Most frugal model in the Audi A3 range thrills with impressive economy, but it lacks dynamic sparkle
Jim Holder
7 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

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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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Mike in Bath 26 June 2013

Lanehogger...says it all really

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......

 

So your whole thought process is an A3 or a Golf, which aside a slight facelift they are two of the same? Agreed the Golf is cheaper but with the Audi's badge appeal, granted it has little else going for it, it would be more expensive.

 

Try thinking outside of the box;

 The Ford Focus is dynamically better than both, the build quality is on a par with both, comes with more equipement as standard, has a bigger boot and costs less oh and it's less common/ Ubiquitous.

Or for more upmarket appeal; the new Volvo V40 which is the same but with added panache and additional safety features as standard. The base D2 engine has class leading 91mpg/88grams of Co2 figures and officially the world's safest car.

Or how about the Kia Cee'd, designed by Peter Shrayer the former chief designer at Audi, not dynamically fantastic, but as good as the Golf, cheaper than both but with a 7 yr warranty and now thanks to Shrayer a good looking range of cars.

Trying moving your mind, oh and move your ass too... into a different lane. You are an accident waiting to happen and now officially you are breaking the law too!  

Dimebar 8 February 2013

Does this Sport come with the

Does this Sport come with the memory on the passenger seat?

The old one when you tilted the seat to let somebody in the back, the base wouldn't lock in the same position that the seat started from. You'd then have to adjust the seat again to fit somebody in the front. That's is truly pathetic on a £20k+ car. This problem is also on the Fiat 500 but that's a significantly cheaper car.

The fact Audi make more money out of the A3 than VW do from 5 times as many Golfs sums the Audi up to me.

Zeddy 8 February 2013

Sport!?

More like Audi A3 1.6 TDI Meh.