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Audi A3: Test Drive Review

Date: 25 May 2012   |   Author:

Category: Lower medium
P11D price: £20,200 (est.)
Key rival: BMW 1-series

Audi has replaced its most popular business car, with this new A3 landing in the UK in September.

The styling is, typically for Audi, evolutionary when compared with the outgoing model. The two do look distinctly different, although from the front it may take putting them side by side to appreciate that fact. The rear is more obviously new, taking on the appearance of the A3's baby brother hatchback, the A1. It's a very subtle change, and follows the pattern of recent launches like the executive-level A6.

Although the lowest available CO2 offering hasn't changed, there will be a significantly greater variety of choice at 99g/km as, unlike the current A3, the entire choice of trim levels will be available with the lowest emission point of the 105hp 1.6-litre diesel, as will the five-door Sportback version that launches next spring.

There are also hefty improvements for the other engines in the range, with both the 150hp 2.0-litre diesel and next year's 140hp 2.0 petrol, featuring the new Cylinder on Demand system that shuts off half of the cylinders under light load, coming in at under 110g/km.

The interior is a larger step forward than the exterior, with a redesigned dashboard and a new slender infotainment screen that will be standard across the range, along with Audi's centrally mounted MMI control interface. The firm claims that despite a rough 3% price increase across the range, the car would work out cheaper than its predecessor when the enhanced standard equipment is taken into account. All models now get Bluetooth, voice control and the 5.8-inch folding screen, while Sport models now have Audi's Drive Select system that allows changes to the car's set up from dynamic to economy, plus a coloured driver information screen and aluminium trims. The S-line adds Xenon headlamps to what was previously on offer. All models can be specified with the removal of the sports suspension as a no-cost option, which means drivers can choose the sportier looks of the S-line without having to put up with a harsher ride.

Audi claims to have taken an average 80kg of weight out of the car versus its predecessor, bucking the general industry trend of newer cars being larger and heavier than those they replace. The cut is mainly through the wider use of aluminium, especially on the bonnet and front wings, which has reduced the weight over the nose of the car and appears to have had a positive effect on the driving experience. It's still not quite up with the class best such as the BMW 1-series to drive, but is certainly a more enjoyable car than its predecessor, with both ride and handling improved.

Whole-life costs aren't yet set as the car is still a couple of months from launch, but the combination of Audi's reputation and the 1.6-litre engine's efficiency should see it up with the most competitive models in the sector. Although the exterior isn't a big change, there are larger differences in terms of the interior design, efficiency and driving quality that add up to a significantly improved Audi A3.

Audi A3 1.6 TDI 105hp Sport
P11D price£20,200 (est)
Model price range£19,205-£26,560
Fuel consumption74.3mpg
CO2 (tax) 99g/km (13%)
BIK 20/40% per month£44/£88 (est)
Service intervalvariable miles
Insurance (1-50)group 18 (est)
Boot space min/max365/1100 litres
Engine size/power1598cc/105hp
Top speed/0-62mph121mph/10.7secs
On sale September 2012
VerdictThe improvements
go deeper than the
looks would suggest


The improvements go deeper than the looks would suggest