AUDI A3 SALOON: new premium compact for European market

AUDI_A3_001YOU could never accuse Audi of not giving a you a wide choice – and now they’ve unveiled their 47th model range.

Not bad for a manufacturer who back in the 1990s had just a handful, and you didn’t have to take your shoes and socks off to count them.

The latest variant to vie for your cash is the A3 saloon – and the belief is that it will greatly enhance the compact saloon segment of the market.

It’s a car with that obvious Audi family look, but it’s also a car that’s pretty well new from the ground up. Certainly, all the body panels are unique, and no way is it just a hatchback with a boot tagged on the rear. Note the front end treatment – the bonnet, bumper and air intake design have been redefined, while at the rear the bootlid features a neatly integrated spoiler.AUDI_A3_034

With prices starting at £24,275, the accent is firmly on premium – but then that’s what you get with any model bearing the four rings on its grille. And it’s another option – alongside the A3 hatch, A3 cabriolet, and A1 range – for anyone looking to dip into the Audi range for the first time.

Compact premium saloons are not noted for their sales success in Europe, but with the USA and China buying them up in numbers A3 saloon is built as a ‘world’ car – and thus available to us here, where otherwise the costs involved for small returns might have seen a big red cross in the ‘for European market’ box on the Ingolstadt board report.

AUDI_A3_084And while it might be considered a small car, the build quality and standard of fit and finish is every bit as good as you’ll find further up the Audi range. And it’s beautifully crafted – the lines are distinctive, and the detail is all there, right down to the neat lower lip at the bottom of the grille.

The flared arches can take up to 19 inch wheels, hinting at some hot versions still to reach these shores, and the short overhangs front and rear help keep the compact appearance.

Trim levels are Sport or S line, with a choice of suspension available. You can opt for a slightly higher ride height (at no extra cost) to cope with our UK road system. But if you’re OK with a firm ride, I can vouch for the quality of the package. It has that typical Audi firmness but it still remains a comfortable and highly accomplished mode of transport.

AUDI_A3_019Prices start at £24,275 (2.0 TDI 150ps) – £30 more gets you a 1.4 TFSI engine with cylinder on demand technology, and a seven speed S tronic transmission. But this ‘small’ engine option is no makeweight, delivering 140ps, 250Nm of torque, a 135mph top speed and 60.1 to the gallon. Oh, and a low CO2 figure of 109g/km to boot.

In fact you could actually say it’s a lightweight, coming in at just 100kgs which helps give it the performance and handling of a Mo Farah.

‘Cylinder on demand’ deactivates two cylinders at low load to cut fuel consumption and minimise the mechanical effort needed to run the unit.

Also on offer at launch are a 1.8 TFSI (180ps) and the latest 150ps 2.0 litre TDI, and transmission options are a six speed manual or S tronic dual clutch.

User friendly touches? You can dial up a thin or wide jet of air from the A3’s unique and highly efficient air vents, it comes with Google Earth mapping among many other premium attributes and later in the year it will have 4G technology at your fingertips. Throw in a Bang and Olufsen sound system for a bit of music while you work and the job’s a good ‘un…..

FASTFACTS: Audi A3 saloon Sport 1.4 TFSI; £24,305; four cylinder 1395cc TFSI, 140ps, 250Nm; 7 speed S tronic gearbox; top speed 135mph, 0-62mph 8.4 secs; fuel (50 litre tank)– urban 47.9, extra urban 68.9, combined 60.1; CO2 109g/km; emission standard – EU6 compliant.

© 2013

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