I love what I do for a living. Friends who observe the kaleidoscope of cars appearing on my driveway seem to think that we motoring journalists live something of a charmed life. They’re right. The tally of test cars for review and new car launches means driving around 100 different cars a year, from right across the spectrum of automotive talent. Some cars shine like bright beacons in the automotive landscape, while others just merge rather forgettably into the background.
So where does our Audi A3 long-termer fit into this constantly-moving scene? Like a home-coming. For a start, it very obviously stands out for its vivid Vegas Yellow paint colour, which is a smile-inducing change from the sea of monochrome that consumes most of the traffic. Silver has become such a car colour clichÈ, with black, white and dark grey bringing little visual relief. No wonder such a bright colour seems so much more cheerful, with the bonus that you can spot it from afar where you left it in a busy supermarket car park.
Size is another plus about the A3. It’s a good fit, big enough for comfort and practicality, but small enough to be easy to manouevre in relatively tight spaces. But the big pull of the slick mid-range Audi, that makes me feel like a homing pigeon every time I’m back in the driving seat, is its virtual cockpit. This is something of a star turn in Audi’s buyer-wooing armoury, and it is included in the A3’s kit-list as part of the advanced technology pack that is a pricey, but very desirable £1,395 option. Once experienced, it’s something you want to have with a passion in any car you drive.
As well as the virtual cockpit, the pack includes an uprated navigation system with a touch-draw facility, plus Audi Connect infotainment services and wireless charging for your mobile phone. I love the way you can choose the size of the instrument dials and scale them down or up depending on how dominant you choose them to be. I tend to keep them scrolled smaller, as itís better to see the fabulously large map view straight ahead through the steering wheel.
What’s not to like about having your chosen route marked on a Google maps aerial photo-view of the upcoming terrain, in a display that stretches just over 12 inches wide to occupy the entire through-wheel space.
Something else I really like about the car is a feature I can’t see as I’m driving, but appreciate knowing it has it. It’s neat that the indicator lights scroll to draw added attention to the direction you’re about to go. It is a detail I enjoy seeing on other recent Audis out on the roads, and it’s a nice touch that has been available on the current A3 since its last update.
Date arrived 20th December 2016
Fuel economy 65.7mpg (combined) 46.5mpg (on test)
Audi’s fabulous virtual cockpit that lets you choose the size of the instrument display.
Fuel economy that doesn’t come anywhere near matching the mid-60s mpg promise of the official combined figure.