Audi A3 Driving, Engines & Performance | Top Gear
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Thursday 30th November


What is it like to drive?

Because the Audi A3 has been engineered to use lightweight parts, particularly up front, it has a lithe lightness on the road that the old A3 never had. Seriously – the handling is light-footed and playful in a way no mainstream Audi has yet managed. It grips hard, hardly understeers, even generates a semblance of feedback through the steering. Audi also offers three levels of suspension stiffness plus a trick magnetic ride option that’s well worth spending the extra on.

The 1.4 TFSI and 1.8 TFSI petrol engines are effective, and more recent additions are the 1.2 TFSI and 1.4 TFSI ‘cylinder on demand’ motors, which bring a bit of diesel economy to the cleaner, quieter world of petrol cars. Most will still go for a 2.0 TDI, though there's loads of choice if the post-Dieselgate world has put you off.

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If you're an enthusiast, both hot hatches might just miss the mark a little bit. Fast Audis notoriously play it straighter than rivals from BMW M and Mercedes AMG. But the S3 and RS3 are sharper and more playful than ever, and the latter especially has a quattro four-wheel-drive system that happily sends most of its power to the rear for some actual powersliding. Silly, but fun. Get an RS3 saloon in Viper Green and you have a genuinely fun and shouty car the like of which hasn't worn an Audi RS badge for some time.

And the hybrid A3 e-tron? It’s a wonderfully satisfying way of floating around. The e-tron works electrically right up to 81mph, which means that as long as you’ve got good charge, you can surf the lovely instant torque all day long. Well, for 30-odd miles, anyway.

And with quiet (or non-existent) engine noise twinning with a well-damped interior, refinement is superb. You can also set it to ‘hybrid hold’ mode, which means it’ll use the engine and save the battery energy; the idea being you do motorway journeys on petrol power, city stuff on electricity. As an entry point into the world of electrified cars, it's about as painless as they get.

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Highlights from the range

the fastest

Audi A3 40 TDI Quattro Edition 1 5dr S Tronic [C+S]
  • 0-626.8s
  • CO2
  • BHP200
  • MPG
  • Price£39,060

the cheapest

Audi A3 30 TFSI Sport 5dr [Comfort+Sound]
  • 0-6210.6s
  • CO2
  • BHP110
  • MPG
  • Price£26,155

the greenest

Audi A3 30 TDI S line 5dr [Comfort+Sound]
  • 0-6210.1s
  • CO296.0g/km
  • BHP116
  • MPG
  • Price£30,420
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