BRIAN BASSETT finds forms follows function in Audi’s A3 1.6 TDI Auto Sportback
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.
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.
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.
The A3 Sportpack is for drivers looking for restrained elegance and roomy back seats.