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Audi A3 Saloon Review

Ben Griffin heads to Ascot to road test and review the new Audi A3 Saloon.

The Audi A3 has become a perrenial sight on UK roads since it first arrived in Europe in 1996, and for good reason; it has something for almost everyone — young, old, rich or aspiring to be slightly richer. The one thing it’s lacked all these years, however, was a saloon body style, but Audi’s now plugged that gap in the line-up with the new A3 Saloon.

We went for a cruise around the streets of Ascot in the 1.4TSI model to find out how it compares to its hatchback cousins.

Design

The A3 Saloon isn’t for anyone that wants to make a statement – unless that statement is ‘look at me, but not for too long.’ It’s smart but reserved, elegant, but ultimately unadventurous. Nobody will call you a flash git in one, that’s for certain, but they will recognise you have excellent taste.

The front and rear lights are completely different to that of the A3 hatchback and A4 saloon, regardless of whether you go for the Xenon option, so there are clues to the car’s identity – even if you can’t see its new rump.

The addition of the S line front and rear bumper and side sills give it a more aggressive stance, especially when the Sports suspension lowers the car by 15mm. The harder still S line suspension drops it by a Fast & Furious-esque 25mm.

Practicality

An especially tall person in the front will make life uncomfortable for a long-legged passenger in the back.The Audi A3 Saloon’s lengthy back end means its boot is 425 litres in size ─ 45 litres more than the A3 hatchback. It’s not particularly practical elsewhere, though. The glove box and front door pockets are relatively small — certainly roomy enough for a bottle of water — but not a lot else if you’re a bit of a hoarder.

Two cup holders in the centre and a relatively deep but small central compartment under the arm rest do help the cause.

Leg room in the back is actually pretty good given this is a compact saloon. However, unlike the larger Audi saloons on the market, an especially tall person in the front will make life uncomfortable for long-legged passengers in the back.

Performance & Handling

The 140PS 1.4 TFSI is no slouch. The engine pulls surprisingly well in most gears, despite its small displacement.The 140PS 1.4 TFSI is no slouch. The engine pulls surprisingly well in most gears, despite its small displacement. 0-62mph takes 8.4 seconds with the standard S Tronic 7-speed gearbox in tow and the top speed of 135mph is plenty fast enough for most.

The A3 Saloon comes with Audi’s Drive Select system, which lets the driver cycle through pre-set driving modes using the MMI knob located between the passenger and driver’s seat. Efficiency, comfort, auto and dynamic modes are available, each of which makes the car feel more responsive (and less economical) than the last. There’s also an Individual setting that lets you fine tune the steering, throttle response, suspension and transmission response.

Efficiency mode felt a bit too sluggish for our tastes. We found ourselves flicking between comfort and dynamic modes depending on how naughty we felt at the time. 

Sports suspension comes as standard, but we’d be inclined to have this deselected in favour of the standard suspension, as was the case in our test car. The basic suspension offering is plenty firm enough. As for the S line suspension option, only masochists need apply.

Economy & Environment

Audis’ turbocharged, four cylinder, direct-injection 1.4-litre TFSI features cylinder on demand (CoD), a system that shuts off two cylinders when driving at low speeds and under moderate load, so the engine is never drinking lots of fuel unnecessarily when pootling along.

The engine weighs 21kg less than its predecessor, which helps the A3 Saloon to a an impressive 60.1mpg while keeping CO2 emissions to 109g/km.

On a mixture of motorway cruising and stop/start heavy traffic, we managed to remain in the mid 40s. That figure rises without the hindrance of traffic, provided you go easy on the loud pedal.

Audi also promises a 180PS 1.8TFSI, which will manage 50.4mpg, sprint to 62mph from standing in 7.3 seconds with the standard S Tronic gearbox and CO2 emissions of 129g/km.

For the ultra-frugal, Audi’s 150PS 2.0-litre TDI offers an impressive 68.9mpg in its standard 6-speed manual form, but performance is less sprightly; think 8.7 seconds to 62mph.

Equipment & Value

When the Audi A3 Saloon goes on sale on the 21st of September, there will be three engines to choose from and two trim levels. Prices start at £24,305 for the 140PS 1.4TFSI CoD unit, £25,955 for the 180PS 1.8TFSI and £26,425 for the 2.0 TDI diesel, all with the standard ‘Sport’ trim.

Sports spec includes 17-inch alloys, Audi Drive Select for adjusting how the car drives, comfort sport seats, dual-zone climate control, 3-spoke leather steering wheel, sports suspension that lowers ride height by 15mm (you can choose to ‘detune’ the suspension to one with a normal ride height) and a 3.5-inch colour display.

If you want the higher spec S line trim, expect to pay £26,455, £28,105 and £26,425 for 1.4TFSI, 1.8TFSI and 2.0TDI, respectively. This gets you Xenon Plus headlights with LED day running lights, S line side body styling, 18-inch alloys, S line sports suspension, chrome tailpipe trims and the luggage and storage package.

Those who crave a manual suspension for the 1.4TFSI Cylinder on Demand petrol engine or S tronic for the 2.0-litre diesel, will have to wait until November. The manual 1.8TFSI is expected to arrive a bit later, in December 2013.

True to Audi form, the A3 Saloon has more tech than you’ll know what to do with. Its sat-nav has built in Google Earth and Google Street view, and it’ll even display a picture your destination street so you know what to look out for when you arrive.

Other clever features include the ability to check the price of fuel at nearby filling stations, have news stories read aloud to you and post updates (preset phrases with small variables, mostly) to Facebook and Twitter.

The Audi A3 Saloon is actually the first car in the world to support 4G connectivity, which is handy if you live somewhere with actual coverage. A SIM-card slot sits in the glove box. Even with a standard 3G signal, most data loaded up quickly and it was easy to navigate through the system while driving, thanks to the touch MMI wheel.

Should you opt for the £1,495 Technology package, you can use one of two SDXC car slots to upload music and photos to the car’s 10GB of onboard flash memory. 

None of this comes cheap, however, so you’ll have to go through the options list with a fine-tooth comb and choose which features you can and can’t live without, otherwise the price begins to soar.

Verdict

We found the Audi A3 Saloon comfortable and pleasant to drive. It does its job exceptionally well and without fanfare. It’s impressively economical yet, when push comes to shove, there is enough pace on tap to satisfy the hooligan in you.

If you want a compact saloon and the Mercedes CLA is a bit too pricey or the Volvo S60 a bit too… Swedish, our first impressions of the A3 Saloon suggest it will do you proud. Plus badge snobs will appreciate you have an Audi on your drive, even if it is relatively small.

Key Specs

Model tested: Audi A3 Saloon 1.4 TSI Sport S tronic
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol + 7-speed automatic
Power: 138bhp
Torque: 250Nm
Economy: 60mpg
Emissions: 109g/km CO2
Price: From £24,305
Score:

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