2013 AUDI A3 REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Small 5-door hatchback
Price: $36,500 (plus on-roads) | $40,540 (as tested)
Engine/trans: 77kW/250Nm 4cyl diesel | 7spd S-tronic auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 3.9 l/100km | tested: 5.6 l/100km
It’s hard to believe when looking at it, but the Audi A3 Sportback is new. It looks just like the old one except for a nip here and a tuck there.
Audi sticks to what works and this is certainly true of the A3.
However, under the skin, there is some movement. The previous model felt a little bit too much like a Golf in drag, but this one feels quite a bit different on road.
Quality: The A3’s interior is just about perfectly put together. The style may not be to absolutely everyone’s taste, but it’s clean, functional and looks like it was carved in situ rather than fitted.
Even the motorised screen, which pokes out of the dashboard like a toddler’s tongue, doesn’t whirr, it glides silently from within the dash.
The finish of the controls is superior to other bigger Audis, such as the A4 and Q3, which suffer a little from an attack of flimsy plastic buttons.
Comfort: The A3 seems smaller inside than you might expect, but four adults will fit just fine, especially considering the toe-room for rear passengers afforded by the high-mounted front seats.
The front seats could do with more bolstering but as a city car, they’re more than comfortable. The rear seats are a little flat, however.
Equipment: Dual-zone climate control, leather trim, 16-inch alloys, eight-speaker stereo with bluetooth and proprietary iPhone connector (no USB), cruise control, leather steering wheel with paddle-shift, electric mirrors and full trip computer.
The optional Technik Package ($2,990) added an upgraded sat-nav, larger 7-inch screen, self-parking and reversing camera. The self-parking system (Audi Park Assist) takes some getting used to as it backs into a park in a very enthusiastic manner.
Storage: Up front, the doors have reasonably-sized pockets, a pair of cupholders with an insert that allows vertical storage of a smartphone and a glovebox. The centre console is adequate and also houses the proprietary MMI connector.
Rear passengers get small door pockets and map pockets on the rear of the front seats, but miss out on cupholders, which would normally be in the absent centre armrest. Head and legroom is good.
The boot is a competitive 380 litres, which goes up to 1220 litres with the seats down.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The A3 is not a fast car, neither in the power nor the handling stakes.
This isn’t a problem when negotiating tight city streets and carparks - quite the contrary, the A3 is at its best in urban environments.
Overall, despite the leisurely performance, handling is quite good.
The S-tronic is coupled with stop start, but we found the diesel engine just doesn’t fire into life quickly enough.
At first, before we learned a trick of easing the brake to get it to fire up, we were unconsciously pushing the throttle further to the floor to get moving. This had the gearbox releasing the clutch quickly, causing a bit of 'learner moment'.
(It is something you will get used to, but it kept us on our toes.)
With a meagre 77kW but a robust 250Nm of torque, the A3 won’t streak away from anything at the lights (a claimed 10.3 seconds to 100km/h feels a little optimistic), but once rolling it’s almost unstoppable, especially with the responsive double-clutch gearbox.
Refinement: This is one of the car’s two strongest suits - it’s extremely quiet inside the A3. Wind and road noise are virtually absent.
The engine grumbles a little when cold but as soon as its warm enough for stop-start to be activated, you won’t hear or feel it.
Suspension: The second strong suit is the ride. Where Audi’s engineers have sacrificed some handling finesse, they have gained a lot more in the ride. Like its bigger brother, the A4, the ride is very impressive over almost any surface.
Where the Golf makes the best use of the McPherson struts at the front and multi-link rear end to be an entertaining all-rounder, the A3 is more comfort-biased, further separating the two.
Braking: The brakes are strong and cope well under duress, while pedal feel is good
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars
Safety features: Seven airbags (driver and front-passenger side airbags, curtain airbags, driver’s knee), stability and traction control, anti-slip control, differential lock, ABS, brake force distribution.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years, unlimited kilometres.
Service costs: Every twelve months or 15,000km. Audi does not offer fixed price servicing.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Volkswagen Golf 110 TDI Highline ($34,490) - If you’re after a more dynamic drive, the Golf is definitely worth considering. It, too, has a terrific interior but goes without leather and the magic-carpet ride.
It is an awful lot of fun on road though for a similar price. (see Golf reviews)
Mercedes-Benz A 200 CDI ($40,990) - The new A is far more like the A3 than it has ever been, so is now in genuine contention.
It does cost more, but has more power and a similar spec level. And then there’s the allure of that badge. (see A-Class reviews)
BMW 118d ($42,500) - The priciest of the three but arguably the most fun. A punchy 1.8 litre diesel and 8-speed automatic driving the rear wheels means a more sporting drive for the extra $5000 over the A3.
It has a less interesting (although larger) interior but is a challenging thing to look at. (see 1 Series 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 is definitely an Audi. It looks a million bucks with the right paint and wheels, and, no matter which model you choose, always feels special inside.
In 1.6 TDI form it may be a bit slow, but it’s pretty, refined, and smooth - and has those four rings across the nose.
It's a little smarter than most, and feels it. If you're prepared to pay a little more, it's well worth your consideration.
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 $59,900 plus on-roads.