Do you recall when Father Ted explained to Fr. Dougal that the toy cow he was holding was near – and the ones in the field were far away. The new A3 saloon is a perfectly scaled down business saloon.
The compact Audi A3 has been revised outside and in. The hatchback five-door ‘Sportback’ (from €30,060) is the most popular body type but the saloon is the one that really attracts really the eye. The four door body of our S Line grade test car looks smart and is perfectly formed… to my eyes it looks better proportioned than the larger A4 and from a distance could be mistaken for an A8. The new A3 saloon features strong lines, nice overhangs and subtle sculpting and its design only emphasises that it is a crying shame that this classic three-box body form is in decline due to the rise of the SUV and crossover.
Inside the new A3 benefits from the latest dash layout and surfacing that is filtering down from the larger ‘A’s. A couple of years ago at the A7’s international launch at Audi’s new design HQ a number of key Audi designers explained their philosophy to me. Slowly but surely with each new model since the A7 Audi has delivered on its goal to let its new design style make their way down to more mass market machines. The A3 gets a drastically improved dash layout. While a lot of clutter has been removed to touch screens the A3 still has a lot of switchgear e.g. our test car had a new round multi function button located on the centre console that controls the stereo – but you can control these functions on the steering wheel or on the centre touch display so why is it there.
This question aside the cabin is a nice place to be with lean and flush surfacing present. The clear and substantial digital screens enhance the business like quality to the cabin that compliments the exterior. Connectivity and tech is upped. Optional MMI navigation plus with MMI touch and Audi’s virtual cockpit are highlights. The boot is relatively huge but the rear seats look better than they function. Rear access can be a tight manoeuvre and a struggle for anyone with a generous frame (cough). I found the rear very cramped for head and legroom when sitting behind the driver’s seat.
The engine range features petrol and diesel options with manual and ’S tronic’ automatic gearbox options. An A3 Sportback 40 ‘TFSIe’ PHEV plug in hybrid is coming in January 2021. It offers up to 78km of electric range (NEDC) and pushes out 204hp. For now you can buy a 116hp ’30’ TDi diesel (from €32,995) and ’30’ TFSI petrol(from €31,035). Our test car is powered by a 1 litre petrol unit with 110hp and 200nm of torque. 0-100km/h takes 10.6 seconds and fuel consumption is quoted at 4.7-4.5L/100km.
The engine is adequate for unchallenging use but frustrating in every other sense and certainly not a choice for high mileage users. ‘Audi Drive Select’ is standard on the S Line and features a number of driving modes: efficient, dynamic, comfort, automatic or individual. I used dynamic most of the time with the 1 litre just so I could make adequate progress without having to plant my right foot on the accelerator to do any manoeuvre briskly. The six-speed manual gearbox is slick and the clutch is nice and light but you will need to do a lot of shifting to enjoy any of the A3’s very good driving dynamics. A lot of ADAS driving safety aids are available as optional extras with Audi Pre-Sense front and lane departure warning standard across the range. Adaptive cruise is optional too. Matrix LED headlights another option (€1,218) are available and a must have if you drive a lot at night in rural areas particularly.
The new Audi A3 starts from €31,035. The grades available are: SE, Attraction and S Line. A ‘comfort’ pack is an option at €1,234. 16 inch alloys are the starting point but 17s and 18s also feature. A number of exclusive paint finished are available but pricy at €3,149.