On the quick back-up AT A GLANCE

Audi’s A3 up­dates should keep it on top of the qual­ity com­pact podium

The Advertiser - Motoring - - PRESTIGE - CRAIG DUFF

WHEN you’re on top, mi­nor tweaks to your game go un­no­ticed by the pub­lic but keep the op­po­si­tion wrong­footed. Such is the case with the Audi A3, the dom­i­nant player in the small pres­tige sec­tor de­spite the at­ten­tions of MercedesBenz and BMW.

Audi’s op­po­si­tion would point to its range of mod­els in the seg­ment to ar­gue the point but the of­fi­cial sales fig­ures show the A3 is giv­ing the A-Class and 1 Se­ries a workover.

Audi man­ag­ing di­rec­tor An­drew Doyle says the up­dates ex­tend the ver­sa­til­ity and ap­peal of the A3 range, now priced from $39,900 to $72,000.

“The A3 has never been more pop­u­lar than in this, its third gen­er­a­tion,” Doyle says. “The ad­vance­ments and added value that ar­rive with the new model will en­sure its enor­mous pop­u­lar­ity con­tin­ues.”

The tweaks bring the oblig­a­tory mi­nor changes to the A3’s look (sedan, right) to keep it fresh in buy­ers’ eyes and give visual con­fir­ma­tion they’ve bought the “new” car.

The more im­por­tant up­grades are also more dis­creet. The in­fo­tain­ment, lifted from the new A4, adds stan­dard sat­nav, bet­ter graph­ics and eas­ier op­er­a­tion, along with (in top-spec mod­els) Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto con­nec­tiv­ity.

Au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing with pedes­trian de­tec­tion is com­mon through­out the range and xenon head­lamps are the de­fault light­ing.

Op­tions run from ma­trix LED head­lamps to the dig­i­tal “vir­tual cock­pit” driver’s dis­play.

New bun­dled pack­ages to im­prove the A3’s look and drive are topped by a $1500 pack with adap­tive cruise con­trol, ac­tive lane as­sist, blind-spot and rear cross-traf­fic alerts.

Un­der the bon­net a pair of new en­gines will pretty much tai­lor the A3 to any life­style, from the 1.0-litre three-cylin­der in the base hatch to a stonk­ing 2.0-litre mill matched to all­wheel-drive in the top-spec vari­ants of all body styles.

In terms of per­for­mance, the A3 now cov­ers the spec­trum from se­date to sen­sa­tional, aided by a slick seven-speed dual-clutch au­to­matic trans­mis­sion.

ON THE ROAD

The three-cylin­der hatch will gar­ner the most in­ter­est and not just be­cause it is at least $4000 cheaper than its four­cylin­der brethren.

Of­fi­cial fuel con­sump­tion is diesel-es­que at just 4.8L/100km and af­ter a hard run (in­clud­ing a cou­ple of de­cent climbs) on twisty roads the read­out climbed to just mid-sevens. Not bad for an en­gine that, on pa­per, looks anaemic.

The re­al­ity is that, un­less you des­per­ately want to win the traf­fic-light launch stakes, the en­try-level hatch has more than enough grunt to cope with ur­ban du­ties.

The 1.4-litre four-cylin­der car­ries over with its smart cylin­der de­ac­ti­va­tion to save fuel on light throt­tle and the new 2.0-litre four will be the de­fault choice for those who want the per­for­mance.

Un­less you want even more, in which case the wicked-up and wicked S3 vari­ants (see panel) prom­ise entertainment ev­ery time you press the start but­ton.

AUDI A3 SPORTBACK

PRICE From $35,900 WAR­RANTY 3 years/un­lim­ited km CAPPED SER­VIC­ING $1680 for 3 years/ 45,000km SER­VICE IN­TER­VAL 12 months/15,000km SAFETY 5 stars, 7 airbags EN­GINES 1.0-litre 3-cyl turbo, 85kW/200Nm; 1.4-litre 4-cyl turbo, 110kW/250Nm; 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo, 140kW/320Nm TRANS­MIS­SION 7-speed dual-clutch auto; FWD/AWD THIRST 4.8L-6.2L/100km DI­MEN­SIONS 4313mm (L), 1785mm (W), 1426mm (H), 2637mm (WB) WEIGHT 1275kg-1460kg

VER­DICT

The com­mon theme with all A3 Sport­backs is the abil­ity to cruise around town without bruis­ing kid­neys over speed humps yet still de­liver on back roads.

The sus­pen­sion tune is softer than the A-Class without cost­ing the A3 much in body roll or cor­ner­ing com­po­sure. That hasn’t changed but the in­cre­men­tal im­prove­ments to the soft­ware de­liver a more in­tu­itive ex­pe­ri­ence for the driver.

And that should keep the Audi on top of the small car podium for a lit­tle longer.

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