Audi A3 1.4 TFSI

Audi's new A3 looks just like its dad – but there the similarity ends...

Price: From £19,205
Engine: 1,395cc, four cylinders, 16 valves, turbocharged, 122bhp
Transmission: Six-speed gearbox, front-wheel drive
Performance: 126mph, 0-62 in 9.3 sec, 54.3mpg, CO2 120g/km

Here is the new Audi A3, the third generation to bear that name. "Are you sure?" you might wonder. "Haven't you used a picture of the old one by mistake?"

Audi has long been strong on family resemblances, and you could argue that it makes the designer's job easier. At best this new car is a facelift of the old one, with current Audi motifs such as the rounded corners on the radiator grille, the headlights with their slender inner sections, and wider rear lights continuing into the tailgate. Or so it seems at first.

Actually, apart from the engines (themselves modified), this is an entirely new car, because underpinning it is the Volkswagen Group's new MQB platform, a modular construction able to be made in various sizes to suit a supermini here, a saloon or mid-size hatchback there.

This saves money, because it's easy to standardise components. And these savings can be used to improve those components, in particular to make them lighter by using aluminium or high-strength steels. Typically a new A3 weighs up to 80kg less than a similarly engined previous one.

The new car sits on a slightly longer wheelbase but the overall length has not changed. There is more room inside, and a dashboard which manages to break away from the standard Audi layout while retaining an aura of quality. Bright-coloured inserts for seats and doors can be had in "velvet leather" with a suede-like feel, and the air vents are four round works of art. They look like miniature jet engines, and the bright-metal outer rings are shaped for a better grip.

The only bad point is that the new, improved "multimedia interface" requires enough space on the console behind the gear lever to leave no room for a proper handbrake, so we have to suffer an electric parking brake instead.

If there is a worry as to whether the new A3 will be fun to drive, given the first one was dull and the second little less so, it is soon clear that this model is a revelation. The MQB platform retains the multiple-link rear suspension of the Golf and previous A3, and although copied from a Ford Focus it's a very good system. Here, it is calibrated beautifully, making the car feel fluently precise through corners while soaking up bumps with a nonchalance few drivers of current Audis would recognise.

And that's true even in the versions with bigger wheels, although the cars I drove at launch all had the "standard" suspension. So don't spoil your new A3 with a sportified suspension option.

Three engines are offered at launch, a 1.4 petrol turbo with 122bhp, a 1.8 petrol turbo with 180bhp (the raciest option but available only with a seven-speed, double-clutch automatic and, in the UK, that sportified suspension) and a 2.0-litre TDI turbodiesel with 150bhp.

Others arrive later – as does Quattro four-wheel drive transmission. The two most interesting are a 1.6 TDI with 105bhp, a 99g/km CO2 score and a smoothness which more than makes up for gentler progress than the 2.0 offers, and a version of the 1.4 turbo which switches off two cylinders when driven gently. I love this engine; it has a useful 140bhp yet you can hear brief snatches of a Citroën-2CV-like two-cylinder thrum. It gives the A3 real personality as well as impressive economy and as much performance as you need.

This is the best A3, and is due later this year. But any car from the new range is a desirable object, with a "drive me" character the old A3 never had. Even if the new one does look uncannily like its father.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

    Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

    £15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

    Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

    £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

    Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

    Day In a Page

    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
    Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

    No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

    Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
    Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

    Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

    The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
    Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

    Something wicked?

    Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
    10 best sun creams for body

    10 best sun creams for body

    Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

    Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
    Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

    There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

    The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map