2014 AUDI A3 REVIEW
What’s hot: Exceptional powertrain refinement; extra power and torque
What’s not: Suspension a bit soft for lumpy corners
X-FACTOR: More power than the base model A3 petrol, but less thirst: a perfect win-win.
Price: $37,900 (plus on-roads), $46,040 as-tested
Engine/transmission: 103kW/250Nm; 1.4 litre petrol/7sp twin-clutch auto
Fuel consumption: 4.7l/100km | Tested: 7.0 l/100km (on a hard workout)
“What about now?”
Able to shut down two of its four cylinders while cruising, the A3 1.4 TFSI Cylinder on Demand (lets shorten that to CoD, shall we?) is incredibly hard to pick when it crosses over from four-cylinder mode to two-cylinders.
I couldn't pick it.
Audi claims it to be the least polluting car in its segment, and with a hybrid-rivalling thirst.
With a combined fuel consumption of just 4.7 l/100km and average emissions of 110g/km the A3 CoD is certainly frugal on paper, but it’s not, as Audi concedes, the least-thirsty petrol-powered small luxury car - that honour remains with the Lexus CT 200h.
But that small detail aside, the A3 1.4 TFSI CoD has plenty of things in its favour. Not the least of which is the incredible drivetrain refinement that allows it to run on half an engine without you ever knowing the difference.
The “imperceptible efficiency” theme extends to the rest of the car. There’s no 'Cylinder on Demand' badges on the back, no special interior trim, not even a light in the instrument cluster to inform you that the CoD system is operating.
As an overt statement of the owner’s eco-friendliness, the A3 1.4 TFSI CoD isn’t all that great (but some might find this more appealing).
The CoD’s specification list is identical to the regular A3 1.4 TFSI, so things like leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control and cruise control are all standard.
It’s a comfortable, well-built and attractive interior, with plenty of room both front and rear. Seat comfort is also rather good, and all controls fall easily to hand for the driver.
The car we drove was equipped with three option packs, adding sat-nav, the MMI touch multimedia interface, park assist, a rear view camera, xenon headlamps, adaptive cruise control.lane departure warning, high beam assist and a collision warning system.
It also got up-spec Milano leather upholstery in an appealing two-tone colour scheme, however the cost of all these options took the $37,900 A3 1.4 TFSI CoD and made it a $46,040 car - and that’s before on-road costs too.
ON THE ROAD
Compared to the regular A3 1.4 TFSI, the CoD model gains 13kW and 50Nm as well as a new valvetrain system that allows it to shut down two cylinders.
The difference in claimed fuel economy is just 0.3 l/100km, but considering there’s more power and torque on offer that’s not too shabby.
Heavy-footed driving and hilly terrian yielded an average of 7.0 l/100km, but a more realistic fuel economy test will have to wait until a proper loan.
But what’s most impressive about the system is just how seamless it is. It shuts down half of the cylinders between 1350rpm and 3900rpm when the accelerator is under light load, but you’d scarcely be able to tell when the changeover occurs.
We kept trying to pick a difference in engine note, but to no avail. Audi has put in a lot of man-hours optimising the CoD engine, and it shows.
Besides a little extra oomph up hills, the CoD drives much like the regular A3 1.4 TFSI. There’s quite a bit of body roll in corners and the car takes a moment to recover from mid-corner bumps, but it’s got crisp turn-in and good chassis balance.
The steering’s a little dull, though it’s nicely weighted.
FIRST DRIVE VERDICT
With a $2300 premium over the A3 1.4 TFSI, the A3 1.4 TFSI CoD is a bit of a hard sell. You do get more power and reduced thirst though, which aids driveability and will reduce the long-term cost of ownership.
Whether that’s enough to sway you is up to you to decide. The upside is that extra power and torque. That little extra zing with the CoD, and that its friendlier to the environment, certainly adds to its appeal.