The new Audi A3 with an S-Line pack.
The new Audi A3 with an S-Line pack.

Road test: Audi A3 duo has technological smarts

TECH-savvy shoppers in the mood for a new set of wheels will appreciate the latest additions to Audi's A3 small hatchback range.

Appealing to the young up-and-comers, this dynamic new Audi A3 duo requires modest price-tag premiums for pretty cool technology.

For the thrifty there is the new Cylinder on Demand derivative which shuts down two of the four pots to help reduce fuel consumption.

And for those wanting performance prowess, enter the Quattro model which sends power to all four wheels.

Audi now has six models in its A3 stable, which will expand again in December when the hero sporting variant arrives priced from $59,900 and then the sedan variants early next year.

Since going on sale in May, the A3 has been kicking goals for the four rings.

Sales have averaged more than 200 a month.

While the cabin is chic minimalism, we'd be inclined to spend the extra $4200 to get the S-Line package which adds things like a sports steering wheel and perforated leather/Alcantara embossed sports seats and brushed aluminium inlays. to add some pizzazz.

Comfort

About the only confusing thing about the interior is the CD player location (it's hidden in the glovebox).
Audi has done a stellar job of keeping the interior free of clutter and an excess of buttons.

There are two rows of buttons on the dash, making it easy to switch radio stations or adjust the dual zone air con.

All the technical stuff can be accessed via the centre console knob with rapid-fire toggles to get you into most used sections. Once you know your way around it is simple stuff, things just take some initial tutelage.

We are a big fan of the propeller-looking vents which punctuate the dash and can fire air in just about any direction - pushing or pulling the rubber knob delivers the perfect air flow.

While the cabin is chic minimalism, we'd be inclined to spend the extra $4200 to get the S-Line package which adds things like a sports steering wheel and perforated leather/Alcantara embossed sports seats and brushed aluminium inlays to add some pizzazz.

On the road

At low load, between 1300- 1900rpm, the Sportback can cruise on two cylinders.

The Cylinder on Demand engine sets you back $2300 more than the $35,600 base model but gives you more grunt (13 more kilowatts and an additional 50 Newton metres) along with improved efficiency.

Partnered with a seven-speed automatic, the COD is soft and linear in acceleration. The gearing feels skewed toward economy and can be slow to shift down a cog if summoned to act quickly.

It still moves along nicely with minimal fuss, but we'd like to see an indicator of when it's running on just the pair of cylinders. We couldn't detect when it was running on four or two no matter how much we listened and prodded our right foot.

The most fun came when we got behind the wheel of the Quattro version. Not much was wrong with the standard A3's performance, and all-wheel drive just strengthens this admirable and agile hatch.

It costs $3000 more than the two-wheeler also powered by a 1.8-litre donk, although once again you gain extra horses for your coin.

During a testing drive through some slippery Adelaide Hills terrain, the Quattro gripped and turned with aplomb. Some nasty bends at speed would have sent most compact hatches scrubbing wide with understeer, yet with an ability to send up to 70% of power to the rear, the A3 bit into the bitumen with rail-like precision.

Both variants showed excellent manners in all areas, although coarse bitumen delivered plenty of tyre rumble.

What do you get?

The CoD comes in Attraction trim, which includes five-star safety, cruise control, leather trim, alloys, auto lights and wipers, leather steering wheel with paddle shifters, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, along with a slick 14.7cm colour screen for the stereo and Audi's multimedia system.

Stepping up into Ambition specification with the Quattro also gains larger alloys, sports steering wheel, sports front seats, and a willing 0-100kmh acceleration time of 6.8 seconds, which is pretty rapid stuff.

Ample optional extras are still available, although Audi has trimmed things back dramatically and there are several packages available for between $1800-$4200 which bundles together some pretty good kit - equipment not usually seen at this level.

The Assistance pack which features the likes of radar cruise control, lane departure assist and blind spot warning is extremely good value at $1800.

Practicality

There aren't too many complaints in the real estate department. Head, leg and knee room is good enough for four adults.

Audi can also claim the best luggage space of the premium compact segment, with 380 litres in the boot and 1220 with the rear seats folded in their 60-40 configuration. Storage spots are excellent in the cabin, with cup holders in the console and bottle allocations in the doors, while phones and other vital items can be slotted in front of the shifter.

Running costs

The CoD is not the thriftiest of the A3 bunch, that honour goes to the 1.6-litre diesel powerplant with an average of 3.8 litres per 100km.

The petrol newcomer sips about one litre more, yet is $1400 more expensive.

But at less five litres per 100km, we're splitting hairs.

Both the new powerplants launched this week are misers, it's just the servicing and insurance which might need some investigation to avoid hitting the hip pocket hard.

Funky factor

Smart and neat, the A3 is more refined than striking. The S-Line package adds some flair, although many buyers will be primarily seeking the badge kudos rather than turning heads.

The lowdown

Audi has strengthened its A3 line-up with the latest additions.

Whether buyers can find value in opting for the Cylinder on Demand technology over the diesel, or even the cheaper petrol version, remains to be seen.

The all-wheel drive would be our pick of a good bunch given its outstanding cornering ability and strong acceleration. Bring on the S3 due in December.

What matters most

The good stuff: Outstanding grip from all-wheel drive, well-balanced and surefooted feel in both models, minimalist interior styling.

What we'd like to see: Less tyre rumble, an indicator when Cylinder on Demand engine is running at reduced capacity.

Warranty and servicing: Three year/unlimited kilometres warranty with roadside assist. Servicing is every 15,000km or 12 months.

VITAL STATISTICS
Model:
Audi A3 Sportback 1.8 TFSI Quattro.
Details: All-wheel drive five-door luxury compact hatch.
Engine: 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder generating maximum power of 132kW @ 4500-6200rpm and peak torque of 280Nm @ 1350-4500rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Consumption: 6.6 litres/100km.
Bottom line: $45,500 plus on-roads.

Model: Audi A3 Sportback 1.4 TFSI COD.
Details: Front-wheel drive five-door luxury compact hatch.
Engine: 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder generating maximum power of 103kW @ 5000rpm and peak torque of 250Nm @ 1500-3500rpm.
Transmission: Seven-speed dual clutch automatic.
Consumption: 4.7 litres/100km.
Bottom line: $37,900 plus on-roads.
 



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