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The all-rounder Audi A3

The new Audi A3 compact sedan is the World Car of the Year 2014. Here’s why it’s so special

Small is the new big. Rising consumer aspirations are increasingly pushing premium brands to introduce more affordable cars.

The compact sedan, Audi A3The compact sedan, Audi A3

In a bid to widen its foothold in the all-important entry-level premium segment, Audi fields its dashing A3. Here’s our take on this cool, compact sedan after having driven it for a day on the inviting Udaipur Mount Abu Highway.

Design and appearance
The A3 is a sharply-styled car. For its segment, this perky new machine offers some real excitement. The edgy headlamps taper inwards sharply and feature black surrounds for a contrast effect. Flanking the A3’s grille at the lower end are faux intakes with aggressively styled fins.

The cabin of the A3 looks delightfully fresh. Audi has experimented with new colours and materials for inserts
The cabin of the A3 looks delightfully fresh. Audi has experimented with new colours and materials for inserts

An extremely prominent beltline, termed ‘Tornado Line’ by Audi defines the profile of the A3. Big, 17-inch, five-spoke wheels suit the sharp styling of the car well, and so do the angular ORVMs which look absolutely fabulous from the mirror side.

The slide out central MMI screen features handwriting recognition for phonebook and navigation entries
The slide out central MMI screen features handwriting recognition for phonebook and navigation entries

The tail-lamps are extremely well designed, too. All those elements, coming together, lend the A3 a lot of dynamism. It’s redolent of energy, and has a lively aura about it.

The sunroof adds to the appeal of the A3. In some ways, this new compact is better equipped than some of its bigger counterparts
The sunroof adds to the appeal of the A3. In some ways, this new compact is better equipped than some of its bigger counterparts

Audi has changed the nomenclature for its model variants with the A3 and unlike the badges that represented engine capacities till now, the newer cars will be badged based on their performance. Following the new convention, the A3 with a 2.0 Turbocharged Direct Injection (TDI) engine will bear a 35 TDI badge.

Engine and transmission
The Audi A3 will be available in India with a choice of two engines - a 2.0-litre TDI diesel and 1.8-litre TFSI turbo petrol. We drove only the diesel variant for this review. While 143 bhp of power (between 3,500-4,000 rpm) may not sound too much fun, the 340 Nm of torque, available between 1,750 - 3,000 rpm makes this two-litre power-plant a worthy occupant of the A3’s engine bay.

To put things in perspective, those power and torque figures are slightly better than the BMW 1-series and substantially better than Mercedes A-Class’s 108 bhp - the two entry level offerings from the other two German brands. In terms of performance, those power and torque numbers translate into a 0-100 km/h sprint time of about 8 seconds, which is quite good.

Top speed is upwards of 200 km/h. Put together, those figures are more than adequate to help you travel interstate very swiftly. An ARAI certified fuel efficiency of 20 kmpl is class leading. The engine is mated to a six- speed dual clutch S-Tronic transmission, which is as good as it gets when it comes to mainstream automatic shifters.

The 2.0-litre engine, in conjunction with the 6-speed dual clutch gearbox makes the A3 a fairly strong, fuel efficient and practical car, which would suit the requirements of the entry level premium brand customer in India to the tee.

Cabin quality
Get inside the A3’s cabin, and you suddenly realise that there is an air of freshness, quality and good workmanship about it. To start with, the new rotary A/C vents on the dash are absolutely fantastic. The turbine inspired vents don’t just look great, but also offer great functionality with their spot diffused function.

Audi has used new materials inside the A3’s cabin. For the 35 TDI variant, a lacquered insert with a pattern resembling the scales of a snake infuses some more freshness to the A3’s cabin. The slide-out central MMI screen and the slim panel for climate control adds further to the novelty factor.

The A3 also features the new generation Multi Media Interface (MMI). Handwriting recognition touchpad to scrawl characters is integrated on top of the MMI knob itself, saving space, and making the system more sophisticated. It works well by itself and identifies characters even in some really bad handwriting.

The A3 features a built-in memory of 20 GB to store and play all your media files. The car also comes equipped with 2 external SD card slots. In terms of storage space, the A3 features plenty of bottle/cup holders and cubby holes to let you travel a long distance in comfort.

The seat comfort in the front row is fantastic, with good back, thigh and lateral support. Both driver and passenger seats are powered. However, the A3’s compact size means that the backseat space is not generous. For a 5-foot 9-inch person, the knee-room is just about sufficient. Head room, however, isn’t too great, and tall guys will have their heads brushing the roof.

In all, the A3’s cabin impresses with its immaculate finish, great attention to detail, and an unusual air of newness. It’s well equipped and well- crafted. Though not very spacious at the back, it still is one of the better options for its class.

Ride and handling
Our drive route comprised of some hi-speed stretches peppered with inviting long sweeping corners. Typically, a car with not so well-sorted dynamics will put you in two minds about taking such bends while being on the throttle - the A3 didn’t break a sweat.

Not only did the car offer great grip and body control, the electromechanical steering, too, was a delight to operate with its precision. It doesn’t have the communication and feel of a hardcore driver’s car, but with its weight and precision, it equips you with loads of confidence to attack hi-speed bends without lifting off.

The firm ride feel of the Audi A3 is at its best once you have gathered pace. At speed, it takes in its stride expansion joints, wavy undulations and sporadic rough patches with utmost assurance. Slow speed ride is stiff, though it improves commendably as you gather pace, becoming very compliant once you cross 50 km/h.

Our verdict
The price of the new A3 is expected to start from R26-28 lakh, at which point it should present itself as one of the most desirable products for the sedan-centric Indian market. Space at the backseat isn’t great if you look at it in isolation, but the A3 fares reasonably well in the department as compared its immediate rivals.

The A3 is a very well-rounded product, and if priced well, we really cannot think of a reason why this product wouldn’t sell in good numbers.

Technical specs
Engine - 2.0 litre turbo diesel
Fuel efficiency (ARAI) - 20 kmpl 
Power - 143 bhp @ 3,500-4,000 rpm
Torque - 340 Nm @ 1,750-3,000 rpm

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