THERE’S definitely something surreal about driving along a French autoroute and being able to see an aerial view of everything to the right and left of you.
In an Audi, you can – a fact highlighted by the all-new A3 Sportback, which goes on sale on March 16.
Thanks to Google Earth mapping – one of the many features they’ve crammed into the car – you can have the option of a real world view of your route, rather than just the normal graphic map. Kind of relieves the boredom, not that there’s anything mundane about driving a new Audi.
But it kind of highlights just how important it is for Audi to make sure their customers have access to every bit of updated technical wizardry at their disposal.
Head of PR Jon Zammett points to Audi’s obsession with meeting customer needs. People want top quality and it’s attention to detail that is the secret of Audi’s success, he says.
You only need to take a look at the A3’s interior and you’ll appreciate just what quality means to the German manufacturer. For goodness sake, even the rotary air vents on the dash are made up of over 30 individual parts, and they work with a very reassuring and efficient click.
A3 was the car that defined the premium hatch segment 10 years ago and it’s still the leading player today.
Director of Audi UK Martin Sander says exciting brands get noticed by customers and the momentum the brand has built up has seen them take the lead in the UK premium market after setting record sales in 2012 – they managed to sell 10,000 more cars than the previous year in a market that’s finding the going tough. And they’re confident the A3 Sportback will build on this and expect to sell around 30,000 a year in the UK.
Design flair is very much in evidence. The extra side window at the rear helps to boost the space inside and give passengers more light. Extra space between the wheel arches means there’s more interior space than before. Wheelbase is 58mm longer than the car it replaces and 35mm longer than the three door.
Its now some 90kgs lighter thanks to a more widespread use of aluminium which has obvious benefits on the emissions and economy front.
All the safety systems protecting larger Audi models are evident here – they’ve thrown the whole box load at the Sportback to cover all the bases for customers.
I drove the 1.8 TFSi Sport with seven speed S tronic (£25,030) and when the two are coupled together it makes for a very involving drive on a twisting Provence country road – in fact an involving drive on just about any road you care to mention. A soothing piano concerto playing in the background, which you can hear because every other noise if effectively dialled out of the equation, puts you in the mood for a prolonged spell behind the wheel and the A3 doesn’t disappoint.
Super smooth and super silent equates to a very good all round package.
The 2.0 TDI Sport (£23,350), among other attributes, offers more adjustment in the seat with more thigh support. It’s an equally good performer, with steering pin that’s sharp, hardly any body roll, and reassuringly good brakes..
There are a variety of suspension variations on models, where in the past each level has just the one setup. SE has standard suspension, Sport trim offers standard or Sports, while S Line gives you the option of standard, Sports (15mm lower) or S Line (25mm lower). The basic set up works well enough and will be more than adequate for most drivers.
Also sampled was the 1.4 TFSI SE spec (£19,825). Again a decent enough performer that holds the road like my dog holds on to a bone – unshakeable. It displays excellent balance and the engine is very tractable. On our twisty, sweeping road route it barely needed any help from the gears, and as long are you get all the braking done before the bend the A3 will just pull itself through as if cornering on proverbial rails as the power is fed back in.
2.0 TDI expected to be the best seller, but the 1.4 TFSI makes a pretty good case for consideration.
FASTFACTS: Audi A3 Sportback 2.0 TDI SE; £21,480; 1968cc four cylinder DOHC diesel, turbocharged, 150ps, 320Nm; stop start; six speed manual; top speed 134mph, 0-62mph 8.7 secs; fuel (50 litre tank) urban 56.5, extra urban 76.4, combined 67.3; CO2 108g/km; Wil it fit the garage? 4310/1785/1425 (l/w/h); three year/60,000 mile warranty.
© Wheelwrite 2013.