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First drive: Audi A3 Sportback. Image by Audi.

First drive: Audi A3 Sportback
It might not be the most exciting premium hatchback, but the A3 Sportback's many other qualities make it difficult to ignore.

   



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| First Drive | Nice, France | Audi A3 Sportback |

Overall rating: 4 4 4 4 4

Smart styling, impeccable interior fit and finish, more space and a range of economical engines define Audi's A3 Sportback. It's not exciting, but an incredibly competent and appealing all-round choice, which offers sub-100g/km CO2 emissions and 74.3mpg capability in 1.6 TDI guise.

Key Facts

Model driven: Audi A3 Sportback 1.6 TDI Sport
Pricing: 22,000
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: five-door hatchback
Rivals: BMW 116d EfficientDynamics, Mercedes-Benz A 180 CDI BlueEfficiency, Volvo V40 D2 SE
CO2 emissions: 99g/km
Combined economy: 74.3mpg
Top speed: 121mph
0-62mph: 10.7 seconds
Power: 105hp at 3,000- to 4,000rpm
Torque: 250Nm at 1,500- to 2,750rpm

In the Metal: 4 4 4 4 4

Predictably safe, Audi's A3 Sportback styling is obviously evolutionary rather than revolutionary. It's a formula that has traditionally worked for Audi, and while the A3 Sportback's lines aren't a surprise, they are sharp and neat. With a stretch in its wheelbase and a pushing of its wheels further out to its extremities it's an undeniably handsome car, if not a particularly radical one. Opt for the S line trim and there's greater head turning appeal courtesy of new front and rear bumpers, a different rear spoiler and larger alloy wheels.

Inside, it's exactly as you'll find in the Sportback's three-door relative; that's to say a well-considered, highly functional cabin that exudes the quality fit and finish that's become an Audi signature. There's more space in the rear for passengers, though it's still not exactly what you'd describe as commodious. Naturally, the boot's capacity also swells, with maximum load capacity (seats down) up by 100 litres to 1,220 litres, which apparently is bigger than its key rivals'.

Driving it: 4 4 4 4 4

It's all remarkably familiar on the road, the A3 Sportback feeling little different to its three-door relation. So it's stable, hushed and all a little bit anodyne. The Sportback's all-round competence is its undoing for those looking for excitement behind the wheel. It steers decently enough, the weighting of the wheel nicely judged, its response accurate and quick, though there's little or no feel through the wheel's chunky rim. The six-speed manual transmission is the weakest area, its lightness across the gate leading to the occasional wrong gear selection, while the oddly shaped knurled metal gear knob is not the most natural feeling control, either.

There's a wide range of engine options, but it's difficult not to be seduced by the tax-dodging sub-100g/km CO2 and 74.3mpg combined economy headline figures relating to the 1.6 TDI unit. Its 105hp might seem modest, but its smoothness and ample 250Nm of torque - delivered from as low as 1,500rpm - does make for easy progress whether in town or on the motorway.

Sport specification adds 17-inch alloy wheels and sport suspension, though Audi offers standard and comfort suspension options across the range as a no cost option - a necessity for UK roads. Choose that and the ride is nicely judged, with fine body control and decent ability to smooth out rougher surfaces, the A3 Sportback demonstrating that Audi can make cars ride well.

What you get for your Money: 4 4 4 4 4

You'll pay just under 21,000 for the 1.6 TDI in SE specification, this Sport costs 22,000 and the range-topping S line model is 24,250. Equipment levels in all are generous, with SE featuring manual air conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels, Audi's neat MMI entertainment system with a 5.8-inch electrically folding screen, Bluetooth and preparation for SD card navigation. Sport gets those bigger 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, Audi Drive Select, a sports steering wheel and sports seats and sports suspension. S line adds a range of styling upgrades inside and out, 18-inch alloys, S line sports suspension and a drop in ride height and xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights.

Worth Noting

The Audi A3 Sportback is available for order now, with most cars arriving from spring 2013, however this 1.6 TDI model doesn't arrive until May. There'll be an Audi S3 derivative in autumn 2013, and given the success of the Sportback-only RS 3 previously, it's reasonable to expect Audi is already preparing an RS-badged model, too.

Summary

Audi's new A3 might not offer the driving precision of the BMW 1 Series, or the styling flair of a Mercedes-Benz A-Class, but in maintaining its safe middle ground it's difficult to make a case against the A3 Sportback. Predictable? Unquestionably, but Audi does predictable with such competence it's created an extremely desirable premium hatchback, which in 1.6 TDI guise offers the promise of stellar economy and tax-friendly emissions too.


Kyle Fortune - 14 Nov 2012



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2013 Audi A3 Sportback. Image by Audi.2013 Audi A3 Sportback. Image by Audi.2013 Audi A3 Sportback. Image by Audi.2013 Audi A3 Sportback. Image by Audi.2013 Audi A3 Sportback. Image by Audi.

2013 Audi A3 Sportback. Image by Audi.2013 Audi A3 Sportback. Image by Audi.2013 Audi A3 Sportback. Image by Audi.2013 Audi A3 Sportback. Image by Audi.2013 Audi A3 Sportback. Image by Audi.



2013 Audi A3 Sportback. Image by Audi.
 

2013 Audi A3 Sportback. Image by Audi.
 

2013 Audi A3 Sportback. Image by Audi.
 

2013 Audi A3 Sportback. Image by Audi.
 

2013 Audi A3 Sportback. Image by Audi.
 

2013 Audi A3 Sportback. Image by Audi.
 

2013 Audi A3 Sportback. Image by Audi.
 






 

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