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Flagship A3 Sportback now comes with a 148bhp 1.5 petrol engine. Does that further improve the Volkswagen Golf and Mercedes-Benz A-Class rival?

Our Verdict

Audi A3 Sportback

The Audi A3 Sportback offers the same ownership virtues as the three-door car, but fails to address the small Audi's dynamic shortcomings

26 February 2018

What is it?

One way of making an appealing, compact hatchback more versatile is to extend the wheelbase to give more space for rear seat passengers and more room in the boot for luggage.

That seemingly modest change plants the Audi A3 Sportback firmly in the centre of family car territory – so much so that sister title What Car? named it the best family car in its 2017 annual Car of the Year Awards. It's also firmly rooted in Autocar's ranking of the ten best family hatchbacks.

The 2018 Black Edition tested here is the flagship of the A3 Sportback range and the second car in the Volkswagen Group (after the Volkswagen Golf) to get the new 148bhp, 1.5 TFSI petrol engine. It replaces the 1.4-litre of similar performance, with the slightly larger capacity engine giving better fuel consumption and emissions performance under the new WLTP European test regime

What's it like?

The new petrol engine is predictably smooth when firing up to idle and that doesn’t change underway as the revs climb up through the range. Maximum power is between 5,000rpm and 6,000rpm and, in truth, that flexibility is evident pretty much throughout the rev range.

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With Auto, Comfort or Dynamic selected in the Audi Drive Select programme, engine response is sharp and predictable, it’s only in Eco mode that it acquires a sludge-like quality in an effort to eke out the fuel ration by sidestepping fidgety throttle input from the driver. 

The S tronic DCT automatic transmission response is noticeably softer in Comfort mode than Dynamic, while the Auto option is a good day-to-day compromise.

Going from 0-62mph takes 8.2 seconds so this is no race car, but the A3 Sportback does feel pleasingly quick on open, country roads. Like the 1.4 that preceded it, the 1.5 has cylinder-on-demand technology to reduce fuel consumption when the engine’s workload is low, and is imperceptible. 

Our test car was equipped with passive suspension which is unaffected by the Drive Select settings. The firm ride it delivers in combination with 25/40 R18 tyres ensure the ‘Sport’ in Sportback feels apt and, although well within acceptable limits, relays a pretty accurate impression of the state of indifferent secondary road surfaces. If you prefer a car with a marshmallow ride, this isn’t for you. 

The A3 Sportback is suspended by McPherson Struts at the front and a four-link axle at the rear, and tracks true and straight over the worst back roads. Anti-roll bars at both ends keep body roll in check through corners and the speed-dependent electro-mechanical steering does a good job with tight precision. The test car’s Hankook Ventus S1 evo 2 tyres grip well even on cold, slippery roads, and that feeds back through the steering wheel as you turn in to corners giving a feeling of security and confidence. 

The Black Edition is based on S-Line trim level and gets 18in wheels (up from 16in on entry level Sportbacks), the Audi sound system, privacy glass, black door mirrors and a black styling pack. That includes a black grille surround and roof rails. Our test car was equipped with cool, S-Line seats with part leather and sequence cloth inserts.

The interior is roomy enough but not huge, though front seat accommodation does have a snug, cockpit-like feel. As usual, the spectacular Audi Virtual Cockpit lets you configure the main dials and secondary information as you wish. 

Should I buy one?

Audi spends millions on quality, setting panel gaps with tenth of a millimetre accuracy, scrutinising the clicking sound an air vent makes when you close it and it even has a laboratory which focuses on the smell of each individual material. That detail isn’t obvious but the all-pervading feeling of quality when you step into any Audi model is.

The A3 Sportback is no exception, with an immaculately finished interior and wide range of driver assistance features, crisp handling and that smooth, 1.5 TFSI engine. If you want a practical family car with a little more room than a standard hatch offers, five doors and crisp handling and steering, the flagship Sportback could be it, as long as your budget can stretch to it. 

Audi A3 Sportback 1.5 TFSI 150 Black Edition S tronic

Location Northamptonshire On sale Now Price £32,775 Engine 4cyls, 1,498cc petrol Power 148bhp at 5,000-6,000rpm Torque 184lb ft @ 1,500-3,500 rpm Gearbox 7-speed S tronic DCT Kerb weight 1240kg 0-62mph 8.2sec Top speed 136mph CO2/tax band 110g/km, 21% Fuel economy 56.5mpg Rivals Mercedes-Benz A-Class, BMW 1 Series

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Comments
22

26 February 2018

Have alot of expreience of the 1.4 COD and it's a corker, my father in law has averaged 52mpg in over 40,000 miles, it's real torquey and doesn't hang about getting to 60.

Downside, clutch has always had a 1st gear slight judder from new, I've been in other Audi's that have had this problem so he's just accepted it rather than made a big deal of it.

p.s. at 32k, this is not a good example of the A3 in terms of value

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

26 February 2018
xxxx wrote:

Have alot of expreience of the 1.4 COD and it's a corker, my father in law has averaged 52mpg in over 40,000 miles, it's real torquey and doesn't hang about getting to 60.

Downside, clutch has always had a 1st gear slight judder from new, I've been in other Audi's that have had this problem so he's just accepted it rather than made a big deal of it.

p.s. at 32k, this is not a good example of the A3 in terms of value

Is that the 125bhp engine? If so, it's distinctly average. I should know - I have a second car for work with this engine and it is not torquey nor quick to 60. I am guessing therefore the one you refer to has more power than 125?

26 February 2018
AddyT wrote:

xxxx wrote:

Have alot of expreience of the 1.4 COD and it's a corker, my father in law has averaged 52mpg in over 40,000 miles, it's real torquey and doesn't hang about getting to 60.

Downside, clutch has always had a 1st gear slight judder from new, I've been in other Audi's that have had this problem so he's just accepted it rather than made a big deal of it.

p.s. at 32k, this is not a good example of the A3 in terms of value

Is that the 125bhp engine? If so, it's distinctly average. I should know - I have a second car for work with this engine and it is not torquey nor quick to 60. I am guessing therefore the one you refer to has more power than 125?

The A3 1.4 COD had 140hp at first then up'd it 150hp about 18months later. Better performance figures all round compared to the 'normal' 1.4 tfsi and was only £750 more expensive at the time. Saved £100 a year on tax too!

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

26 February 2018

My A3 1.4 TFSI COD has the same clutch judder issue when cold. Really annoying though especially when my dealer says its fine because he only see it when its warmed up.

Nice car though and other than the judder it has been faultless over 30k and 3 years.

26 February 2018
jonholmzee wrote:

My A3 1.4 TFSI COD has the same clutch judder issue when cold. Really annoying though especially when my dealer says its fine because he only see it when its warmed up.

Nice car though and other than the judder it has been faultless over 30k and 3 years.

Sounds like a class law suit!

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

26 February 2018

Surely £32,775 is S3 money?!!

26 February 2018

Agree, an insane price tag. But it will be competitive on a PCP deal and has low running costs.

26 February 2018

£35,800 is the starting price for an an S3 nowadays, but at the same time the £32,775 must be "as tested" because a standard A3 Sportback 1.5 TFSI Black Edition S Tronic lists at £30,180, and you can pick up an SE Technik manual version of the same 1.5 TFSI engine for £23,975 before discount - A3 black editions aren't exactly value for money!

jer

26 February 2018

Are small cars costing more than large cars in the real world? So this would be more than an A4 or a end of life A6?

26 February 2018

That price must include all the options this car has. I can spot the paint, DSG gearbox, full leather, upgraded infotainment, virtual cockpit and sunroof just at first glance.

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