FIRST DRIVE

All you like about Audis is to be found in a small, per­fectly formed pack­age

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News - PAUL POT­TINGER CARS­GUIDE EDI­TOR paul.pot­tinger@cars­guide.com.au

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.

VALUE

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.

TECH­NOL­OGY

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

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