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
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