Audi A3 2.0 TDI 150PS - First Drive

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

 

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel
Transmission: six-speed manual
Power: 150 PS between 3,500 and 4,000 rpm
Torque: 320 Nm between 1,750 and 3,000 rpm
Fuel consumption (combined cycle): 68.9 mpg
CO2 emissions: 106 g/km
Top speed: 134 mph
Acceleration (0-62 mph): 8.6 seconds

Audi's third-generation A3 may not look much different from its predecessor but it's an important all-new model, the first to use the modular MQB architecture that will form the basis of several future small and medium-sized cars from Volkswagen group brands.

One big change is that the A3's body is a lot lighter than that of the previous model. Audi has made extensive use of aluminium and high-strength steels and, combined with savings in other areas, that makes the new car up to 80kg lighter than the old, despite being almost exactly the same size. Peugeot's recently-announced 208 achieves similar savings, suggesting that the big manufacturers have finally started to turn the tide after more than a decade in which cars got steadily bigger and heavier as customers demanded ever more in the way of creature comforts and safety features.

Touch and feel the new A3 and it immediately becomes apparent that Audi has also managed to edge things forward quite a bit in terms of one of its main traditional areas of strength - cabin trim quality. The choice of materials and finishes is excellent, and there are appealing new features such as fancier eyeball-style dashboard vents and a much slimmer pop-up screen for the optional MMI (multimedia interface) system. Several driver assistance systems are available as well, including active lane assist, traffic sign detection and parking assistance.

The A3's initial engine line-up has a familiar look to it, but as in the case of the new car's styling, that familiarity is somewhat deceptive, with carried over engine sizes and badges giving little clue to the incorporation of important weight-saving and other efficiency measures. To begin with, three engine options will be available, two petrol, and one diesel. The petrols, badged 1.4 TFSI and 1.8 TFSI, use direct injection and turbocharging to produce 122 and 180 PS respectively, while the diesel is a two-litre producing 150 PS. Audi claims an average fuel economy improvement of 12 per cent for these engines, which will be joined within a few months by a 1.6-litre diesel delivering 105 PS and a more powerful four-cylinder 140 PS 1.4 TFSI petrol. That features “Cylinder on Demand” (CoD) technology which deactivates two of the cylinders under light loads in the interests of fuel economy but at least to start off with, there's nothing quite as radical as Ford's innovative three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol EcoBoost engine on offer.

Out on the road, the new engines for the most part feel quite similar to their outgoing counterparts, with the 1.4 and 1.8-litre TFSI engines and the two-litre diesel providing plenty of torque. Refinement levels are high. I also had the chance to drive the 1.4-litre fitted with CoD, and the cylinder deactivation process is barely perceptible, save for a discreet notification via the instrument panel when the engine is operating in two-cylinder mode. But if this A3's engines are thoroughly capable, it's in terms of its chassis behaviour that the new car really impresses - and that's important, because this is also the main area in which Audi is sometimes felt to suffer in comparison its rivals. Sport and S line models will normally have their suspensions lowered by 15mm and 25mm respectively, but buyers will, as a no-cost option, be able opt for the standard suspension settings instead, and all of the examples Audi made available for initial testing had this set-up. The new car's reduced weight immediately makes it feel more agile than the current generation of mid-sized Golf-based Volkswagen group models, but it's the new A3's superb ride comfort, at least on the standard settings, that really stands out. Bumps are smothered quietly and effectively in a way that normally only a much larger and heavier car could manage.

The initial range of three-door hatchbacks will be joined early on by a parallel line-up of five-door Sportback models, and, eventually, if past form is anything to go by, there will be a convertible version as well. For the first time, the A3 will also be available as a saloon, although whether there will be any takers for that in the UK, which traditionally shuns small booted cars, remains to be seen. Audi will begin taking orders for the new A3 later this month but the first UK cars won't be delivered until September. Prices start at a fairly keen £19,205 and the new range uses Audi's familiar SE, Sport and S line trim levels.

The new A3 is an excellent product but it will also face a much tougher competitive environment than its predecessors ever did. The new third-generation version of the Mercedes A-Class will abandon the controversial sandwich floor architecture and unusual tall look of its predecessors in favour of a handsome body with a much more conventional silhouette, allowing it to compete directly with the A3 for the first time. BMW's latest 1-Series is still fresh, while Alfa's Giulietta is the strongest model to be fielded by the Italian manufacturer for many years. Volvo is readying its new V40 five-door hatch, a replacement for its S40 saloon and V50 estate, and the switch to the more popular hatchback format alone should make the V40 a stronger competitor than the S40 and V50 ever were. Is the new A3 up to the challenge? I think it probably is.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
tech

Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download

Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff
tv

Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Arts and Entertainment
tv

Life and Style
i100

Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes hobby look 'dysfunctional'
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
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

    Network Infrastructure Technical Lead - up to £45k DOE - Surrey

    £35000 - £45000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    Technical Architect - Surrey - £35k-£45k DOE - Permanent

    £35000 - £45000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    Year 6 Teachers needed for supply roles

    £110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Ye...

    Maths Teacher

    £110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Maths NQT needed for a Fantas...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week