The A3 still handles well. Both SE and S line (which will account for the majority of sales) get 'Audi select' as standard, which brings with it a variable steering and gearbox setting. Select dynamic and the steering weights up substantially, and with the S tronic 'box in 'sport' the A3 2.0 TDI sings along in a stable, grippy and flowing fashion. It’s not hugely involving, but it is a pleasant and predictable thing to drive quickly, and the venerable 2.0 TDI provides a decent mid-range swell on which you can make rapid progress without difficulty.
The new A3 generally feels more light-footed than its predecessor – potentially due to the weight that has been saved by the use of aluminium. The A3 remains pretty much the same size but for a marginally longer wheelbase.
Stick in auto, and the steering is too often on the light and disconnected side, and the gearbox can be caught out, too, feeling a touch lethargic generally, and dim-witted in its down-changes under more vigorous use. Still, in unhurried driving the A3 2.0 TDI is notable for its refinement. Engine noise is very audible under throttle, but otherwise it’s well suppressed by big diesel standards.
Overall, though, we’d avoid the automatic in favour of the sweet-shifting manual, not only for the savings made on purchase price, but also because it’s a more pleasant drive and a cleaner car – a very impressive 68.9mpg and 106g/km next to the 62.7mpg and 119g/km that the auto' manages.
Should I buy one?
Yes. The A3 is not cheap, with this model coming in at over £24k (it’s £22,730 without the auto 'box), but Sport models are reasonably specced to include climate control, various aluminium style highlights, sports seats, multi-function wheel and a colour infotainment screen.
Ultimately, the new A3 is not a dazzlingly different experience to the old A3. But it has been improved in exactly the areas it needed improving, and it is now a more comfortable, better looking and even more pleasant and efficient place to cover many miles. The planted, accessible handling bodes well for other models using the MQB platform, and it is undoubtedly one of the most rounded cars in this class.
Audi A3 2.0 TDI Sport S tronic
Price: £24,210; 0-62mph: 8.5sec; Top speed: 134mph; Economy: 62.7mpg; Co2: 119g/km; Kerb weight: 1280kg; Engine type: 1968cc, 4cyl, turbodiesel; Power: 148bhp at 3500-4000rpm; Torque: 236lb ft at 1750-3000rpm; Gearbox: 7spd S tronic.