Audi A3 40 TDI Quattro Edition 1 5dr S Tronic [C+S]
The highest compliment you can pay to a regular ol’ four-pot engine like this is to try and start it while it’s already running. That means it’s quiet, smooth and cultured. And the driver is a bit forgetful. Anyway, the A3 pulled this off more than once. The suppression of vibration and engine thrum from idle and at normal town speed is really very impressive indeed – leagues better than the thrashy Mercedes A-Class.
Less pleasant is the manual gearbox. The shift quality is fine, but the gearknob itself is a disaster. Feels like there are bits missing from each side, and it looks like a prosthetic knee from the Star Wars galaxy. But we’ll talk more about overdesigned trim when we get to the cabin section.
You can spec an S-line A3 with a 1.0-litre tri-cylinder engine, and it’s a sweet little powerplant, but if you’re planning to lord it down the outside lane of every motorway in the land like the thrusting bizniss-person you are, this mid-range 1.5-litre four-pot is the do-it-all motor of choice. Maximum torque (184lb ft) is under your right foot from 1,500rpm to 3,500rpm, and you need never rev it higher than that. Against the clock, this version takes 8.7sec to get from 0-62mph.
Good for economy too – we averaged 41mpg overall but saw motorway economy in the fifties. Audi claims 45mpg for an S-line, so we’re almost bang on the money. Doing big mileages? Put off a diesel? With its 50-litre tank brimmed, this is a 450-mile per tank car without any effort at all. It’ll be interesting to see how much the heavier 48-volt hybrid automatic can (if at all) improve on those numbers in the real world.
More pleasant surprises arrive when the new A3 itself arrives at some corners. Or just that off-camber roundabout on your morning commute. Because somehow, it doesn’t feel as nose-heavy as the last car. There’s a sense even in the boggo front-drive version that all four tyres are being worked, while the body remains remarkably flat even though there’s no adaptive anti-roll suspension using maths to flatter the A3’s manners. The healthily lithe kerbweight of just 1,280kg deserves mention too.
It bodes well for the next S3 and RS3, at any rate. But back on planet normal, the A3 goes about its work without fuss. An S-line A3 driver ten years ago wouldn’t believe an Audi on 18-inch rims could ride this pliantly. Wind noise has been banished. The A3 is very stable at speed. It’s still got that Teutonic sense of being engineered to sit at 130mph on the autobahn, so a British motorway doesn’t even nibble the edge of its envelope.
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