We should judge our long-term test cars on the basis of “fitness for purpose” and we were hoping for the traditional peerless Audi build quality, comfortable motoring for two, and occasionally four, a good driving experience, good fuel economy, and reasonably good practicality and flexibility for cargo. My wife and I are pretty fussy customers, but I have to say that this medium-sized Audi has delivered in spades.
Having run an A3 Sportback 2.0 TDI PD 170 of the previous generation from 2006 to 2009, I can confidently say that this newer edition is a vastly better car, putting aside its performance which, with only a 1.6-litre TDI engine, was understandably inferior, but it used a whole lot less fuel. The suspension and ride comfort is probably where things have most improved over the old model and, with more comparable prices, the A3 and Sportback are now arguably better buys than a similarly powered Golf, although it’s still a close-run thing. You could never have argued that the previous A3, for all its sportier image, was a better driver’s car, or rode as well as a comparable Golf, but general informed opinion is that the tables have been turned.
Based on experience with this SE trim and standard SE suspension Sportback, the Audi wins. Availability of other variants with tauter, and yet still acceptably comfortable suspension (Sport and S line) with the option to cross-specify trim and suspension, plus 181bhp 2.0 TDI and quattro all-wheel-drive variants means that there’s really now an A3 to suit everyone.
Our car was fitted with Audi Drive Select that offers a choice of driving characteristics, although I never noticed particularly stunning differences between the various Economy, Comfort, Dynamic etc. settings. Possibly these are only really significant when you select the Adaptive Suspension option, with its magnetically controlled variable dampers. But it’s only in one or two areas of its high technology, media settings, controls, and instruments that the Sportback ever really irritated me, and I’m quite happy to take most of the blame for that, being no great fan of complex in-car entertainment, telecoms, and other advanced electronic features. So, probably, only the rather temperamental SD card-based satellite navigation could be marked down, for ease of use and occasional bouts of annoying utter idiocy, with the reservation that it’s not even impossible that it was actually down to my idiocy, or incompetence, and not the Audi system at all.
But we haven’t yet mentioned the performance and economy; the official performance figures pretty much say it all in that, as a ten seconds plus 0-62mph car, the 1.6-litre TDI unit is no sluggard, although obviously it always needs driving a bit harder than a 2.0-litre TDI version if you’re pressing on; but it will be more than adequate for many undemanding drivers. Regarding fuel economy, the figures again tell it all; by the end of our time with the car, the computer display average, which had been cross-checked with some brim-to-brim figures and shown to be only a touch optimistic, was nudging 58mpg for a good general mix of motoring. Only a pretty hard driver, who would probably be better off in a 2.0-litre TDI, would be likely to regularly drop below 50mpg and, as the engine loosened up and the warmer weather arrived, I’m clocking near to a displayed 50mpg on short runs of four to five miles to the shops and back. That’s really impressive, and I think there’s been some significant engineering design work gone into improving engine warm-up and cold engine economy. The fact that this 58mpg falls 16mpg (or over 20 per cent) short of the EC Combined figure of 74.3mpg is more testament to the idiocy of the EC test than any shortcomings of the car.
In conclusion, then, for me the Sportback is a very good car indeed, highly competent in all areas, comfortable, quiet, classy, well built, low in running costs (its depreciation is class-leading) and stylish, and a worthy winner of the World Car of the Year title for 2014. Possibly the almost universal excellence generates the only real criticism I might suggest, in that it could be accused of being just a touch lacking in character, although that’s possibly related to the modesty of our car’s 1.6-litre TDI engine and its SE trim.
|Whats Hot:||The Audi A3 has just won the World Car of the Year title for 2014!|
|Whats Not:||I’ve not managed to master the MMI controls on the centre console yet.|
|Date arrived:||4th November 2013|
|Mileage to date:||5,285 miles|
|Fuel consumption:||74.3mpg (official combined)
57.8mpg (on test)