Andy Palmer tells us more about the car Aston will race in Le Mans’ new top class
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£27,040 when new
There’s something simple, unfussy shape of the Audi A3 that gives off the impression it’s been ‘un-designed’, that it’s a conscious rebellion against all those cars featuring a confused medley of flame-surfacing effects and ‘organic geometry’, a sobering retort to the spectacle of function being mugged by form as designers go looking for Frank Gehry only to find Frank Spencer. Compare the A3 with the new Peugeot 308 and you get the idea. But then, Audi has never really been one to go bonkers with the design software, apart from that eccentric soul who keeps popping out of a desk drawer and clicking on the ‘enlarge grille’ icon. And even that feature doesn’t look as odd as it once did. So visually, the A3 is set to neutral, and one can safely assume that’s how Audi’s customers like it. We’ve got into the habit of saying such qualities are German, but being reserved, understated and pragmatic were once considered rather English characteristics, at least in the days before everyone felt the need for huge, highly public blubfests post-Princess Di. Under the bonnet is the same 1.8 FSi engine that you’ll find in the Skoda Octavia, and which will also turn up in the new A4 and A5 due early next year, not to mention the likelihood of it being liberally sprinkled over VWs and Seats. Which is no bad thing, as it happens, because in the A3 it’s great and, as Piers Ward touches on in his Octavia review, it even has a sporty edge to it when the turbo kicks in and the revs start to rise.
What’s most appealing about the A3 is that it manages to strike a great balance for the urban motorist of a certain age/demographic. It’s fast, nips about with ease in the urban hive, gets up and down the motorway in comfort, features the typically solid, ergonomic Audi interior, is eminently durable and will hold its value at resale. Would I take it over a Golf or a 1-Series, its most obvious rivals? Yes, for the reason that I used to run a Golf so the novelty has worn off there, and that the 1-Series - much as I enjoy how it drives - is trying just a bit too hard to be where it’s at. Rob Bright