You can now have an Audi A3 with a boot. But does it live up to the brand’s reputation for high design and does it justify a price premium over the A3 hatchback?
Base price: $67,000.
Powertrain and performance: 1.8-litre turbo petrol four, 132kW/250Nm, 7-speed automated dual-clutch gearbox, front-drive, Combined economy 5.6 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 7.3 seconds.
Vital statistics: 4456mm long, 1416mm high, 2637mm wheelbase, luggage capacity 425 litres, fuel tank 50 litres, 18-inch alloy wheels (with S-Line package).
We like: Dignified conversion to sedan shape, great to drive, well-equipped.
We don’t like: Rear seat less commodious than hatch, no Quattro option unless you buy the flagship S3.
How it rates: 8/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? Turning a stylish hatchback into a sedan seldom goes well. The former comes first of course, thanks to the European love of five-door small cars. Hatches generally become sedans in an attempt to garner sales from Asian and American markets, which favour functional three-box body shapes.
The Audi A3 is the quintessential premium hatchback, so the German maker is playing a dangerous game in turning it into a four-door.
But it’s succeeded nonetheless: the A3 sedan is a handsome-looking vehicle indeed, enough to provide buyers of the larger A4 sedan (which is 240mm longer) some serious fuel for thought about downsizing.
The A3 comes in two mainstream models, a 1.8-litre turbo-petrol (as tested here) and the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel. There’s also a high-performance S3.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? Without wanting to be dismissive about the A3 sedan, there’s so much shared platform and powertrain technology among the Volkswagen Group that this vehicle feels familiar straight away.
The underpinnings are of course very similar to the VW Golf, while the 1.8-litre TFSI engine and S tronic gearbox (aka DSG) are both used across the group.
You’re in safe hands then, and the A3 sedan is very good to drive indeed. The engine is crisp and strong, the gearbox a quick-shifting delight.
There are still a few issues with S tronic in low-speed urban driving: the clutches can slip when manoeuvring or reversing uphill, but for the most part it combines the ease-of-use of an automatic with the performance and responsiveness of a manual.
The A3/Golf is a capable family of vehicles on the road. The A3 sedan should theoretically be a little better than the hatchback because it’s a more rigid body shape, but there’s not a lot in it. The S-Line package brings sports suspension that’s lowered by 10mm, which sharpens up the handling. Perhaps more importantly, the 18-inch alloys and body kit that come with it give the sedan a much more substantial appearance. It looks a little meek on the standard 17-inchers.
Audi might be best known as a quattro four-wheel drive brand, but the A3 sedan is in fact front-drive in its mainstream guises. Only the flagship S3 is all-wheel drive.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? The real danger with the A3 sedan is that it looks like a much larger vehicle than it is. So you might slide inside with the expectation that it’s an executive-size sedan. It’s not, of course: fine up front but pretty tight in the back, more so than the hatchback because the roofline curves around the back seats much more tightly.
The cabin architecture is standard A3, which means it’s stylish and beautifully finished. It’s not overstocked with luxury equipment (the options list is very long indeed) but it does have premium-car urban essentials such as satellite navigation and parking assistance.
The S-Line package is a very popular choice for the A3: enough for it to be considered a standalone model, as we’ve done here. Your extra $5000 brings an exterior styling kit, sports suspension (lowered by 10mm) on those 18-inch wheels, gas-discharge headlights, special interior trim (including black headlining and aluminium inlays), plus a storage and luggage compartment package.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? We see two potential groups of buyers for the A3 sedan in New Zealand. The first includes people looking to downsize with dignity out of an A4. The A3 sedan is $8000 cheaper than the equivalent A4, faster and a much better drive – thanks partly to the fact that it has the S tronic gearbox rather than the Multitronic (read continuously variable) transmission of the A4 1.8 TFSI.
The second group comprises A3 buyers who are bothered by the Sportback model’s price premium over the VW Golf; the two are almost identical under the skin, after all. The sedan gives the A3 a slightly different character and will appeal especially to those who still struggle with the idea of an upmarket hatchback.
There’s yet another premium to be paid for the A3 sedan over the hatch of course, although the difference is not as large as it looks on paper. The Sportback 1.8T Sport (terrible name, by the way) with the same powertrain is $55,900, but add the Technology package (navigation, parking assistance and camera) and S-line styling kit (both standard on the sedan) and you’re already up to $62,000 for the five-door. The sedan would still be better equipped.
- Air conditioning: Dual climate
- Audio: CD, iPod compatible
- Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
- Blind spot warning: No
- Bluetooth: Yes
- Cruise control: Yes
- Driver footrest: Yes
- Gas discharge headlights: $2000
- Head-up display: No
- Heated/ventilated seats: No
- Keyless entry/start: No
- Lane guidance: No
- Leather upholstery: Cloth/leather with S-Line package
- 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
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