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.
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.