Geared to cruise
BRIAN BASSETT discovers joy at under 2 000 rpm in the 1,2 T S Audi A3 hatchback
AS we have said previously, this is the age of the small engine. Not surprisingly, Audi has now equipped its A3 hatchback with a 1,2-litre turbocharged engine and I was grateful when Darryl Topper, dealer principal at the Audi Centre, made it possible for me to spend a few days with the car.
The Audi A3 hatchback is a dynamically styled motor vehicle that looks fast and might even be called a coupé it’s that good-looking. The flat, tough, masculine and compact design projects no-nonsense practicality and its slim line is clearly defined by a striking tornado line along the edge of the windows and a dynamic line above the sills. The front end is dominated by the distinctive Audi grille with its four rings and flanked by narrow headlights, which give the front end a concentrated look. The fog lights are built into the bumper and the resulting front-end composition is distinctive. The rear of the vehicle is dominated by slim, divided rear lights, which are available in LED technology and provide a sporty, low appearance, reinforced by twin exhausts. The colour-coded exterior electrically operated mirrors are set on the door rails like a sports car and add spice to the design.
Open the heavy front doors and you are introduced to a quality interior which is typically Audi. The cockpit is well-designed with a clear layout and excellent ergonomics. The centre console is dominated by a well-designed gear lever and rotary central control unit surrounded by touch-sensitive buttons. The centre of the dash has a slim, seven-inch colour display, which pops up and disappears electrically when the car is switched on and off. The central control unit offers a convenient method of operating the phone and Satnav, and the screen presents the information clearly. I liked the crisp, horizontal dashboard presentation with its clear, well-lit analogue gauges and jet-design air vents, which cool the interior effortlessly and add style. The three-spoke, leather-covered, multifunction steering wheel is also enjoyable to handle. The audio system did a great job on the Beethoven’s Second
Symphony I played through it, but for those connoisseurs who want the best, a Bang and Olufsen 14-speaker system is an optional extra. The seats in my car were comfortable and well-upholstered, and the interior was finished in soft-touch plastics of high quality. The rear seats are easily accessible through the wide doors and will take two adults comfortably but, like most cars of this type, some adjustment may be needed for the long-legged among us. Various technical, optional systems are available to enhance your ride and you can plug in what the car does not provide. The rear luggage space offers around 250 litres with rear seats up and when lowered, quite large objects can be transported. The space offered is also quite flexible.
SAFETY AND SECURITY
The A3 range has a five-star Euro NCap rating, so it’s safe before you start with the impressive list of driver aids. All of the usual safety gear is there, like seat belts and child-safety anchors to international standards, ABS, EBD and secondary collision brake assist and a wide range of other assists. Seven air bags surround the passengers and the front passenger air bag can be switched off if necessary. An electronic handbrake, which I am old enough not to enjoy, adaptive cruise control, which I do enjoy, as well as park assist and hill-start assist, make it an ideal town car. What I enjoyed most was the reversing camera, which takes the stress out of shopping-centre parking. If you don’t like parking in tight spots you can add the automatic parking function. Your insurance company will still hold you responsible even if a machine parks the car. The car has keyless entry and central locking, as well as an on-board alarm.
PERFORMANCE AND HANDLING
Before driving the car, I was not sure that I would enjoy the small engine, but I was pleasantly surprised. The four-cylinder 1197 cc, turbocharged petrol engine delivers 77 kW/175 Nm of torque expressed on road via one of the smoothest six-speed gearboxes it has been my pleasure to use. Zero to 100 comes up in 10,3 seconds and top speed is around 190 kmh. Fuel consumption is about six litres per 100 kms, but I am heavy footed.
The car handles superbly and makes nipping in and out of traffic in town quite exciting. On steep hills be prepared to use the gears but changing is a pleasure. At speed the car is stable, involving and provides a sophisticated, quiet, effortless ride. It is made for cruising and in sixth gear on the N3 I rediscovered the pleasure of breezing along at under 2 000 rpm. If you are likely to fill the car with adults and luggage on a regular basis, I suggest you consider the 1,4T engine which delivers 90 kW/200 Nm of torque.
COSTS AND THE COMPETITION
The 1,2 T S comes in at R326 000 and the 1,4 T S at around R334 000. Both come with a fiveyear/100 000 km maintenance plan and a one-year factory guarantee.
Remember, the options list is long and expensive. Also look at BMW 1 Series, VW Golf/Jetta, and Mercedes A Class.
‘The Audi A3 hatchback is a dynamically styled motor vehicle that looks fast and might even be called a coupé it’s that goodlooking.’