15.12.2012 Audi A3 Sportback 1.6 TDI SE review
More stylish, more spacious and more practical while still delivering the premium quality Audi buyers demand are the key qualities of the new A3 Sportback.
Reduced weight compared to previous model, especially at the front, make the Sportback feel more agile on the road. State of the art engines and lightweight construction brings low CO2 emissions.
Rear seat space is much improved by lengthening the car’s wheelbase while its total length has only increased slightly. High tech driver aid systems and Google Earth mapping functions pioneered on bigger more expensive models are now available on A3.
Review by Russell Bray for nextgreencar.com
The 1.6 litre TDI, turbo-charged four-cylinder diesel engine delivers 104 bhp with so much smoothness and refinement you would swear it was a petrol engine. There’s plenty of torque (184 lbs ft at 1,500 rpm) though the figures show it’s not actually as quick from rest as it feels subjectively. The standing 0-62 mph comes up in 10.7 seconds. Top speed is 121 mph. Kerb weight is reduced by 60 kg (132 lbs) on the previous model to 1260 kg (2778 lbs) on this car.
Even without the benefit of quattro all-wheel drive, the front-wheel drive A3 Sportback has plenty of cornering grip even on, by normal Audi buyer standards, relatively narrow 16 in diameter wheels. Electrically assisted steering isn’t overly endowed with ‘feel’ for grip but is precise and quick enough. Less weight on the nose thanks to aluminium bonnet and front wings helps cornering responses but the heavier diesel engine versions tend to want to head straight on rather than change direction more than petrol models.
Sleeker and more shapely than the previous generation, helped by purposeful under bumper air vents and an increased wheelbase of 58 mm moving the rear wheels nearer the back of the car. Car is only 18 mm longer overall. Top of the range S line models are equipped as standard with Xenon plus headlights with LED daytime running lights which are optional on other versions. Usefully for families, boot space has risen from 350 litres to 380 litres, or 1,220 litres volume if you fold the seats down. That's more space than in Volvo’s new V40 or Mercedes-Benz’s new A-Class. Rear seats split 40/60. Length 1425mm. Width 1780mm.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Usual suave Audi cabin features electric retracting screen for radio and satellite navigation and other functions, sports seats and dual zone air conditioning on Sport and S line models. Four very effective aero engine style air vents give the cabin extra style. Fiddly and hateful electro-mechanical handbrake saves space on the console between the front seats but removes an element of driver control on slippery roads. Test cars on standard suspension rode more smoothly than A3s I have driven in the UK. Good range of seat and steering column movement, but brake pedal high in relation to accelerator. Enough space for 6 foot passenger behind a 6 foot driver. Headroom is adequate too.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
The A3 Sportback has an excellent combined fuel economy of 74.3mpg. Even driving mountain roads in the south of France the test car averaged 45 to 55 mpg sharing with another driver. That said, Audi UK predicts 40% of sales will be the 148bhp 2-litre TDI and 30% the 1.6 litre because it offers livelier performance with little increase in fuel consumption or exhaust emissions. At 99gCO2/km, the car is exempt from road tax. Warranty is three years/60,000 miles. CAP Monitor predicts 46% residual value for an A3 2-litre TDI SE after three years/60,000 miles compared to only 32% for a Volvo V40 D4 SE.
For its size and performance CO2 emissions of just 99g/km speak of the efficiency of the A3 Sportback’s 1.6 litre turbo-diesel engine and Audi’s successful weight saving. Multiple efficiency engine technologies including direct injection, turbo-charging, thermal management and automatic stop-start system, together with brake energy recuperation, means fuel consumption has been improved by around 10% compared with the previous, second generation A3. Gear change indicator encourages economic driving style with early up-shifts. With the optional seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission D mode configures the car for low engine speeds and low fuel consumption. S mode delivers a more sporting driving style. Weight reduction includes aluminium bonnet and front wings. Wind tunnel ‘fine tuning’ has reduced the car’s coefficient of drag to just 0.30 on car’s with smaller wheels.
If you spend the money you could have more fun fittings than an amusement arcade. High resolution screen uses Nvidia high speed graphics with 3D imags for online, voice control, media, navigation and telephone functions. You can even use voice recognition to send and read text messages, though it struggled understanding a friend’s Australian accent. Options include adaptive radar-based cruise control, 14-speaker sound system, park assist system (which takes over steering from the driver), 3D ‘Optic’ look sculpted inlays and leather or leather and Alcantara trim.
Model tested: Audi A3 Sportback TDI 1.6 SE
Body-style: Five-door hatchback
Engine/CO2: 1598cc 4-cyl turbo diesel / 99 gCO2/km
Trim grades: SE, Sport, S line
On-road price: From £20,775 (1.6 TDI)
Warranty: Three years/60,000 miles
In the showroom: March 2013, with 1.6TDI models in May
Review rating: 4.0 STARS
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