On the quick back-up AT A GLANCE
Audi’s A3 updates should keep it on top of the quality compact podium
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
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.