You may or may not have noticed the arrival of the new Audi A3 Sportback in South Africa… Taking a slightly less stand-outish approach as BMW’s 1 series, the eye-catching Mercedes A Class or even the left-field Volvo V40. It is, however, all-new - made from the VW group’s shared MQB platform, and is filled to the brim with technology to boot.
Audi A3 Sportback - Engine and DriveThe 4-cylinder 1.6litre turbo diesel engine is quite familiar – it does justice to the VW Polo too. Eeking out 77kW and 250NM from a low 1500RPM, it’s no traffic-light racer, but rather a steady cruiser and an easy city drive, with enough torque to overtake when needed whilst delivering great fuel consumption. Not too much, not too little. It’s actually a perfect fit with the S-Tronic 6-speed gearbox even though this model has steering wheel paddles (an optional extra).
The up-and-down shifts are lightning-quick, and when in sport mode, it keeps the revs right in the punch range for the diesel motor. However, its best left in normal mode where it’s happiest - shifting quietly and keeping fuel consumption down. A claimed 4.5l/100km was far from the 7l/100km I achieved, however watching instantaneous consumption at highway speeds saw it drop as low as 5l/100km, and I’ve seen others achieve much less than I did, so it is doable.
Ride and HandlingThis front wheel drive Audi A3 Sportback with 17-inch wheels had one of the more balanced Audi rides of late. With more rubber on the wheels and no sport-pack, it was solid in feel, with respectable amounts of grip in the corners. You can feel this chassis can handle a lot more power. The steering is typical of Audi; being light with limited feedback. Even though there was no “drive select” like the BMW or higher specced A3 models, the standard suspension impressed, being a good balance between sport and comfort (erring slightly to comfort) which is a perfect balance with this particular engine.
Interior, Infotainment Display and boot spaceThe Audi A3 Sportback follows the A1 with its minimalist approach inside. 3 buttons and 3 dials adorn the dash, with the Multimedia Interface screen that pops in and out of the dashboard. It’s controlled using a beautiful silver MMI scrolling wheel and buttons. These controls are of such a high-tactile feel, and are fairly easy to use once you get used to it.
The system itself is the newest generation and is animated in use – easily one of the top interface systems I’ve tried lately. Even the colour screen in the instrument binnacle is easy to use and understand, giving all the necessary information in a Audi Display. Thankfully this system featured Bluetooth with audio streaming, as well as an optional USB port, which Audi won’t fit standard, for some or other reason.
My test unit had cloth seats, and manual climate control, with those dials being the only thing that didn’t have the typical quality Audi feel to them.
The Audi A3 Sportback has the largest boot in class, and seats fold flat to give even more space should you need it. Rear seating is also best of the lot, and the overall quality of materials inside are segment-leading in my opinion.
None of the competition have a small capacity diesel like the Audi, so it really competes directly against larger diesels, and similar petrol turbocharged engines. The 1.6 diesel should be your choice if you do a lot of driving, with more long distance than city driving. You’ll be rewarded with better fuel consumption and an easy comfortable ride.
Audi A3 Sportback 1.6 TDi - SummaryOverall this is a superb vehicle, one that is suited to a relaxed driving style, and will reward with great fuel consumption. My only gripe would be that it definitely has the least amount of “soul” or excitement, when compared to the 1-series, A-Class or V40, but that’s about it.
Audi A3 Sportback - PriceAudi A3 Sportback 1.6TSI S Tronic – 77kW/250NM – R319 500
*As tested R364 300 includes 5yr/100 000km Maintenance plan
RivalsA look at similar engines, space and fuel consumption, have a look at -
BMW 1 Series 116i 5-door Auto (petrol) - 100kW/220NM – R310 423 Volvo V40 D3 Geartronic Excel – 110kW/350NM – R343 400 Mercedes A180 CDI BE AT – 80kW/260NM – R310 000
The Volvo is the best value for money here, however less practical and dynamic than the Audi.