The all-new fourth-generation Audi A3, which is offered in both Sportback (hatchback) and Sedan body styles, finds itself caught in a tight situation.
It shares the same Volkswagen Group MQB Evo platform as the latest Volkswagen Golf and Skoda Octavia models, and it will draw inevitable comparisons to those cars. Even if it’s a step above them (if not quality-wise, then price-wise).
That’s a lot of competition. Can it stand out?
LEAN AND TAUT
The A3 Sedan certainly looks good. It’s grown slightly longer than its predecessor, and that emphasises its sleek lines and sharp proportions.
The test car also comes with additional sporty touches that make it look similar to the more powerful S3. These include chrome finishing on the air intakes, as well as 18-inch Audi Sport wheels (the standard wheel size is 17 inches).
The changes to the cabin are significant. Like the rest of Volkswagen Group’s products, digitisation has clearly taken over. You get a 12.3-inch instrument panel, as well as a 10.1-inch infotainment display. The audio volume is adjusted using a touch control wheel, not unlike the one on a classic iPod. Remember those things?
However, unlike the Golf and Octavia, more physical buttons have been retained, and that’s a good thing. Functions like fan speed and air temperature are much easier to adjust. I also think that Audi’s infotainment interface, though unchanged, is still more intuitive compared to its “cousins”.
Does the A3 have the classiest and most premium space? No, not quite. There’s a mix of hard plastic and leather, and while the combination is well-composed, it’s not as atas as the more expensive models in Audi’s stable.
As far as space goes, the A3 sedan is suitable for a small family. Rear legroom is reasonable, but the middle seat is best left for children. The 425-litre boot is also plentiful for a small family.
SMOOTH AND SPORTY
Powering the new A3 is the same turbocharged 1.5-litre mild hybrid powertrain also found in the new Golf and Octavia. With 148hp and 250Nm of torque, there’s plenty of accessible and useful performance.
That said, the A3 does feel a little lighter on its feet (it is lighter than both the Golf and Octavia), and when coasting with the engine off, smoother, too.
The 48-volt mild hybrid system is also able to provide 12hp (9kW) and 50Nm of torque to assist the engine, and the boost is actually detectable at low revs. It also makes the car more efficient – I managed 14km/L over three days of driving.
As a result, the A3 feels very peppy to drive, aided by well-judged steering and composed handling. The A3 also has multi-link rear suspension, which makes for a very composed ride.
The noise insulation of the A3 is also very good (certainly better than the Golf’s and the Octavia’s). All in all, the A3 drives like you expect an Audi to – comfortable, refined and superbly smooth.
THE SWEET SPOT
So, how does the A3 Sedan fare against complicated competition? Among its MQB Evo brethren, it’s quite easily and clearly the most sophisticated and upmarket choice.
The Octavia’s size and practicality might offer more value for money, but against the Golf, I think the A3 makes a very compelling case.
In the premium segment, the Mercedes-Benz A-Class Saloon is the A3 Sedan’s most direct competitor. But I think the A3 is a step ahead in terms of driveability and useability. The BMW 1 Series offers a sportier drive, but the 116i variant is down on power. Its design is also controversial.
The A3 Sedan is more than just a “middle ground” option. It looks sharp, feels premium, drives well, and gives you everything you want in a compact sedan. It is surprisingly sweet, and that makes it a really attractive choice.
Audi A3 Sedan 1.5 (A)
ENGINE 1498cc, 16-valves, inline-4, turbocharged, mild hybrid
MAX POWER 148hp (150PS, 110kW) at 5000-6000rpm
MAX TORQUE 250Nm at 1500-3500rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 112.1hp per tonne
GEARBOX 7-speed dual-clutch with manual select
0-100KM/H 8.4 seconds
TOP SPEED 232km/h
CONSUMPTION 20.8km/L (combined)
PRICE INCL. COE From $182,415 (after $15k VES rebate)
AGENT Premium Automobiles