From £13,420
Most frugal model in the Audi A3 range thrills with impressive economy, but it lacks dynamic sparkle

Our Verdict

The Audi A3 is now in its third-generation and the premium hatchback ups the ante on quality once more

6 February 2013

What is it?: 

The lowest-powered but least CO2-emitting diesel in the Audi A3 range, bringing with it all the broad appeal of the latest model with (at least until legislators change the boundaries) the added attraction of VED road tax and London congestion charge exemption.

For just under £1000 more than the equivalent Sport-trimmed petrol model, this lower-powered 1.6 diesel delivers CO2 emissions of 99g/km and a claimed 74.3mpg, thanks to stop-start and other eco tech.

We're testing it here in mid-spec Sport trim, which brings with it kit including dual-zone climate control, sports seats and, perhaps most controversially, sports suspension, which sits the car 15mm closer to the road.

What's it like?: 

Before we get to the niggly bits, let’s be clear: as noted in our full road test, the latest A3 is a very fine car indeed. It does everything it is expected to do, and does it well, and it has a fine interior. But it never really develops the sort of fizz that gets you excited about driving it. However, competitive pricing against the BMW 1-series and strong residual predictions suggest that it makes great financial sense in the long term.

However, impressive though the engine’s figures may be, there is a price to pay: 104bhp from 3000rpm and 184lb ft of torque from 1500rpm delivers adequate but wholly uninspiring pace. Mooch around in everyday road conditions and you’ve got enough to keep up with the ebb and flow, but little more. Against that, though, you must measure the fact that it is very quiet, so long as you keep the revs low. 

Demand more, however, especially in the higher gears, and you’ll find it comes up a bit short both in terms of performance and refinement. It can hover on the fringes of being lethargic, and image-conscious Audi buyers may question whether the performance matches the promise of the four-ringed badge.

The ride is also a concern, and the sports suspension must take the majority of the blame for that over-firmness. It is true that 1.6 diesel-equipped A3s sit on less-sophisticated torsion beam rear suspension, but equivalent cars on standard suspension and the same 17-inch wheels ride more pliantly than this example.

The best advice is to test drive the car for yourself and decide what you can live with, but the good news is that you can delete the sports suspension from the standard Sport trim set-up for no cost, and we’d take that course of action.

Should I buy one?: 

If you want an Audi A3 and have an eye on economy and emissions, then you should. So long as you aren’t after anything resembling pulse-raising pace, there are more than enough positives here to outweigh the negatives.

The lowered suspension also needs careful consideration. While Sport trim brings some enticing extra kit and some added sparkle, a bumpy drive down a typical country road could be enough to make you regret your purchase, so test with care. If you don’t like what you find, however, an easy fix is at hand.

Audi A3 1.6 TDI Sport

Price £20,735; 0-62mph 10.7sec; Top speed 121mph; Economy 74.3mpg; CO2 99g/km; Kerb weight 1230kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1598cc, turbodiesel; Power 104bhp at 3000-4000rpm Torque 184lb ft at 1500-2750rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual

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Comments
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7 February 2013

". . . strong residual predictions suggest that it makes great financial sense in the long term."

Since three years is the "short term", when only companies and wealthy private buyers can afford to take the massive early depreciation hit, what constiutes the "long term"? Five years? seven? Longer?

7 February 2013

Audi_A5 wrote:

". . . strong residual predictions suggest that it makes great financial sense in the long term."

Since three years is the "short term", when only companies and wealthy private buyers can afford to take the massive early depreciation hit, what constiutes the "long term"? Five years? seven? Longer?

I suppose it's dependent on your perception, but for me a "wealthy private buyer" buys a Bentley or Ferrari, not a £20k Audi which is competely mainstream especially when you count how many you see on your way home tonight.

3 years is about average for new car ownership as it runs the length of the warranty, (although the brand does not tend to attract wannabees who will go for 4 yr finance deals rather than 3 to squeeze it in under a monthly budget) but as the residual value massively affects the monthly finance payments, the value after 3 yrs is considered the most important figure to new buyers and therefore to the manufacturer.

7 February 2013

I have a bit of a blind spot about finance. I'm old-school. I save up for something first, then buy it outright with cash - rather than take the goods now, then over-pay for them later (I say "over-pay" because of the interest payments).

It takes a long time to save, because I don't earn much above average, but I dread debt.

7 February 2013

orangewheels wrote:

I suppose it's dependent on your perception, but for me a "wealthy private buyer" buys a Bentley or Ferrari, not a £20k Audi which is competely mainstream especially when you count how many you see on your way home tonight.

4th biggest selling brand in the UK last month, guv, just behind Ford, Vauxhall and VW. So it's not everyone's imagination - the hoi polloi really are sucking those leases up at a record rate.

There has to come a point where all these new owners return to their car in the Asda car park and see the entire area covered in black, silver and white Audis, and realise they have no idea which one is theirs.

That is the moment they vow to get something far less common like, say, a Mondeo - and drive aggressively two inches off everyone's bumper in that instead.

7 February 2013

You could use exactly the same review to describe the old one. I should know as I've got one on hire at the moment. Perfectly nice car but rides too firmly and has adequate power. And whilst it may hold onto its value well, the spec isn't wonderful. You have to pay extra for seat back pockets and lights for the vanity mirrors. 

7 February 2013

overpriced german car. english/pakistani germanophile Chris Harris will love it

7 February 2013

So if you really have driven this car what was the real economy?? None of these so called economy figures can be matched in normal drivng, so what is it? Or is this another fawning article for the German manufacturers?

7 February 2013

I would rather have a 1.6D Civic, its bigger, cleaner, more powerful, quicker, more torque and better riding. Audi is old technology these days.

7 February 2013

An Audi that lacks dynamic sparkle? There's a shock!

So, it's either this A3 or the equivalent Golf 1.6 TDi 105, which handles and rides better, has an interior which is not that far behind in quality, has equally excellent residuals, but costs less. Hmm......

 

7 February 2013

I have test-driven this diesel unit in another VW application. My experience was entirely different. I found the 1.6L diesel rather unrefined at tickover while Autocar finds "it is very quiet, so long as you keep the revs low".

I also found it lacking in power and managed 44mpg. Eco-warriors may be able to eke out 55mpg coasting at 55mph. I can't so I walked away and todate drive petrol which gives me a few miles less but its cheaper to buy and sweet to drive.

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