The entry level A3 has so much going on for it; surprise, surprise, surprise...
Photos: Azfar Hashim
So in his review, Joel concluded that the ‘flagship’ A3 1.8 TFSI is not good enough for his money; which you can’t blame him as, coming from a practical car enthusiast, it makes much more sense to settle for a Golf GTI than the Audi.
Not only does the Golf GTI deliver more punch and practicality, but looking at the specification list, it really is a good example of value-for-money. That said however, in this writer’s point of view, perhaps a four wheel drive 1.8 TFSI Quattro variant would make it more enticing.
The 1.8 TFSI aside, what we have here today is the ‘entry-level’ variant: the 1.4 TFSI. Yes it shares the same powerplant as the Golf, but somewhat this one feels - and I swear it isn’t psychological - smoother. And of course, this is a good thing (and expected), considering the almost $44,000 (equivalent to a five year old, highly-spec’d Fiat Bravo T-Jet, egad!) separating the two. Hmm… You can’t help but wonder whether that significant difference in price between the two is justified – after all, the Golf and this new A3 is, technically, the same car.
Ok, it is no secret that the A3 is a Golf, but in a more upmarket shell. Hence because of that, the A3 looks very sleek and stylish, even without any brash styling kits required; all it gets are a subtle roof spoiler, rather sophisticated-looking 17-inch alloys wrapped in 225/45 R-17 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx TT rubbers and shiny exhaust tips. The pair of newly designed daytime-running light adds more style too. However if it isn’t eye-catching enough, there’s the S-line route you can opt. Still, there’s no escaping the fact that it has, generally, the same outline as its predecessor.
Now the interior is where exactly the A3 can be considered faultless. Fit and finish is class leading, the seats are all comfortable, and especially for the driver, lumbar support is spot-on. Every buttons are clear and concise and, best of all, feels substantial enough to teach the rest of the competition a thing of two.
The steering wheel is perfectly shaped and sized; makes you want to bring it back home after parking. An intuitive MMI system: good job, Audi. It’s easy to navigate around the different sections, including the Drive Select. And those air-con vents, by golly, really show off how serious Audi is at their attempt to dominating the class.
The rear bench is able to accommodate two average-sized adults with ease, providing ample head and legroom. Oh by the way if you find the orange/black interior combination too loud, you can choose to be predictable by getting an all-black set. Its boot size may not be as deep as the Golf, but it remains useful nonetheless.
Under the bonnet lies a 1.4-litre turbocharged lump that is mated to a 7-speed S-tronic twin-clutch ‘box. Maximum power output stands at 122 bhp at 5,000 bhp while maximum torque at 200 Nm from as low as 1,400 rpm; so that means you don’t have to work the right pedal hard just to get it moving off the junction. What’s a surprise though, is how Audi quoted a time of 9.3 seconds for this 1.2-tonne hatchback to get from standstill to 100 km/h; it definitely feels faster than that.
Out on the expressway, the A3 is an exceptionally refined car to drive. Wind and engine noise are non-existent, making you feel as though you are driving a larger sedan twice it’s price. Tyre noise still makes its way into the cabin; which is something unavoidable considering the performance-biased shoes the car is shod with. That aside, this hatchback doesn’t seem to feel out of element; power is present to aid overtaking and it doesn’t have any problem keeping up with traffic on the fastest lane.
Audi seem to have gotten it right in delivering the able handler/uncompromising suspension set-up here. It doesn’t feel too stiff or too soft; it’s a nicely balanced chassis here, really. Then to sweeten things up, the steering feedback is positive, with response immediate; something that should worry BMW’s 116i. The set of anchors work well, but it can feel a little over-servoed and needs some getting used to. Jam it too hard and your passengers might need their barf bags…
At the current asking price, this base A3 does seem too pricey. After all, the mechanically equivalent Golf is currently the best value-for-money European hatchback in our market, the 116i is five grand cheaper and the Mini Cooper Countryman - just to add to the variety - offers more quirkiness.
But when you consider the top-notch build quality, able power delivery and best-in-class handling, I would still say to Audi, “shut up and just take my money”.