However much you travel, there’s nothing quite like a homecoming. I’m rather feeling that way about the A3. Inevitably the job I do involves rather a lot of fraternising with other cars, exploring their capabilities, assessing their strengths and weaknesses, but I find that I’m always back in a comfort zone when settled back into the driving seat of the trusty A3 after time away.
I’ve always liked the compact Audi Sportback ñ which is really just a posh name for hatch ñ for its classy efficiency, but I wasn’t expecting it to endear itself quite as much as it has. You may well recall that it started its time on the Diesel Car fleet with photographer Simon Thompson as its custodian, but then a long-distance job with mountains of kit found him enviously eyeing the generosity of space in the Kia Optima Sportswagon that had recently arrived into my care. The temporary swap that we agreed on quickly became more permanent than either of us initially expected.
Just as the roomy Optima slotted so very well into Simon’s daily life, so I warmed to the advantages of the neat, eye-catchingly bright Audi. The mere sight of it is cheering, enhanced by its zingy paintwork. When I returned to a gloomy car park at Heathrow the other day, its Vegas Yellow rump was glowingly welcomingly in the middle of a long line of otherwise unremitting monochrome.
There are also benefits in having a car measuring half a metre less in overall length than the big Kia, perfect though the Sportswagon is for its purpose. It’s just so utterly convenient knowing that you can zip easily into most parking spaces with a bit of room to spare. Handy, too, that the Audi’s compact size and tight turning circle enables me to turn around in the parking space outside my house, and drive forward out of the gate instead of reversing out into the road. Yes, a carriage drive with in and out gates would be great, but we don’t happen to have one.
Then there’s the A3’s cabin. What an oasis of tasteful good quality it is. Audi still has an edge on its rivals in this size class for cabin calibre, and it’s emphasised in the upscale S line spec of our car. I particularly like the range of adjustment on the driving seat, that lets me ñ as a vertically challenged shorty ñ achieve a perfect driving position just as easily as the nearing-six-footer who seems to be the template for stretch and reach in most cars.
It’s a small thing, but the flat-bottomed S line-badged steering wheel is a very pleasing feature. It means that I can set the driving seat high for a good view out in all directions, while still comfortably clear of the wheel. Better still, it’s a sporty touch that chimes well with a car that is strong on attention to detail.
I’m off to drive another new car tomorrow, but it’s nice to know there’ll be a sunny welcome waiting from the A3 for when I’m back.
Date arrived 20th December 2017
Fuel economy 65.7mpg (combined) 47.9mpg (on test)
The flat-bottomed steering wheel frees up a tiny bit of extra space above your thighs as you sit in the driving seat.
The side sills jut out below the doors, and you have to be careful not to brush against it when it’s grubby after a long drive.