The Numbers

1.4 TFSI cylinder on demand, 7-sp S tronic, 103kW, 250Nm, 0-100km in 8.4secs, 4.7L/100km

The Topgear Verdict

For once bargain is best - the entry-level A3 is a whole lot of car for less than $40k.

2013 Audi A3 Sedan

What is it?

This is A3 Sedan. That's important. It's not the A3 Sportback, the A3 Cabrio, the S3, the Q3, the RS3 or the A3 e-tron. In short, it's Audi's answer to Mercedes' CLA, and the brand's first foray into a four-door A3 sedan.

That's a lot of threes

It's enough to give Mike Tyson a heart attack.

Because of the lisp?

Yes, because of the lisp.

Right... Tell me about the car, then

It's available in four flavours for now. The range opens with the 1.4 TFSI, climbs to a 1.8 TFSI and the 1.8 Quattro, while oilers can opt for the 2.0-litre diesel. Pricing stretches from $39,800 to $47,800 for the top-spec Quattro.

Let's talk power

The 1.4-litre's good for 103kW and 250Nm, you'll get 132kW and 250Nm out of the 1.8-litre, while ticking the Quattro box boosts torque to 280Nm. The diesel's good for 110kW and 320Nm.

And on the road?

Here's where it gets interesting. It's hard to fault any of the engines, to be honest, but for us the pick of the bunch is the sweet little 1.4-litre. It's only marginally less powerful (but just as torquey) as the more expensive 1.8-litre, but there's a kind of earnest honesty to the way it goes about its business. The 1.4 just strikes the perfect car-engine balance, at least until the S3 arrives in April and we commence fizzing embarrassingly. The 1.4 also features Audi's cylinder on demand system, shutting down two of the four cylinders to save fuel when cruising, meaning it sips just 4.7-litres per 100km.

Are you telling me cheapest is best, then?

For now, yes. That's exactly what we're saying. Better still, the base model comes wrapped in leather, so you won't even feel like you're scrimping. That said, Audi hasn't lost its ability to charge like a speared buffalo when it comes to options. Nav, for example, is a $2,990 option, fancy paint will set you back $1150 and the "Style" package'll cost another $2000. That said, if you can dodge the options list, it's a whole heap of car for under $40k.

How does it drive?

With predictable Germanic proficiency and efficiency. Paired with two smoothie-smooth gearboxes (six-speed in the Quattro and diesel, seven-speed in the 1.4 and 1.8), the A3 glides along nicely. The suspension is set to the firm side, even in comfort, but it'll happily attack any bends you might stumble across as result.

And inside?

Faultless. Nice touch-points, soft leather and a media screen the rises out of the centre console all make inside an A3 a pretty nice place to send some time. It might lack the niceties or tech from more expensive cars, but you can't fault the craftsmanship.

A final word, then?

It'll take the fight to Mercedes: it's sexy, competent and, most importantly, affordable.

Driven: January 21, 2014