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First report: Audi A3 long-term test

Date: 25 September 2020   |   Author: Sean Keywood

The newest member of our fleet arrives bearing an unfashionable engine and a hefty price tag. No pressure then.
Audi A3 Sportback 35TDI 150 S Line S Tronic
P11D: £31,385
As tested: £37,210
Official consumption: 57.6mpg
Our average consumption: n/a
Mileage: 1,835

First report: Audi you do?

A lot of things have changed in 2020, but one thing that hasn't is the decline in new diesel car sales. The SMMT says that so far in 2020, diesel has taken just 17.7% of the market, down from 25.2% in 2019, which itself came on the back of years of falls post-dieselgate. 

That might make it seem like the diesel Audi A3, which has just joined our fleet, is on a hiding to nothing - particularly when you consider the last diesel car I ran in this segment, the Mazda3, was actually discontinued by its manufacturer during the test period due to a lack of demand. And the A3's engine doesn't even have a fuel-saving mild-hybrid system of the sort that has cropped up lately with other diesel Audis.

But the A3 does have two things in its favour. Firstly, that despite the bad publicity around the fuel, we at Business Car still think that with its good fuel economy and CO2 emissions diesel remains the right choice for many fleet applications. And secondly, as for many people, my own personal work journey profile this year has been greatly amended. Before, a large chunk of my mileage in long-term test cars was spent on rush hour commutes to the office, but like millions of others this has now disappeared, with homeworking becoming the norm. What's left therefore is the long-distance trips - three-hour slogs up the motorway network to attend the new breed of socially distanced media events. Potentially, it's the ideal proposition for a diesel, so I'm expecting impressive figures from our fuel economy calculations over the coming months. 

Engine aside, this is, of course, the latest A3 that arrived on the market earlier this year, in close proximity to its platform-sharing VW Group cousins the Volkswagen Golf, Seat Leon and Skoda Octavia. Unsurprisingly, the Audi is the most expensive of those four, so what I'm looking for are tangible reasons to choose it beyond just having four rings on the front grille. It's in the sporty S Line equipment grade, which certainly helps it to make a good first impression, with bespoke S Line bumpers, a roof spoiler, chrome tailpipes and privacy glass among its cosmetic flourishes. However, I'm also pleased that as a no-cost option the A3's standard suspension has been retained, rather than the lowered sports suspension that is normally included with S Line. OK, cars fitted with that should have sharper handling, but with other Audis I've tried that also means compromised ride comfort, and with the diesel engine making the car feel naturally more suited to cruising than B-road blasting, the regular set-up seems like the right choice. 

Audi A 3 Welcome Interior

Inside, Audi's Virtual Cockpit display is standard throughout the range, along with a 10.1in infotainment touchscreen. It's a tech showcase, and does look good. But then the interior should be impressive, given the basic price of the car in this spec is more than £31,000, and if anything the extensive list of options fitted reveals some shortcomings in the standard equipment list - making you pay £330 extra for heated front seats, for example, feels a bit stingy. With the options included the price comes to over £37K - a chunky figure indeed for a lower-medium hatch, and one that creates high expectations for the A3 to live up to.

Standard equipment: LED headlights and tail lights, privacy glass, front and rear centre armrest, stainless steel pedals and front footrest, selectable drive modes, dual-zone climate control, auto dimming and frameless rear-view mirror, leather multifunction steering wheel, USB-A port, USB-C port, smartphone interface, 10.1in touchscreen with satnav, 10.25in Virtual Cockpit display, Audi Connect navigation and infotainment services (three-year subscription), cruise control, rear parking sensors, autonomous emergency braking, collision avoidance assistant, lane departure warning, auto lights and wipers

Options: Glacier White metallic paint (£575), driver assistance pack (£1,405), 18in five-spoke Y-design alloy wheels in graphite (£145, not normally available in UK), memory feature for driver (£1,150), Matrix LED exterior lighting pack (£675), storage pack (£175), extended ambient lighting pack (£110), heated front seats (£330), four-way front seat lumbar support (£260), progressive steering (£240), Bang & Olufsen premium sound system 3D sound (£760), standard suspension (no extra cost)