2013 AUDI A3 REVIEW
Vehicle style: Premium compact hatch
Price: $35,600 ($41,990 as tested - $6390 in options)
Engine/trans: 90kW/200Nm 1.4litre TFSI/seven-speed DSG S-tronic automatic
Fuel economy listed: 5.0 l/100km | tested: 5.4 l/100km
It’s a segment Audi created 17 years ago. Now, the booming German brand has sold 2.7 million of its premium compacts - 18,000 of these finding their way into Australian garages.
This one, the new A3 1.4 TFSI Attraction Sportback, opens the batting for the model range at a lean $35,600.
That’s a price that’s going to make potential buyers sit up and take notice.
And, you think you’ve heard of another $35,600 price tag recently? You have. It’s also the entry-price for the just-released Benz 1.6 litre A 180 hatch.
Power-and-torque figures, 90kW and 200Nm, are also exactly the same – the only difference is that the Audi churns it out of 1.4 litres, and the Benz, 1.6 litres.
Same price, same output, but what the new A3 1.4TFSI has over the A 180 is standard leather trim and dual-zone air-con. The Audi is also uses less fuel.
Quality: While the A3 Sportback isn’t quite in the same league as its more expensive Audi siblings, it still has a touch of class about it.
Standard leather upholstery is a good starting point and there are plenty of soft-touch plastic surfaces.
The standard pop-up 5.8-inch infotainment screen housed atop the dashboard is clear and all controls are well positioned with quality ergonomics in mind.
Comfort: The front bucket seats are adequately bolstered for spirited cornering and while there’s no electric assistance, there’s enough adjustment.
The two rear-seats are shaped for comfort, but there is no pull-down armrest. Rear legroom is, however, better than the previous model, so too is headroom (ok for six-footers).
A nice touch is the extendable under-thigh cushioning that can be pulled forward from the seat base.
Storage: With the rear seats occupied, the A3 Sportback offers 380 litres of cargo space. Flip down the 60:40 split seat backs and this rises to a handy 1220 litres.
In the cabin there’s a reasonable glove box, front-and rear door pockets, map pockets, a small centre-console bin and a couple of cup holders (but no sun-glasses holder or rear-seat cup holders).
Equipment: While there are some expensive options on the A3 Sportback menu, the entry-level Attraction reviewed here comes with its share of standard goodies.
As well as leather trim and dual-zone ‘air’, there’s 16-inch alloys, rear park-assist, the excellent eight-speaker Audi MMI audio with retractable colour screen, cruise control and a multi-function leather-wrapped sports steering wheel with paddle-shifters.
Also standard on the Attraction inventory is a driver-information system, electric exterior mirrors, rain sensors and dynamic suspension.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: While at first glance, 90kW and 200 Nm is nothing to write home about, if you keep the revs in the sweet-spot with the fun-to-use paddles, the 1.4TFSI can be a zippy little player.
The 90kW is on hand between 5000-6000rpm; the 200Nm of peak torque arrives at 2400rpm and sticks with you till 4000rpm.
While Audi is best known for its quattro system, the company has few peers when it comes to setting up front-wheel-drive cars.
We found the 1.4TFSI’s handling to be precise and predictable with excellent turn in.
In fact you really have to push the car hard to bring on even a hint of the understeer often found in front-drive cars. The lightweight new engine no doubt helps here.
Having seven-speeds to play with using the A3’s DSG transmission adds to the fun on a winding road for both acceleration and engine braking.
Refinement: The 1.4TFSI is a comfortable cruiser, equally at home on the freeway or punting around town.
For an entry-level car the audio system is a stand-out feature, but we noticed a fair degree of road noise at highway speeds on coarser bitumen.
Suspension: The A3 rides on a MacPherson-strut front-end with lower wishbones, an aluminium sub-frame and anti-roll bar. It works very well with the four-link set-up rear.
Steering is electro-mechanical with speed-dependent power assistance.
Brakes: There are ventilated discs up front and solids at the rear. Despite some serious punting and braking on test, there is a feeling of security and predictability in the way they perform.
ANCAP Rating: 5-Star
Safety features: There are standard driver and front-passenger side airbags, curtain airbags, driver’s knee airbag, electronic stability control with ABS, anti-slip regulation and an electronic differential lock; electro-mechanical speed-sensitive steering with a safety steering-column and tilt-and-telescopic adjustment.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years, unlimited kilometres
Service costs: No fixed-price servicing; the service interval is 15,000km or 12 months.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY:
Mercedes-Benz A 180 – $35,600: Its price, matching the A3 Attraction confirms there can be no doubt about how serious both German brands are about attracting new customers to their dealer showrooms.
It is also a very good drive and that three-pointed star comes with a bucket of cachet. (see A-Class reviews)
BMW 1 Series 116i – $39,993 (auto): It’s dearer by a fair margin, but is an enjoyable drive – with a bit more power and a bit more torque - and is surprisingly roomy.
The pricing of the A3 (and A-Class) will likely be giving Beemer Australia brass something to think about. (see 1 Series reviews)
VW Golf Mk7 103TSI Highline – $31,990: This is an obvious one. For less money, you get a car with similar appealing style, similarly stylish interior, but a stronger and more lively engine.
VW Australia has had its trials and tribulations over the past month; but it will get it right, and the Golf remains one of the best-driving cars you’ll find. (see Golf reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The new A3 Sportback 1.4TFSI Attraction reviewed here is more than $4500 cheaper than its predecessor base model.
The sharp new pricing and quite reasonable feature list – including leather – will ensure it makes it to plenty of shopping lists.
In terms of its head-to-head contest with the hot-selling new A-Class Benz and the more expensive BMW 116i, it’s really going to depend on which badge you want your neighbours to see you sporting.
On the face of it, the new A3 1.4TFSI would appear good buying. Notwithstanding there are cheaper alternatives, the Audi badge adds a desirable element to an appealing, zesty little car.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- A3 Sportback - 1.4 TFSI - $35,600
- A3 Sportback - 1.6 TDI - $36,500
- A3 Sportback - 1.8 TFSI - $42,500
- A3 Sportback - 2.0 TDI - $42,500
NOTE: The top-shelf S3 Sportback will arrive in December, priced at around $65,000 (confirmed).