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.

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will also work alongside their seasoned sa...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Property Manager

    £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for your first step into...

    Recruitment Genius: Mechanical Design Engineer

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative company working...

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - OTE £36,000

    £12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Wakefield Deal...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat