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First drive: Audi A3 Sportback 1.0 TFSI. Image by Audi.

First drive: Audi A3 Sportback 1.0 TFSI
Pleasing three-cylinder turbo petrol gets ported into the facelifted Audi A3.

 



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Audi A3 Sportback 1.0 TFSI

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The biggest change to the facelifted Audi A3 range comes in the form of a new entry-level model, featuring the 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine that debuted for Audi in the A1. It proves to be plenty enough engine for the new A3, with the resulting car turning out to be one of the picks of the entire range.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Audi A3 Sportback 1.0 TFSI
Pricing: 1.0 TFSI entry-level pricing to be confirmed
Engine: 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, seven-speed S tronic automatic
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 104g/km (VED Band B, 0 first 12 months, 20 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 62.8mpg
Top speed: 128mph
0-62mph: 9.7 seconds
Power: 115hp at 5,000- to 5,500rpm
Torque: 200Nm at 2,000- to 3,500rpm

What's this?

The ever-so-moderately facelifted Audi A3, here in Sportback (five-door) hatchback guise. Like the three-door, Saloon and Cabriolet A3s that have also all been tweaked, spotting the differences here requires some proper sleuthing work, so we'll save your little grey cells and tell you the 'Singleframe' grille is a bit wider than before, the light clusters have been rejigged front and rear and the lower bumpers are a slightly different shape.

This lack of aesthetic adventure is not a major issue, of course, as the A3 has always been a finely chiselled machine in its segment, although the Sportback - to this observer, at any rate - is visually the least successful member of the family; it's something to do with that extra glass behind the rear doors. It makes the Sportback look a bit dumpy. Not ugly, just not as appealing as the other body styles on offer, although that's of course a matter of personal taste. Within, more connectivity options and the chance to have the Virtual Cockpit TFT instrument cluster fitted help to maintain Audi's glittering reputation for producing superb cabins at every level the company competes at.

However, enough of the details. The engine in this particular Sportback is the chief talking point, as it's the 1.0-litre turbocharged, three-cylinder TFSI petrol unit that is surely due to completely replace the Volkswagen Group's 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine before long. For Audi, it took its bow in the smaller A1, where it made 95hp and 160Nm; these outputs were apparently deemed insufficient for the larger A3, so it has been ramped up to 115hp and 200Nm here, which makes it more powerful but less torquey than the 110hp/250Nm 1.6 TDI alternative that's the entry point to diesel A3 ownership.

The 1.0-litre cars - and the 1.6 TDIs - are the only A3s that don't have multilink rear suspension, instead making do with a torsion beam, while the new triple can only be found in three of the four A3 lines, as the engine is unlikely to be confirmed for the heavier Cabriolet. Furthermore, in the UK the 1.0 TFSI is the only A3 powerplant that cannot be specified in range-topping S line trim, although you can have it with either a standard six-speed manual gearbox or the optional seven-speed S tronic twin-clutch auto as tested here.

Extra equipment means even SE models now get a Smartphone Interface with a colour Driver Information Screen, 16-inch 'star' alloy wheels, cruise control, auto lights and wipers, a three-spoke multifunction steering wheel with paddle shifts for the automatic and Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lamps. Sport costs an extra 1,550 and brings all the upgrades it did previously for the A3, while also adding MMI Navigation and a fresh design of 17-inch alloys. As an interim grade on the hatchback A3s only, SE Technik (+495 on SE) adds satnav, rear parking sensors and 16-inch Y-design rims - it's a package aimed at fleet buyers. Prices for the 1.0 TFSI car have yet to be confirmed, but it will be less than the 21,515 required for the manual 1.4 TFSI with Cylinder-on-Demand technology, making it the cheapest A3 of all.

How does it drive?

Very sweetly, thanks to the 1.0 TFSI lump weighing a mere 88kg in total. That's not much metalwork at all sitting over the nose of the A3 Sportback and indeed the car as a whole only clocks in at 1,180kg. All-wheel drive (quattro in Audi-speak) won't be available with the 1.0-litre so the front axle does all the graft, and it does it well. Understeer is largely negated by the featherweight conk, the steering is freed from that unusual sticky feeling some other Audis possess and the car turns in with a sporty keenness that belies its modest outputs. In no way is the 1.0 TFSI a quick car when it comes to straight-line shove, despite its sub-ten-second 0-62mph time, but as one of those well-sorted, trim cars in which the skill to making progress is maintaining what velocity you've built up, it's bang on the mark. And it's a hell of a lot more appealing to drive than the refined but dull 1.6 TDI Sportback as a result.

The ride quality and noise suppression levels are both to be commended too, making the 1.0 feel like a cultured car even when it's on a motorway keeping pace with far more powerful machinery. There's a slight negative here, in that the three-pot's characteristic thrum is muted in the A3, whereas in the A1 it's allowed full voice. That makes the smaller Audi the more aurally interesting, although there's still enough of the engine note seeping into the A3's cabin to make the 1.0 worthwhile. The only concern we might have in the longer term is the real-world fuel economy because, despite the 200Nm, to get the TFSI singing away still requires fairly liberal doses of throttle pedal and that means 62.8mpg looks extremely optimistic.

Verdict

If diesel's future is looking shaky in terms of a highly probable NOx backlash, then there's a lot to be said for this downsizing lark when it delivers amenable tiny petrol engines like this 1.0 TFSI. Eager to rev, smooth in its power delivery and more charismatic than a turbocharged four, the fact the excellent 1.0-litre A3 is also the cheapest of the lot surely means this is one of the best cars in the revised Audi's line-up. Short of the S3, it's definitely the model to choose.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 20 May 2016









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2016 Audi A3 Sportback TFSI. Image by Audi.2016 Audi A3 Sportback TFSI. Image by Audi.2016 Audi A3 Sportback TFSI. Image by Audi.2016 Audi A3 Sportback TFSI. Image by Audi.2016 Audi A3 Sportback TFSI. Image by Audi.

2016 Audi A3 Sportback TFSI. Image by Audi.2016 Audi A3 Sportback TFSI. Image by Audi.2016 Audi A3 Sportback TFSI. Image by Audi.2016 Audi A3 Sportback TFSI. Image by Audi.2016 Audi A3 Sportback TFSI. Image by Audi.








 

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