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First drive: Audi A3 Sportback (2024MY). Image by Audi.

First drive: Audi A3 Sportback (2024MY)
Audi adopts an incredibly genteel approach to updating the A3 model line.

   



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Audi A3 Sportback 35 TFSI (2024MY)

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Audi's fourth-generation A3 is, as you would expect of this company, an assured and capable operator. But now it's time for the midlife facelift and the German outfit really hasn't done that much to the car in the process. So has it missed a trick by not going further with the A3's update programme?

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2024 Audi A3 Sportback 35 TFSI Black Edition S tronic
Price: A3 Sportback range from 32,035, 35 TFSI Black Edition from 36,015
Engine: 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol plus 48-volt mild-hybrid system
Transmission: seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic, front-wheel drive
Power: 150hp at 5,000-6,000rpm
Torque: 250Nm at 1,500-3,500rpm
Emissions: 130g/km
Economy: 49.6mpg
0-62mph: 8.1 seconds
Top speed: 140mph
Boot space: 380-1,200 litres

Styling

Most of what Audi has done to the A3 has happened at the front, so at least the word 'facelift' is highly appropriate. First of all, the Singleframe grille is shallower, narrower and, um, no longer has a frame, so perhaps it should be called the Singleframeless from now on. Anyway, its change in shape has resulted in a different front bumper and arrangement of air intakes as well, while fancy LED headlight clusters can now have four different signatures of daytime running lamps if you want; natty, if needless. At the back are more redesigned LED light clusters and a rear bumper/diffuser that's inspired by the monster RS 3, while all the model designations have moved from the bootlid to become 2D text on the B-pillars of the Audi. Beyond that, there are five new colours, gorgeous District Green included, and some fresh designs of 17- to 19-inch alloy wheel, while you can still get your A3 in either five-door Sportback hatch or four-door Saloon flavours. But a dramatic restyling of the Audi A3, this facelift is not.

Interior

Same story inside, where physically the changes amount to a new centre console with a different gear selector device, as well as wider air vents on the passenger-side dash. The bigger talking point here is that every model of updated A3 will now enjoy the Audi Virtual Cockpit Plus digital instrument cluster as standard, as well as heated front seats, three-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors with Parking Aid Plus, Audi Phonebox Light with wireless smartphone charging, and the Audi App store in the 10.1-inch central infotainment. Basically, you're getting much more kit for your money this time around, and it almost goes without saying that the A3's cabin continues to be a paragon of quality fit-and-finish, as well as ergonomic correctness.

Practicality

Interior storage solutions in the fourth-gen Audi A3 are pretty handy, while passenger space is generous enough in the rear that you could easily imagine four adults getting comfortable onboard. This counts as much for the Saloon as it does for the Sportback, with the four-door model also boasting the bigger boot with 425 litres of capacity. That's on paper, though, because the larger hatch and aperture of the Sportback means it'll be easier to load bulky items into its 380-litre cargo bay, and if you fold down the five-door A3's rear seats then up to 1,200 litres of carrying capacity is liberated.

Performance

As at the 'launch' of the revised A3 line-up, you've got just three drivetrain choices. More are on the way: that aforementioned RS 3 ought to make a comeback with tweaked looks and so on, while Audi has confirmed that a lower-output, entry-level petrol badged the 30 TFSI and a plug-in hybrid are also on the cards, although the latter is likely to be called the 45 TFSI e (rather than the 40 TFSI e) here in the UK, perhaps indicating a slight raise in power for it as part of the facelift. There will also be a six-speed manual gearbox option for certain powertrains, although whether this makes it to these shores or not remains to be seen.

That leaves you with the remaining trio of choices, one of which is the updated S3. This is the only model in the new A3 family which has seen power hikes and chassis changes, but we'll be bringing you a full, separate review of that car elsewhere on the site.

So if the boot badge on your compact Audi actually reads 'A3', not 'S3', then you'll be in either a petrol TFSI mild-hybrid (MHEV), or a TDI turbodiesel. Both of these are front-wheel drive, both have the seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission, both are '35' models in Audi's bizarre output-speak (which is soon going in the bin, apparently, but not soon enough for this update) which means they have an identical 150hp, both do 0-62mph in 8.1 seconds and run on to the neighbourhood of 140mph, and both will apparently do around 55-to-the-gallon in their most economical specifications with CO2 emissions of less than 140g/km.

The difference, aside from the way they burn their fuel of course, is that the 35 TFSI is a 1.5-litre four-pot with the 48-volt MHEV gear and a peak torque figure of 250Nm, while the 35 TDI makes do without any hybrid assistance and has a larger 2.0-litre displacement, which - along with its diesel nature - boosts torque to 360Nm. And if it weren't for strong anti-diesel sentiment, we'd direct you to the TDI as the weapon of choice for the new A3.

