All you like about Audis is to be found in a small, perfectly formed package
Joining the $35K prestige class is Audi’s A3, now a bit more than a superannuated VW Golf
THE problem with the A3 has been not so much what it is as what it isn’t. It’s been too much of a Volkswagen Golf and not enough of an Audi.
Still, if you’re going to embark on badge engineering you could do no better than to base your compact hatch on the same platform as that of the Golf, especially the deliriously received new Mk VII.
If you’re going to call it an Audi and charge a bulging premium before the buyer so much as ticks an option box (of which there are not a few), it
had want to boast some pretty dramatic points of departure. Or so goes logical thought.
Audi’s new boss Andrew Doyle will tell you, however, an A3 punter simply doesn’t consider a Golf. Imagine a Grange lover going in for Koonunga Hill. If you don’t do plonk, imagine eschewing a long neck of Cooper’s Pale Ale for a can of VB.
It’s not that the A3 is better than the Golf in a functional sense because it isn’t. This time though, it’s different enough. Besides— and this is kind of its point— you look better in an A3 at the golf club.
This A3 starts at a new low price. So does the Golf (less than $23K) but enough of that for now.
The auto trend of the year is affordable, compact, prestige hatches. The A3 belatedly joins BMW’s 1 Series, Benz’s A-Class and the V40 Volvo at the $35K starting point. It’s been out for ages in out in Europe— before the Golf, in fact. (Sorry— it just keeps cropping up.)
In entry level Attraction trim, the kick-off sticker is $35,600 for the 1.4 petrol and $36,500 for the 1.6 diesel with its meagre 3.9L/100km.
Ambition is the top level before quattro and S models arrive later in the year. Starting price for both 1.8 petrol and 2.0-litre diesel is $42,500.
All are decently equipped but Audis are built as essentially blank canvases to be coloured with options. There are no less than six bundles of these, Assistance package being the least expensive at $1800 for adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and high beam assist, which dips the lights automatically as a vehicle approaches.
For $2K more a Style package adds xenon lamps with daytime running lights and 17-inch alloys to Attraction variants. The Ambition version of that gives you the lights, 18s, sports suspension and 15mm lower ride.
A Technik packs hits you for $2990 and adds navigation system with touchpad, seveninch monitor and park assist with rear view camera. Had enough? Then chill with the Comfort kit, a $2200 ask for electrically adjustable and heated front seats with lumbar support, keyless go, auto dimming rear vision mirror and folding exterior mirrors with kerb view.
Ambition owners can also chuck $4200 at the S line pack, which adds some of the above to 18s and go-fast-looking bits. These are largely superficial but it’s almost necessary to add some— any— visual flair.
Dual-clutch auto transmission is standard on all models. You want a manual? Really? It’s special order— a free option no one will take.
Here’s where the Audi begins to depart from its sister model. You begin to suspect you’re in a good thing when, without prompting, a senior executive of another German car company starts praising the A3 for its use of aluminium to save weight. This model is up to 85kg lighter than the one previous with commensurate savings in fuel.
If Carsguide can at times appear infatuated with small and uber-efficient German turbo engines it’s only because we are. Especially those that run on petrol. So sharp have these become that the economy advantage of turbo diesels— which is in any case largely denuded in urban traffic — is ever more slight. Generally it’s a matter of about 1.0L/100km.
Of the four VW Group engines in the starting line-up, the one unique to the A3 (oh, and Skoda’s new Octavia) is the 1.8 TFSI, which Carsguide drove earlier this month. No doubt capable of greater outputs than its 132kW/ 250Nm, this is nevertheless enough for a 0-100km/h sprint approaching that of a hot hatch — 7.3 seconds isn’t much outside a MkV Golf (whoops) GTI. Its 5.6L/100km, however, would keep the A3 going long after the latter had dried up.
Whether you call them S tronic, DSG or Fred Smith, the shift quality of twin-clutch automatics varies wildly between not just model lines but different cars. Audi’s have as a rule been among the nicer
Refined: The A3’s ride, engines and options suggest prestige at a nice price