Audi has turned an A3 into an absolute fuel miser, JAMES STANFORD
PRESTIGE cars usually don’t have plastic hub cabs. The A3 TDI e does, and Audi is not ashamed of it. That’s because the smooth, flat wheel covers are actually part of a range of measures that helps this special diesel A3 save fuel.
How efficient is it? Well, the official combined figure is 4.5 litres for 100km, and the test car used only 3.8 litres/100km on the highway.
That is quite impressive given it doesn’t have a complicated drivetrain like a hybrid.
The special A3 runs a 1.9-litre common-rail turbodiesel that is also used by Volkswagen and Skoda. It produces 77kW of power and 250Nm of torque from 1900 revs.
Audi has given the engine a unique calibration for optimum economy, but it is otherwise no different. The gearbox is a regular five-speed manual fitted with wider ratios to allow the car to do fewer revs in any gear. No automatic is available.
The A3 TDI e is efficient, but it’s not quick. Its 0-100km/h in 11.7 seconds is pedestrian.
To save fuel, Audi also changed the suspension, fitting lower-riding sports springs and shocks to get the car closer to the ground and therefore reduce wind resistance.
The hub cabs have also been designed with aerodynamics in mind. They are more efficient than alloys that have regular spokes to disturb the wind flow. Audi also selected special energy-saving tyres with low rolling resistance.
This A3 looks like any other on the inside. It does have an indicator to inform the driver which provides the best possible economy. This feature is available on some manual Audi models and is likely to be introduced by other brands.
There are five seats and the rear ones fold down to create a load area of 1100 litres. A space-saver steel spare is under the cargo floor.
The A3 TDI e costs $38,990, which puts it above the entry level 1.6 petrol ($36,990) and below the 2.0 TDI Ambition diesel ($48,500).
Standard safety gear includes antiskid brakes, electronic stability control and front, side and curtain airbags.
Saver: the Audi A3 TDI e has lower-riding sports springs to reduce wind resistance and aerodynamic hub cabs that don’t disturb the wind flow.