The Audi A3 first arrived in the in 1996 as a three-door premium hatch, and the first five-door model followed soon after. Ever since it’s been a darling of the exec hatch market, inventing a sector now also populated by models from arch-rivals Mercedes and BMW.
The latest example of the A3 Sportback family sticks to a tried and tested formula, mixing quality with a new MQB modular platform – which also underpins the VW Golf, Seat Leon and Skoda Octavia. Prices are even closer to the VW Golf too; in fact one could argue the A3 offers premium value for money. To settle the score we got behind the wheel of the £23,350 A3 2.0TDi 150 Sport and took it for a very spirited drive.
The Audi A3 is not a bold car. Like the Golf it shares its platform with, the styling is evolutionary rather than revolutionary. It’s no different for the practical A3 Sportback, which adds an extra pair of doors to the familiar face but retains many of the three-door’s details and the same neat proportions. It’s a confident design, but without trinkets or gimmicks to grab you attention, which has a certain appeal. The full-length grille, sharp LED-laden headlights and taut sheet metal give it real premium appeal while the extra doors are integrated seamlessly. As far as family lineage is concerned, the links between three- and five-door models is clear to see.
The extra doors certainly make a difference, and those with families or regular rear-seat occupants will appreciate the extra flexibility they provide. Compared to the previous model this Sportback has gained an extra 58mm in its wheelbase – the benefit of the entirely flexible MQB platform – and it shows when you’re sat back there. Up front the Sportback remains as comfortable as any new A3 with plenty of adjustment across the wheel, seat and central armrest. Audi has become synonymous with interior quality, and once again the A3 Sportback continues to move the game forward slightly – soft touch plastics, precision switchgear and intricate graphic design abound.
Performance & handling
Until the 178bhp 2.0-litre arrives this 148bhp version is the most powerful diesel you can buy, though that’s anything but a complaint. With a 0-62mph sprint completed in 8.7 seconds and 320Nm of torque on offer from only 1,750rpm the Audi A3 Sportback rarely feels lethargic on the road. In fact, it’s entirely flexible and always feels effortless, while refinement is good no matter the speed or load placed on it. The ride is on the firm side, but in general the A3 Sportback is a comfortable car and an excellent long-distance choice.
The A3 Sportback knows how to have fun too, and with the Audi Drive Select system the driver can alter the electric steering and throttle responses by choosing between Comfort, Automatic, Dynamic, Individual or Efficiency modes. Attack a flowing back road and there’s only a modicum of bodyroll and plenty of grip from the front-wheel drive chassis. Optional quattro four-wheel drive and Audi Magnetic Ride adaptive damping only heighten the car’s abilities.
Economy & environment
One of the most surprising and impressive elements about the A3 Sportback, especially considering its powerful engine, is the CO2 emissions figure of only 109g/km. Combine that with fuel economy of 67.3mpg and it’s clear the Audi is about as kind to the environment as a practical five-door family hatch can be. In fact, the new A3 Sportback’s economy is improved over the previous car by up to ten percent across the range – helped in part by standard Start stop and energy recuperation. And when the Audi Drive Select is set to Efficiency mode the air conditioning and adaptive cruise control operate with maximum frugality in mind.
Equipment & value
The Audi A3 Sportback is not a cheap car – especially in £23,350 2.0TDI sport guise. But it does come relatively well-equipped, and no matter what trim you specify the Sportback enjoys electric windows all round, alloy wheels, air-conditioning, Bluetooth, folding infotainment screen and multi-function steering wheel. Our Sport test model added Audi Drive Select adaptive dynamics, sports seats, a sports steering wheel and extra aluminium detailing inside and out. The range of options is comprehensive and includes DAB radio, a Bang & Olufsen stereo and even something called Audi Connect which turns the car into a wifi hotspot.
EuroNCAP hasn’t tested the Sportback itself, but the A3 has achieved five stars and gained special awards for its Lane assist, Secondary Collision Assist and Pre-Sense systems. For those that spend a lot of their time on the motorway the A3 Sportback also offers adaptive cruise control as an option.
If you’re already looking at the Audi A3 Sportback then we suspect your mind is already made up – but that’s in no way a bad thing. For those lured by the prestige and desirability of the regular A3 hatchback but with a need for a fraction more practicality then it’ll fit the bill perfectly. Good-looking but subtle enough to blend in, and boasting a cabin with quality of the highest order, there’s few more satisfying premium hatchbacks on the market. Add to that a powerful but clean-living 2.0-litre diesel engine and smart Sport trim and it’s clear why the A3 Sportback has such a pull over the car-buying public.
Model tested: Audi A3 Sportback 2.0 TDI 150 Sport
Convertible Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Acceleration: 0-62 in 8.7 seconds
Top speed: 134mph
Emissions: 108g/km CO2
Score: 4/5 stars