this week, the most significant
for most people are the revised A3 variants. The premium compact A3 three- and
five-door hatchbacks and Cabriolets represent Audi's best selling model range,
achieving 32,000 sales annually in the UK.
The latest A3 is likely to become more and more important to Audi's growth plans
as inevitably customers even Audi owners look to downsize to off-set
the increase in ever-escalating motoring costs. The three-door range has prices
ranging from £14,995 up to £27,450 for the S3 quattro all-wheel drive version.
Five-door Fastback models, which take 70 per cent of A3 sales, have prices ranging
from £15,495 up to £27,970. A3 Cabriolet versions range from £19,995 to £27,760.
Although the A3 has received a re-styling, the changes are detailed and not
significantly different; more of an evolution in design that sees the hatchbacks
retain their wedge shape and high waistline fronted by the latest Audi grille
treatment. Rear and rear-quarter visibility is still an issue due to the high
and rising waistline, and the handling is not as sharp or as controlled as that
of its main competitor, the BMW 1 Series.
For low to medium mileage owners, probably private buyers, the model which makes
the most sense is the 1.4 TFSI Sportback priced from £17,150. The five-door
body style is the most user-friendly and the new 1.4-litre direct injection
turbocharged with intercooler petrol engine offers 123bhp of power. More importantly,
148lb ft of torque is available from just 1,500rpm which makes the car extremely
responsive and flexible to drive at all speeds.
Fuel economy is officially 47.9mpg but with low CO2 emissions of 140g/km (Vehicle
Excise Duty Band C) road tax is £120 a year; £110 from April 2009.
I'd recommend the SE specification as the most cost-effective buy at £17,800
pretty competitive for a medium segment five-door hatchback. The majority
(35 per cent) of A3 buyers currently choose the Sport specification, which costs
£19,000. Overall the quality is very high as is the build quality but, be warned,
adding lots of options pushes up the price significantly and in today's market
is probably not advisable.
However if price is no obstacle then the new addition to the range, the high-performance
S3 quattro Sportback is the headline grabber.
This 2.0-litre, 261bhp, 258lb ft petrol direct injection, turbocharger with
intercooler model with a six-speed manual transmission and quattro all-wheel
drive costs £27,970 on-the-road. Add options and the price can become very high
indeed: £33,500 for my test car. Even given the excellent performance, stability,
permanent four-wheel grip and overall refinement, plus the flexibility of five
doors, this still seems a lot of money.
With 258lb ft of torque on tap constantly from 2,500 to 5,000rpm, the S3 is
unquestionably one very fast set of wheels. Top speed is governed to 155mph;
0-62mph acceleration is 5.8 seconds. If you can live with the peformance you'll
like the fuel consumption: an average of 27.6mpg. Main reasons to buy one include
the strong engine that serves up high torque at low engine speeds, the fact
that it's very quick and comfortable, has loads of grip for all-weather stability
and safety and is smartly packaged in a practical five-door body.
Sure, specced up it can prove pricey, but that aside the only real drawback
is the limited rear and rear-side visibility. On that showing, the S3 Sportback
will be the model to which many A3 buyers aspire. David Miles
Audi S3 quattro Sportback | £27,970
Maximum speed: 155mph | 0-62mph: 5.8 seconds
Overall test MPG: 25.4mpg | Power: 261bhp | Torque: 258lb ft
CO2 199g/km | VED Band F £210 | Insurance group 18