AUDI A3 SEDAN REVIEW
What’s Hot: Beautiful finish, superbly balanced handling and a big boot
What’s Not: A little unexpected tyre noise from the rear
X-FACTOR: The addition of a boot without sacrificing style; and it’s as comfortable as a large sedan
Vehicle Style: Small luxury sedan
1.4 TFSI - $39,800;
1.8 TFSI - $44,800;
2.0 TDI - $44,800;
1.8 TFSI Quattro - $47,800 (not tested)
- 103kW/250Nm 1.4 turbo petrol 4cyl, 7sp twin-clutch auto
- 132kW/250Nm 1.8 turbo petrol 4cyl, 7sp twin-clutch auto
- 110kW/320Nm 2.0 turbo diesel 4cyl, 6sp twin-clutch auto
- 1.4 TFSI (listed) 4.7 l/100km (tested) 7.2 l/100km
- 1.8 TFSI (listed) 5.6 l/100km (tested) 7.5 l/100km
- 2.0 TDI (listed) 4.5 l/100km (tested) 5.3 l/100km
Audi is understandably proud of its new fashion statement, the spanking new 2014 A3 Sedan.
As small notchbacks go, this one ‘works’: it looks smart, goes exceptionally well, and is very classy inside.
And that boot. Deep and wide, you have to wonder how anyone found all that space inside the A3’s trim metal skin without it looking like a hippo.
It certainly hasn’t come at the expense of legroom. That’s another plus in this not-so-little small Audi. Though headroom is tight for taller rear-passengers, there’s ample room for knees.
It is, in fact, larger – just a little – than the first A4 sedan sold here.
Start lining up the pluses – a beautifully trimmed interior, large-car comfort, sporty handling and very willing engines – and you’ve got a whole lot of reasons to have a very good look at this new one from Audi.
A small car it may be (in reality, not so small), but this A3 Sedan is as effortless on road as a much larger saloon.
And though there’s a premium badge on the nose, its sub-$40k entry price (plus on roads) has it leaning on the ‘home-brands’ for value buying.
We drove three of the variants at launch, we missed the Quattro, and came away more than impressed.
The entry price of the 1.4 TFSI Attaction is a whole $10k less than the equivalent Mercedes CLA.
So the gloves would appear to be off in the welterweight division of the premium car wars.
Look, it’s not the last word in daring style, it’s too ‘safe’ – everything where it should be, nice straight lines, nothing too challenging – but Audi knows how to put an appealing interior together.
This one, especially in the 1.8 TFSI Ambition, is a smart place to spend some time.
The Ambition we drove came in two-tone bluish/grey leather and looked especially classy. (Sombre black interiors are starting to tire on me.)
All the touch points, everywhere, are right. The textures appeal, there’s a bit of ‘give’ below the fingers suggesting quality, and the metal garnishes (there are various choices) add a crisp modern air to a surprisingly spacious cabin.
I’m on the stumpy side of short, and I found the seats in every model just to my liking. (Maybe bigger bums than my athletically trim posterior may not find them quite so generous or comfortable... but...)
There is good shaping to the backrests, sufficient padding and adjustment, and a slide-able underthigh cushion.
The multi-function wheel is also ‘just right’. The computer functions are easily navigated and the standard pop-up 5.8 inch screen looks really smart, and is also easily navigated via the rotary controller.
And the boot, it offers 425 litres of cargo space with the seats in place, rising to 880 with the rear seats folded.
Key interior features:
Attraction (1.4 TFSI)
- Rear park assist
- Leather appointed upholstery
- Dual-zone climate control air-con
- Audi music interface, with Bluetooth and audio streaming
- MMI radio (retractable 5.8-inch screen)
- Light and rain sensors
- Cruise control
- Four-spoke multi-function wheel with paddle shifts
Ambition (1.8 TFSI and 2.0 TDI), add:
- High gloss interior package, alloy window surrounds and interior garnishes
- Audi drive-select with switchable driving modes
- Three-spoke multi-function wheel with paddle shifts
- Full-colour information system
- Front fog lights
ON THE ROAD
The new A3 Sedan shares not a single panel with its A3 hatch bro’. Its platform is wider (by 11mm) and it also sits on a wider track (20mm), and is 146mm longer overall.
But in case you’re wondering, it hasn’t gained fat. At a low 1250kg, and with an aluminium bonnet and front panels, it’s something of a lightweight in modern terms.
And on road it shows.
This car, any model you care to choose, is a very good drive. Brisk engines, rapid-fire shifts through the twin-clutch auto, and a really alert feel at the wheel.
Put it through a set of turns at speed, and, like its arch-enemy, Mercedes CLA, you can’t help but wonder at the superb handling balance.
The feel through the sporty steering is very good (I don’t get the “numb” comment that some make about Audi’s steering set-ups), turn-in is flat and sharp, and the rear end balance – lateral, and fore and aft – is as good as you’ll find.
Yet it’s not overly firm, neither is it jittery.
This, surely, is as good as a small sedan can feel in that compromise between comfort, handling balance and sporty feel.
That little 1.4 TFSI engine has no trouble firing the A3 sedan out of a hole. Neither the 1.8 TFSI – it just does it a little quicker.
And the 2.0 litre TDI is a bit more ‘settled’ than its petrol-engined brothers once on the move, but a tad slower off the mark than the 1.8 TFSI (it manages 8.4 seconds, like the 1.4 TFSI, in the 0-100km/h bolt; the 1.8 TFSI, 7.3 seconds).
The only debit on road was a little road noise from the rear; it’s otherwise quiet and free of errant squeaks or rattles.
- 1.4 TFSI: cylinder-on-demand technology (shutting down two cylinders when not under load)
- 1.4 TFSI and 1.8 TFSI: 7spd S tronic DSG (twin clutch auto)
- 2.0 litre TDI: 6 spd S tronic DSG
- Front suspension: McPherson struts with lower wishbones, alloy subframe
- Four-link rear suspension
- Electronic differential lock
- Electromechanical steering with speed-dependent power-assistance
- Brakes: dual circuit discs front and rear
- Warranty: three years, unlimited kilometres; service intervals 15,000k.
ANCAP rating: 5/5 Stars - this model scored 36.41 out of a possible 37 points.
Safety features: Seven airbags, stability control, ABS, anti-slip regulation, plus emergency city braking as part of an optional assistance package
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Yes, it’s a sedan, but crikey it’s chic.
It’s a little dearer than the equivalent A3 hatch, but “doesn’t everyone have a hatch?” With this one, you can be a little different, stand apart, an individual, without sacrifice to style.
With the bigger gutsier wheels sitting inside those nicely proportioned guards, and with a slightly wider track, the sedan looks more sporting and purposeful than the A3 hatch.
And the size is just right. To these eyes, although a little larger, the A3 Sedan has the crisp styling appeal of that much lamented E30 BMW 3 Series.
We like it a lot; we’d like a longer warranty period – three years, unlimited kilometres, is off the pace these days in all but the premium sectors – but this is a very appealing car.
For smart commuting or an effortless dash to the beach house, you should have a very close look at Audi’s A3 sedan.
Is it better than the CLA? That’s a tough one, we’d need longer in the saddle and a side-by-side shoot-out, but it’s certainly knocked it out of the ring for buying value.
(Or maybe, if not seduced by the ‘four-ringed’ badge, a Skoda Octavia... hmm.)