From £16,370
Hottest A3 Sportback offers a flexible engine, but let down by an uncharacteristically slow auto ’box
19 November 2012

What is it?

The liveliest version of the A3 Sportback, at least until the S3 and rumoured RS3 arrive. There will be a slightly more powerful diesel version early next year, too, but that won’t offer the high-revving thrills of the TFSI powerplant.

It will be available with a four-wheel drive quattro powertrain as an option, but the car we’re testing is mated the standard-fit S-tronic dual-clutch automatic gearbox with a front-wheel drive configuration.

It’s worth pointing out that this isn’t a cut-price S3, which is something its 7.3sec 0-62mph benchmark will attest to. But the fact that the car isn’t available in entry-level SE trim – just Sport and the S-line we’re testing here – suggests it sits at the warmer end of the range.

Addressing criticisms of the way more sporting Audis ride, each A3 Sportback is available with the softer suspension setup from the model below as a no-cost option. The Sportback is significantly lighter than the secong-generation model it replaces, but still adds around 30kg over the three-door largely thanks to an increased wheelbase.

What's it like?

The 1.8 TFSI engine pulls well with a linear delivery aided by a wide torque band which peaks at 184lb ft and plateaus from 1250rpm to 5000, while power reaches a crescendo at 178bhp between 5100rpm and 6200rpm. Flexibility is perhaps this engine’s strongest suit.

Audi needs to do more on the acoustic tuning of the engine. Push hard and it sounds flat and lacks the more gutteral tone we’d expected. Although the warm performance is there, it sounds like any other cooking four-pot motor.

In quattro guise, this engine is only available with the seven-speed S-tronic auto ’box tested here, which is best left to its own devices. Flip the steering wheel-mounted paddles and it occasional trips over itself, and there’s an uncharacteristic delay between requesting a shift and some cogs moving.

The McPherson strut front and four-link rear suspension arrangement offers impressive fluidity through the bends, and the firm S-line suspension rode well on our southern French test route. The improvements bode well for UK ride quality, but we’ll reserve judgement until we test it in Britain.


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Steering response is predicatable and consistent, although it feels slightly more artificial feeling than in the 1.6 and 2.0-litre TDIs we also tested. Even so, it is a massive improvement over the old Sportback.

Should I buy one?

If you want your new Sportback to have a bit of go, the 1.8 TFSI is worth a test drive. That said, the high-output 2.0-litre TDI will arrive several months after the new A3 goes on sale, offering comparable on-paper performance.

The oil-burner edges the TFSI in all-round usability, though, and an extra 15mpg helps the diesel’s case further.

Stuart Milne

Audi A3 Sportback 1.8 TFSI S line

Price £27,180; 0-62mph 7.3sec; Top speed 144mph; Economy 50.4mpg (combined); CO2 130g/km; Kerb weight 1280kg; Engine 4 cyls, turbocharged, petrol, 1798cc; Power 178bhp at 5100-6200rpm; Torque 184lb ft at 1250-5000rpm; Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch auto

Join the debate


19 November 2012

Unreadable piece. Littered with typos. Ridiculous language, and a howling error.

19 November 2012

I found the article to be perfectly readable and I can forgive the odd typo. But perhaps that's just me. Though I do wonder what keeps bringing you back to the site having read lots of other articles you have commented on: 7 series, evoque, paceman, f-type...

As for the car, it doesn't excite me but I do see the appeal as someone who does a lot of miles each week, primarily on dual carriageways. The running costs would work for me, though not so much the list price.

19 November 2012

Stuart - Why you are plugging the diesel? We all know diesels have come on, but nearly all car lovers would agree that the terrible, rattling diesel noise is still an truley awful sound, and many of them still "bellow clouds of soot" when accelerating hard. No matter how hard manufacturers try insulate the vehicle (even the latest, expensive models) from the vibration, it still resonates and you can feel it through the pedals, particulary the clutch.  I think diesel drivers just become used to it, and accept it. Petrol on the other hand is wonderfully smooth and quite by comparison, until you put your foot down, and then more than often you'll get a wonderful sound.  I agree that a big heavy 4x4 needs a diesel, but not cars do not.  Diesels' only virtue is that it is relatively cheap at the pump - it saves money, which means mpg & company car tax ( although that gap is closing fast with the latest technology). It would also be truely shocking if the diesel could get near the TFSI's performance figures. There seem to be more & more diesels with - I have to say, questionable - reasonably quick 0-60 times, seemingly on the heal of equivalent petrol versions, but on the track it's been proved time & time again, when comparing similar powered, petrol v diesels, that the result is always the same - the diesel is always embarrassed - mainly due to the petrol engine's vastly superior flexibility.  Remember the classic a few years ago between the BMW 330i and the 330D - when so many people were saying how quick the 330D was(?).... when the petrol just left the diesel for dead). This is why all high performance/and or racing cars are always petrol.

19 November 2012

Try checking your Le Mans history for diesel powered race cars Steve. Audi TDI and TDI/Hybrid 2012 have dominated Le Mans since 2000 winning 10 times.

21 November 2012

SteveB wrote:

Stuart - Why you are plugging the diesel? We all know diesels have come on, but nearly all car lovers would agree that the terrible, rattling diesel noise is still an truley awful sound, and many of them still "bellow clouds of soot" when accelerating hard. ......

+10, well said


19 November 2012

Those seats look horribly out of place.  

19 November 2012

Le Mans 24hr specifically favours engines due to their longevity - you're unlikley to find the diesel engine in other types of racing - other than maybe truck racing.

20 November 2012

What about Seat in WTCC,ETCC and BTCC they have had great success winning WTCC championship overall in their Seat Leon TDI with Gabriel Tarqueni in 2009 beating all the petrol powered cars in straight sprint races with no pit stops.

19 November 2012

sinse when was a car capable of 60 in just over 7 seconds just 'warm'.  The fact it comes only with an auto box shows its no hot hatch, but its still plenty quick enough.



20 November 2012

I seem to remember the Ur Quattro doing the 0-62 dash in a tad over 7 seconds.


Thing is, using that kind of standing start acceleration, let alone anything quicker, just makes the driver look like a bit of a bell-end.


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