Pre­cise prac­ti­cal­ity

BRIAN BAS­SETT finds forms fol­lows func­tion in Audi’s A3 1.6 TDI Auto Sport­back

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

IN the 12 months plus that we have been pro­duc­ing this col­umn we have re­viewed a num­ber of Audis, in­clud­ing an A3 3-door 1.2l TS, but it ap­peared ap­pro­pri­ate to us to re­view the five-door Sport­back, which dif­fers in many ways from the A3 three-door.

We were also keen to ex­pe­ri­ence the 1,6 diesel en­gine with which the car is equipped and are grate­ful to Darryl Top­per, dealer prin­ci­pal at Audi Cen­tre Pi­eter­mar­itzburg, for al­low­ing us a few days with the car.

Styling

Each mo­tor­ing brand has its own ap­proach to in­dus­trial de­sign.

In Audi’s case its phi­los­o­phy of re­strained el­e­gance and pre­cise prac­ti­cal­ity backed by build qual­ity of the high­est stan­dard has ex­tended over more than 100 years and has made the brand fa­mous for its dura­bil­ity and de­sign of the form fol­lows func­tion school. The A3 Sport­back is no dif­fer­ent.

First im­pres­sions are of a wide, low, compact car with pre­cise lines that cre­ate vol­ume, as well as add a sporty feel to the over­all de­sign.

In front the car has a typ­i­cal Audi, large air in­take, flanked by halo­gen head­lights and the fa­mous four linked rings placed cen­trally.

The car I drove had use­ful fog lamps set into the front bumper. The body lines are bold and sharp to em­pha­sise the flanks and pow­er­ful shoul­ders, while big wheel arches ac­cen­tu­ated by 10-spoke dy­nam­i­cally-de­signed al­loys lend a slightly ag­gres­sive air to the over­all de­sign.

The tail­gate has a sculpted and sporty feel, while the rear is dom­i­nated by two large light mod­ules.

In­te­rior

The in­te­rior is un­clut­tered and prac­ti­cal. If you are look­ing for flash­ing strobe lights and gim­micky bits and pieces, it will not ap­peal to you.

How­ever, if you value good, prac­ti­cal de­sign and high qual­ity fin­ishes you will like this in­te­rior.

The fully-ad­justable seat­ing is so com­fort­able that I fell asleep while wait­ing for my wife in a shop­ping cen­tre park­ing lot. The rear seats are sur­pris­ingly spa­cious and will take three adults with ease.

If you only need space for two adults the cen­tral, fold-down arm­rest en­hances an al­ready com­fort­able rear space.

The boot space is ad­e­quate to take a fam­ily of four away for a week­end and it al­most dou­bles with the rear seats folded flat in 60:40 fash­ion.

The dash has four, ret­rostyled vents, which form one part of a very ef­fec­tive cli­mate con­trol sys­tem, while a large, cen­tral screen, which folds away once the en­gine is switched off, dom­i­nates the dash­board and pro­vides a wide range of in­for­ma­tion on the ra­dio, Blue­tooth, travel and jour­neys, as well as be­ing home to the Sat­nav sys­tem, should you have one.

The screen is op­er­ated by a large con­troller be­hind the leather-cov­ered gear lever.

The leather-cov­ered tac­tile, four spoke steer­ing wheel is fully ad­justable and has the usual mul­ti­func­tion but­tons for the ex­cel­lent Audi multi-speaker au­dio sys­tem, in­for­ma­tion and speed con­trol.

Safety and Se­cu­rity

The A3 Sport­back has a five star NCAP rat­ing. So it’s a great place to keep your fam­ily safe on the road. Be­ing an Audi it has a wide range of safety de­vices from ABS with EBD to seat­belts for all and front, side and head airbags.

There are adap­tive head­lights as an op­tion, as well as a wide va­ri­ety of driver aids, some of which are op­tional.

My car had an elec­tronic hand­brake and Hill Start As­sist, but I missed the park as­sist func­tion, which is op­tional.

There are side im­pact beams and child seat an­chors to in­ter­na­tional stan­dards, while the car has an on-board alarm and se­cu­rity sys­tem.

So the Sport­back is an ideal and safe fam­ily car.

Per­for­mance and han­dling

The four-cylin­der, 1,6-litre turbo diesel en­gine is gutsy, putting out 77 kW and 250 Nm via a seven-speed auto gear­box. The 0-100 km/h run gets done in about 10,9 sec­onds and top speed is around 195 km/h. Fuel consumption for me was an amaz­ing 4,9 l/100 km over mixed routes.

The car han­dles su­perbly and the ride is quiet and com­fort­able, with no cabin wind noise. You are only dimly aware of gear changes and then only when you put your foot down hard.

Over­tak­ing, from huge ar­tic­u­lated trucks to taxis in­tent on world dom­i­na­tion, is easy.

The no­to­ri­ous D-roads in the Mid­lands present few chal­lenges to the car, al­though a hard ride on un­tarred roads does mean that you will have to travel at lower speeds for the sake of com­fort.

If your pas­sen­gers don’t mind (and mine didn’t) turn off onto a gravel road where the firm su­pen­sion can be quite ex­cit­ing.

In town the car is de­light­ful. It is both a great mom’s taxi and a good ve­hi­cle for dads who want to nip in and out of traf­fic and get a move on — safely of course.

Park­ing is easy, de­spite the lack of park as­sist on my car and at night driv­ing through town was il­lu­mi­nat­ing.

Costs and com­pe­ti­tion.

The A3 Sport­back is not cheap, but it is a truly great car, beau­ti­fully made and en­joy­able to drive.

The 1,6-litre TDI S will cost you around R380 000 new, but re­mem­ber there are year-old and demo mod­els and year end is al­ways a great time to ne­go­ti­ate a spe­cial trade-in price for your jalopy.

The car comes with a 100 000 km main­te­nance plan and a two-year, ex­tend­able man­u­fac­turer’s war­ranty.

Also look at the BMW 1 Se­ries, VW Jetta, and Mercedes A Class.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

The A3 Sport­pack is for driv­ers look­ing for re­strained el­e­gance and roomy back seats.

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