Off to a good start
The new third-generation Audi A3 Sportback has arrived almost two decades since the first model entered the New Zealand marketplace. It's an important model for Audi NZ as A3 makes up the majority of the brand's sales volume. The latest version is built on the same acclaimed MQB platform as the 2013 World Car of the Year winner, the new Volkswagen Golf VII.
The A3 Sportback is instantly recognizable as it closely resembles its predecessor but it’s a whole lot better. The A3 has grown in all directions with more defined body lines and the large six-sided front grille gives it heaps of road presence while the diffuser at the rear completes the sporty hatchback design.
The cabin has a contemporary look with a nicely arranged dashboard featuring a multimedia screen that silently retracts out of the driver’s view at the touch of a switch. The multimedia control wheel is conveniently located on the centre console behind the gear lever and to the right there’s a small control knob that allows the driver to easily skip a radio channel or music track, as well as adjust the volume.
The boot space is a reasonable 380 litre that can improve to 1,220 litres by folding the 60:40 split rear seats. The seats are comfortable with a refined look and feel. Sport models offer extra lateral support for the driver and front seat passenger.
Audi brand pillars make a difference
The re-engineered 1.4L TSFI engine has an all new lightweight aluminium construction that sheds 21kgs from the previous model’s 1.4L motor. The engine develops 90kW/200Nm with average fuel consumption claimed to be 5.0L/100km. The 1.8L TFSI is a lively performer and produces a useful 132kW/250Nm with fuel consumption rated at 5.6L/100km. The only diesel variant uses a 2.0L TDI that produces 110kW/320Nm and it’s the most frugal out of the trio with a claimed fuel economy of 4.5L/100km. All engines get Audi’s stop/start system and the juice of choice is the premium 95 octane fuel.
All but the 1.8L petrol motor use a timing belt, which is a little unusual in this day and age, with most manufacturers using a chain due to the added maintenance involved with a belt. The quick shifting seven-speed DSG (direct-shift gearbox) is fitted to all but the diesel model which has a six-speed DSG.
Audi’s Drive Select allows the driver to customise the response of the accelerator, electrically operated steering, and the transmission shift logic to one of five modes; the selectable options are comfort, automatic, dynamic, individual and efficiency.
The front wheels have been moved forward 40mm, and the wheelbase has been increased by 58mm overall, which notably reduces the front overhang. One of Audi’s brand pillars is ‘Ultra’ and refers to lightweight construction. In keeping with its values the engineers have trimmed up to 90 kgs of weight from the previous A3 by using higher strength steels and aluminium for the bonnet, front fenders and the sub-frame assembly.
The suspension is nicely tuned and delivers a comfortable ride and sharp handling, with the electrically assisted steering offering good feedback.
New tech features filtered down
The A3 has a whole lot of high-tech features that have filtered down from the company's larger models. The latest features include adaptive cruise control, side assist (blind-spot monitoring), lane assist (lane departure warning), front assist (accident mitigation) and parallel as well as perpendicular parking assist.
Active safety features include Electronic Brake Pressure Distribution (EBD), Electronic Brake Assist (EBA), Anti-Slip Regulation (ASR) with Electronic Differential Lock (EDL), Electronic Stabilisation Control (ESC) and Hill Hold Assist.
Passive safety is in the form of frontal and side airbags for the front row seats and side guard head airbags. The new A3 Sportback is safer too and it now has a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating.
Standard features include auto headlight activation, electric parking brake, Audi music and multimedia interface with a retractable screen.
Audi also offers two packages, each priced at $3,500 for drivers to upgrade either the technology or styling. The technology package has parking sensors at the front and rear, a reversing camera, navigation with touch screen and Bluetooth audio streaming. The styling package has S Line exterior styling kit, 17-inch quattro alloy wheels, Xenon headlights as well as LED daytime running lights and taillights. There’s also a lengthy list of extra kit that can be selected but this can quickly push the price up if you decide to tick a few too many option boxes.
The pricing kicks off with the 1.4 TFSI S Tronic at $48,400, with the Sport S Tronic attracting a $3,500 premium, retailing for $51,900. The 2.0 TDI and 1.8 TFSI Sport S Tronic models have a $4,000 saving over the outgoing model with a new $55,400 price tag.
The S3 will be available in a five door version and sport a punchy 2.0L turbo engine while a sedan version of the A3 will also join the model line up. Both are expected to arrive later in the year.