Think of it as a bonsai version of the bigger Audi saloons and you will get the drift. All the brand’s cherished qualities of style, finish and performance are distilled into a compact package and at prices that undercut its premium rivals.
As with all Audis, it is easy on the eye and distinctive without looking brash. It has a strong road presence with the familiar four-ringed badge on the deep grille and subtly slimmer headlamps. An impressive sight in the rear-view mirror!
Based on the Sportback but slightly larger, the A3 saloon makes the most of its dimensions with a bigger boot and folding rear seats. Inside the finish is in the typical exquisite blend of simplicity, quality and precision. The driver knows he is in an Audi.
At the launch event in and around Epsom, I got to sample three of the engines over the Downs. One is an intriguing version of the 1.4 turbo petrol that can seamlessly switch off two of its four cylinders to save fuel when cruising. The others were a gutsy 180PS 1.8 turbo petrol and a 150PS 2.0 turbo diesel.
The petrol engines impressed with their sweetness and refinement. The 1.4 TFSI produces a very handy 140PS and can accelerate briskly to 62mph in 8.4 seconds. Equally impressive are its economy and emissions with 60mpg combined and 109g/km. This keeps down running costs and company car tax.
Next I tried the 1.8TFS1, one of my favourite driving engines in the Audi stable. While not quite in the GTI league, it gives seriously swift performance with 62mph coming up in 7.3 seconds and 144mph top speed potential. This is a silky driver with manual or twin clutch automatic gearbox. Emissions are 134g/km and it manages a creditable 49mpg on the combined cycle.
The 138bhp 2.0 TDI is likely to be top seller in these parts. It has the same performance as the 1.4 petrol and superb economy potential. The combined figure is 67mpg with emissions of just 109g/km. Each version of this engine that I try seems to use less fuel than the previous one!
On the road, the A3 has the typical taut feel and takes corners in its stride. If you are not into firm handling then you can specify a more comfortable suspension set up at no extra cost. The Drive Select button lets you change the car’s driving character to a more dynamic mode.
Being an Audi, there is plenty of technik on the A3 saloon. A large knob lets you move through the various options on the screen and there are switches to take shortcuts. The latest multi-media system is standard. I found the Bluetooth worked a treat and even played the music from my phone as if by magic.
The A3 saloon is priced from £24,275. As usual there are myriad options to tailor the car to your taste. There is a Comfort Pack that includes cruise control, parking sensors and automatic lights. Just two trim levels – Sport and S line are available.
For those who prefer a compact saloon, this is another class act from Audi.
Review by Derek Black. You can contact Derek here.