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

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.

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

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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

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surveyor 8 December 2012

Its a shame....

I have been eagerly awaiting a "warm" A3 to replace my Saab 9-3 Aero.  I wonder why they chose the 1.8T engine over the 2.0T.  I would have thought the extra 30bhp would have made this car a winner.  I will be test driving the S3, but I drive relatively long journeys on occasion and I dont want a car that will cripple my back! Maybe I'll look out for the new Golf GTI as well. 

J400uk 24 November 2012

won't sell

literally no market for this in the uk, limiting it to s-tronic doesn't help

toptidy 21 November 2012

Audi 1.8TFSI Sportback (or estate to normal people)

Chris576, I agree totally with you.

Over £27,000 for this is just plain expensive, but then again they charged over £40K for the A1 Quattro so maybe they look upon it as a cheapy!