This is because we spent some time in the 35 TFSI as a top-spec Black Edition, and we weren't massively impressed with the refinement of the engine. At just 1,400kg, there's no problem with this 1.5 moving the Audi around smartly enough, even if it doesn't feel quite as muscular in the low- and midrange rev-bands as the TDI does with its additional 110Nm of twist. Similarly, the S tronic is a slick, inoffensive operator and it seems to be nicely geared to the power delivery of the petrol.

The problem is noise. Keep the 35 TFSI A3 below 3,500rpm and all is well. It is admirably hushed and very smooth, so it gives the impression it's a premium drivetrain despite its relative lack of swept displacement. But as soon as you head beyond 3,500rpm, and furthermore if you dare to venture right the way up to the vicinity of the redline, by gum this four-pot sounds strained. It's at odds with the rest of the way the Audi operates, which we'll come onto below, and it's the main reason we prefer the TDI.

Also, on a moderately testing route, the TFSI returned a real-world figure of 39.2mpg, which is OK but some way off the 49.6mpg return claimed for this particular model.

Ride & Handling

Every car we tested on the launch was fitted with the adaptive dampers, which can cycle through their settings to make the Audi A3 firmer or softer as required. As standard, an A3 Sport has 17-inch wheels and non-Sports suspension, whereas the S line and Black Edition models get a firmer chassis set-up, plus wheels of 18 and 19 inches in diameter respectively.

On that basis, we'd avoid the Black Edition as tried here, because even on fancy dampers its ride quality wasn't comfortable enough. At lower speeds, it can pick up and amplify imperfections in the road surface to a level that's a bit too noticeable for our liking. As with so many modern cars on tough suspension and big wheels, things in the A3 35 TFSI Black Edition improve if you increase the pace and/or the tarmac is finished to a higher standard, but it's a shame it's not the plushest thing to travel in around town.

Beyond that, the way the A3 drives is familiarly Audi, in that it handles cleanly enough but without much in the way of driver involvement, while the suppression of wind and tyre noise is exemplary - which only serves to make the raucous antics of the 1.5 at higher revs all the more irksome.

Value

There's a 16-strong line-up of A3 and S3 models from the off, with the 35 TFSI and TDI each available in three specifications (Sport, S line and Black Edition), while the S3 has two trim levels, known as Black Edition and Vorsprung. All eight of the above can be either Sportbacks or Saloons, which gives you the full range, and on top of the additional equipment we mentioned in the Interior section, a Sport-spec Audi A3 comes with 17-inch alloys, LED headlights, cruise control, a three-spoke multifunction steering wheel and more. S line and Black Edition load in the toys from there, while the S3 specifications are very generously equipped as standard.

Prices start at 32,035 for an A3 Sportback as the 35 TFSI Sport, rising to 37,965 for the same five-door body as a 35 TDI Black Edition. The S3, meanwhile, starts at 46,925 in Black Edition specification, although the fully laden Vorsprung is the wrong side of 50 grand - 52,400, to be precise. For any of the A3/S3 Sportback prices, add 565 to them if you would rather have your Audi as the sleek four-door Saloon instead. Those prices obviously place the A3 in the premium echelon, rather than the mainstream, but they're not out-of-the-ordinary expensive for a car of this type.

Verdict

It's a subtle rather than a startling suite of changes for the 2024 Audi A3, which is no bad thing - this remains a handsome car on the outside and one fitted out with a superb interior, now with added technology and comfort levels. The 35 TFSI engine, though, can be a bit rowdy at times and the Black Edition doesn't ride as well as it should, but if you specify it a little differently, perhaps as a TDI Sport, you'll be getting one of the best hatchbacks in this particular class.



Matt Robinson - 21 Apr 2024



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2024 Audi A3 Sportback 35 TFSI Black Edition. Image by Audi.2024 Audi A3 Sportback 35 TFSI Black Edition. Image by Audi.2024 Audi A3 Sportback 35 TFSI Black Edition. Image by Audi.2024 Audi A3 Sportback 35 TFSI Black Edition. Image by Audi.2024 Audi A3 Sportback 35 TFSI Black Edition. Image by Audi.

2024 Audi A3 Sportback 35 TFSI Black Edition. Image by Audi.2024 Audi A3 Sportback 35 TFSI Black Edition. Image by Audi.2024 Audi A3 Sportback 35 TFSI Black Edition. Image by Audi.2024 Audi A3 Sportback 35 TFSI Black Edition. Image by Audi.2024 Audi A3 Sportback 35 TFSI Black Edition. Image by Audi.








 

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