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.

Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsDe Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
England captain Wayne Rooney during training
FOOTBALLNew captain vows side will deliver against Norway for small crowd
Life and Style
Red or dead: An actor portrays Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory, rumoured to have bathed in blood to keep youthful
peopleJustin Bieber charged with assault and dangerous driving after crashing quad bike into a minivan
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Radamel Falcao poses with his United shirt
FOOTBALLRadamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant in Colombia to Manchester United's star signing
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
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

    Primary Year 5 Teacher - Lambeth - September 2014

    £117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates based on experience: Randstad E...

    C# Client-Side Developer (JMS, Integration, WCF, ASP.NET, SQL)

    £65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Client-Side...

    Technology Teacher (Resistant Materials and Graphics)

    £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are urgently looking for an ex...

    General Cover Teacher

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Randstad Education are looking for a qua...

    Day In a Page

    Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

    Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

    The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
    Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

    Stolen youth

    Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
    Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

    Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

    He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
    Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

    Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

    Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
    Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

    Made by Versace, designed by her children

    Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
    Anyone for pulled chicken?

    Pulling chicks

    Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
    9 best steam generator irons

    9 best steam generator irons

    To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
    England v Norway: Wayne Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

    Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

    New captain vows side will deliver for small Wembley crowd
    ‘We knew he was something special:’ Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing

    ‘We knew he was something special’

    Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing
    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York