Geared to cruise

BRIAN BAS­SETT dis­cov­ers joy at un­der 2 000 rpm in the 1,2 T S Audi A3 hatch­back

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

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.

STYLING

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.

IN­TE­RIOR

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.

PHOTO: QUICK­PIC

‘The Audi A3 hatch­back is a dy­nam­i­cally styled mo­tor ve­hi­cle that looks fast and might even be called a coupé it’s that good­look­ing.’

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