Superb-looking and silky smooth to drive, David Linklater takes the new Audi A3 FSI Sport Sedan for a test drive.
Base price: $62,000.
Powertrain and performance: 1.8-litre turbo-petrol four, 132kW/250Nm, 7-speed automated dual-clutch manual, front-drive, Combined economy 5.6 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 7.3 seconds.
Vital statistics: 4456mm long, 1416mm high, wheelbase 2637mm, luggage capacity 425 litres, fuel tank 50 litres, 17-inch alloy wheels on 225/45 tyres.
We like: Superb styling, high-quality interior, good to drive.
We don’t like: More pricey than hatchback, rear-seat space tight.
How it rates: 8/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? There’s a significant global market for small cars with boots, which has been well served by Asian carmakers for decades. But now European makers are cottoning on to the growth potential, which means we’re seeing familiar models like the Audi A3 grow from the hatchbacks we know and love into something we’re not so sure about just yet in the premium market: small sedans.
Audi New Zealand has kicked off cautiously with just two mainstream sedan models, a 2.0-litre turbo diesel and the 1.8-litre turbo-petrol as tested here, which comes at a $6100 premium over the equivalent hatchback. So the message is that the sedan is that little bit more posh than the hatch. Or Sportback as Audi likes to call it.
There’s also a halo model, the high-performance S3 sedan.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? Brace yourselves, but the A3 sedan is very much like the A3 hatchback to drive. The 1.8-litre TFSI engine is creamy-smooth, while the dual-clutch S tronic shifts with alacrity.
In fact, the sedan should theoretically drive with a little more flair than the hatch, as a three-box body style is naturally more rigid and both front and rear tracks are 20mm wider in the sedan. It’s also potentially more refined – less resonance because the cabin is isolated from the boot.
Really, it’s hard to tell on any of these points without a back-to-back drive and it probably doesn’t matter. The A3 is a superb small car on the road, benefitting enormously from the Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform – which the A3 shares with the VW Golf, Skoda Octavia and a host of other models present and future.
What you can’t have with this model is something that you might be expecting of a car with four rings on the bonnet: quattro all-wheel drive. S3 aside, the sedan is front-drive only for now. But quattro is available elsewhere, so don’t rule it out for the future.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? While the A3 shares much (too much, you could argue) with the less expensive Golf in terms of mechanical components, the interior is a triumph of style and quality that certainly does justice to the car’s premium badge.
We’re not telling you anything new of course, because the interior forward of the B-pillars is exactly the same as the hatchback. Build quality is faultless and soft-touch materials abound.
Part of the sedan’s price premium can be attributed to a technology package that’s standard on the four-door but optional for the five: it brings satellite navigation, rearview camera and parking sensors. That all makes good use of the A3’s Multi Media Interface (MMI) controller and screen, so it’s a package that really completes the… ahem, package.
Rear-seat space is perhaps tighter than you might expect, because the A3 sedan really does look like a much larger car from the outside. But life in the back reminds you that this is still built upon the same wheelbase as the A3 hatchback, so you can’t expect a luxurious level of legroom.
The sedan shape is a boon for the boot, though: at 425 litres it’s generous indeed and offers 45 litres more volume than the hatchback, albeit with a bit less versatility and load height.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? The A3 sedan does provide an answer to those who say the A3 is too similar to the Volkswagen Golf. It definitely projects a more grown-up image and could easily pass for the larger A4 at a distance.
You could even argue the sedan is the best-looking A3 of the lot, which goes some way toward justifying the slight premium being asked for this model. It’s a perfect way to downsize with dignity.
- Air conditioning: Dual climate
- Audio: CD, iPod compatible
- Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
- Blind spot warning: $1250
- Bluetooth: Yes
- Cruise control: Yes
- Driver footrest: Yes
- Head-up display: No
- Heated/ventilated seats: No
- Keyless entry/start: No
- Lane guidance: No
- Leather upholstery: No
- Parking radar: Yes with camera
- Power boot or tailgate: No
- Power seat adjustment/memory: No
- Remote audio controls: Yes
- Satellite navigation: Yes
- Seat height adjustment: Yes
- Self-parking technology: Yes
- Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
- Steering reach adjustment: Yes
- Stop-start: Yes
- Trip computer: Yes
Find an Audi A3 for sale in NZ.