Driven: Audi A3 Sedan

Posted by abhinav at 08:06 am on Thursday August 07, 2014

'Budget' seems to be the word on everyone's mind this week. And for good reason. Want to kill that awkward silence in the room full of people? Just ask: ‘So, what do you think of the budget?’ Suddenly everyone around you turns into a market pundit. This is what I discovered as I uttered the B-word at Audi’s A3 Sedan drive. So, what does budget have to do with this car? Well, nothing, really, except for the fact that this is the Audi to go for when you have a slightly smaller budget.

The A3’s styling is something we are familiar with by now, as it was displayed at the Auto Expo earlier this year. It’s a compact, cute-looking sedan, which is neither too flashy nor dull. It’s not an aggressive design according to us, but it will win a lot of hearts simply because of its subtle and clean appearance.

The same uncluttered feel also extends to the interior. The dashboard has a simple layout, and is dominated by the four large air vents. Press a button, and the MMI screen pops up. The interior feels plush and well-built.

I drove the diesel-engined car that is powered by a 2.0-litre motor, but is now strangely badged as a '35TDI'. According to Audi, the new variant nomenclature is based on the performance of the car. To us, the higher the number, the faster the 0-100kph dash.

It's the same mill that does duty in the A4, making 140bhp and 320Nm of torque. Quattro fans might be disappointed, as the A3 doesn't get this all-wheel drive system in India. Budget constraints? We don’t think so. Channeling all that power to the front wheels is a six-speed dual-clutch transmission. Sorry folks, no manual gearbox here.

But for all those power figures, the A3 comes across as a very mild-mannered car. Don’t get us wrong, it’s not slow in any way. Out on the highway, it touched 177kph, but it's not like a restless child on a caffeine high. The A3 does high speeds with poise.

If you want a bit more urgency from the engine, select Sport mode. Noise spews out of the exhausts, as the transmission holds the gear all the way up to the redline. Though this adds a bit of fun to the otherwise serious executive sedan, we surely miss paddle shifts, which come handy when you want to make swift progress.

If you are a driving enthusiast (like us), you will be a bit disappointed with the muted performance that the car offers. But then again, most buyers going in for a 2.0-litre diesel motor will like the range that a diesel engine offers.

The A3’s ride is impressive, be it on the highway, or potholed roads. Push the car into a corner, and the ESP and traction control will keep you safe. It can handle the bends alright, but we don’t think it’s too big on cornering. The A3 diesel feels happier crunching mile after mile on the open road, or ferrying you around town.

In terms of everyday usability, the A3 scores high. But the big question still remains. Is the A3 a budget sedan from the German luxury car maker? Audi has not announced the price yet, but the answer is, no. It might be the smallest Audi here, but it still comes loaded with all the goodies that you expect to see in a luxury car. Add to that some classic German styling, and the A3 is a desirable machine.

We expect prices to hover around Rs 28-33 lakh mark (on-road, Mumbai). Not exactly what you'd call a 'budget' offering, but it might just be the car that lures a whole lot of budget-conscious buyers away from their Toyotas and Hondas, and brings them to the doorstep of German luxury.

The numbers
In-line 4cyl, 1,981cc diesel, 140bhp, 320Nm torque, 6-speed automatic, FWD, 0-100kph: 8.6s (claimed), top speed: 224kph, 1,315kg

The verdict
Compact and well-built. Audi opens its doors for buyers looking for a luxury sedan, but not wanting to spend A4-money

TAGS// a3 sedan, a3, audi

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