Audi A3 review 2012
By Ian Lynas, 18th September 2012
In 1996 Audi launched the A3; the first premium car in its segment and since then success upon success has followed with the UK market - the second largest in Europe. Twenty percent of all Audi sales in the UK are taken by the A3.
At first glance, you might have a little difficulty in recognising the latest generation model; styling like the rest of the Audi family is understated but take a closer look and you will see a more mature style.
Whilst Audi would very much like to see this newcomer appealing to a young market, I see it being favoured by the more mature driver and with its high level of equipment and build quality, I would not be surprised to see current Audi customers downsizing.
In terms of economy, the newcomer has a lot going for it and its new petrol engines will provide a very strong challenge to the acclaimed diesel power that is so closely associated with the brand.
I had the opportunity to take the wheel of two variants. Performance and economy are both encapsulated in the 1.8 TSFI, with 50.4mpg, a rest to 62mph time of 7.2 seconds and a top speed of 144mph. Or if you are a diesel fan, then the 1.6 TDI can deliver 74.3mpg - this is the tax beater in the range. I did not drive this particular A3 but my diesel experience was with the 2.0TDI.
The 1.8 TSFI is a more impressive car with a much quieter engine and a very lively one - petrol is also cheaper.
Three trim levels are offered: SE, Sport and S Line and from launch, two petrol engines and one diesel. As time goes by, more engines and transmission choices will add even further to the appeal of he new A3.
It is interesting that Audi predicts the 2.0TDI as the big seller in he UK and when it comes to trim levels, they are confident that S line will capture 40% of sales.
The latest model is lighter than the outgoing car and there is wider use of aluminium - factors which not only contribute to economy but also to handling. The petrol version outgunned the diesel version in the handling department; it just felt lighter and more responsive.
Much of the technology from the larger Audi models is found in the new A3 and now within the reach of a larger buying public. Items include MMI radio with an electrically retractable high resolution flat monitor, Audi Music Interface iPod connection, preparation for SD card navigation. Bluetooth mobile phone interface, voice control for key phone and radio functions, Driver’s Information System with efficiency programme.
There are a number of options and next year, a second technology package will bring the likes of Google Earth and Google Street View.
In the early life of the A3, the competition was almost non-existent but now it is a very different story. The new car faces a battle with three major rivals: the new A-Class from Mercedes-Benz, the revamped BMW 1 Series and the recently introduced Volvo V40.
Prices for the new A3 start at £19,205 for the 1.4 TFSI in SE trim and reach £24,880 for the 2.0TDI S line.