To paraphrase Ron Burgundy ‘it’s kind of a big deal’.
It really is. This is the first truly new Audi A3 since the first one launched over a decade ago.
This is the first car in the VW group to be built and sold using the new MQB modular chassis. This new frame changes everything about the A3. The internal space, the handling, fuel economy. It’s hard to play down it’s importance. So where to begin? Well let’s go outside in shall we!
The A3 is boring. That’s what some people have said when looking up on the new design. Well I don’t agree with that. Personally I think it is constant. Something very refreshing with car and considering how many models come out of Audi, the constancy is what keeps the design appeal. The A3 is clean. There’s no extra garnish or stuck on bits of plastic and LEDs to make is stand out. Think the exact opposite of the Citron DS3. Audi know they will sell a lot of these – a hell of a lot – over the next few years and they will be on or roads in this form for the next 10 years. The last hing Audi want them to do is to date badly, as that reflects on the brand. The A3 will not, it has something that is missing from the French brands, class.
The hexagonal grill has been transferred from the A6 successfully to the A3. It is a little smaller obviously. Parts of this grill lead to a line up the bonnet towards the windshield. The headlight assembly is as intricate on the standard model as headlights were on the 2008 A4 (sans LEDs). This signature of Audi only gets more complex with higher trim levels. The furthest top corner of each of the headlights leads off a particularly strong shoulder line which is carried up to the rear of the car. This then joins the rear headlights and completes the line all the way around the car.
My test model was a 2.0 L TDI version in the SE specification. And in this standard trim is not left wanting stylewise. The alloy wheels complimented tires nicely. It’s very typical of low spec cars to come with disproportionately sized wheels to their alloys which makes the car look like a toy.
The car has a seemingly lower and wider stance. This is true as the car is slightly bigger and the design cues help to amplify this. This is another thing associated with the MQB platform.
The rest of the exterior design is just an exercise in subtlety. The advertising campaign goes along with the A3 of, Everything you need, nothing you don’t, is very fitting to the vehicle.
Another thing I found particularly impressive was the overall fit and finish of the car. The alignment of the panels and the general all-round fitting was fantastic.
So now we take a step inside.
The first thing you notice inside the new A3 is the sheer amount of space. Seriously, it is absolutely staggering. There is such a change inside compared to the previous model in interior space, layout, seating position and equipment.
The standard seats are very comfortable but if you’re used to sportier car you’re going to want to get the seats upgraded to what you are accustomed to. The dashboard has been completely redesigned and is rather similar to that of the A1.
The clarity of the design outside has been continued on the inside. A line goes from one side of the car to the other and it middle of this line is the centre console. Buttons are directly integrated into this as are the temperature controls.
At the very top of the centre console area is a little slot about the size of a DVD case, from which the screen raises out. This is one lauded feature in higher end cards and is now almost default across the Audi range.
By default the car comes with a 5.8 inch screen and a larger screen can be specified. The actual screen unit is the same as the larger version but has a nice thick black plastic frame around that simply says to you, if you buy one, you should have worked harder, and you would’ve had a better screen.
It’s the same feeling you get when you look at the dashboard of a car and there are blank buttons where wonderful magical features could have been.
That’s not to say that the standard car doesn’t come with a good feature list. Phone interface, Bluetooth, SD card playback, colour driver information system, split folding rear seats, electromechanical parking brake, rear parking sensors, multifunction steering wheel and electric front windows.
All of these bits and pieces really do feel great. The fit and finish on the interior is phenomenal. You could say you come to expect this from an Audi but in all honesty it’s refreshing to find that the expectations match the delivery.
And now to the most important part of any car, as I’ve mentioned before. How does it drive?
The answer is exceptionally well. When I first sat in the drivers seat on the road, I noticed immediately an increase in visibility all round. That’s very handy with the car not feeling cramped. You feel secure and you can see everything that’s coming on the road.
The first part of my drive was on a leisurely piece of 50 miles an hour limited dual carriageway. This car is quiet. Especially in the SE specification. It really does feel worth the money. I’d gladly take this up and down the motorways of our third country. When I got into 70 miles an hour limit area, I didn’t have to drop a gear to pull up to speed.
This brand-new diesel engine with 150 bhp is mated very nicely to the weight savings from MQB. It reminded me of the old favourite 2 L TDI engine of years gone by that had been remapped to 170 bhp.
Cruising along the motorway speeds it’s a very nice place to be.
We came off and were in a 30 miles an hour limited built-up area to just amble around. This new engine did seem to prefer to be in third gear for such a low speed as the prompt to shift up was not illuminated.
We came out of the 30 miles an hour area onto a lovely place of country road. From here I could really see how the A3 handled corners. Importantly to see how the MQB handled corners. The good news is it held on! The better news is that it handled them amicably. With the manual gearbox and Nord) double traction control the corners were dealt with swiftly uncomfortably with a minimum amount of role. Remember this is the standard specification car and doesn’t have the adaptive driving control or the sports suspension. The A3 can really deliver when it needs to. A benchmark has been set for front wheel drive small cars. I’m even more excited to get my hands on the S3 when it arrives, as the structure and feel of this car really feels like it will accommodate the best part of 300 bhp.
As we returned to the garage there was a chance to see how the car coped with a little bit of slip road action coming onto a 70 mile an hour area. It was dealt with with no problems whatsoever. As you’d expect reading the review so far. As I returned to the garage, I noticed that at 70 miles an hour, the engine idles at below 2000 rpm in sixth gear. This amongst other clear indicators (the weight saving, the styling/aerodynamics) that this car will achieve the very high mpg rating Audi are claiming.
On the cruse back, the Salesman mentioned to me that you can specify the car with the S-Line pack, but keep the standard suspension, which would allow you to have a great looking car with a very smooth ride for motorway journeys.
So, the conclusion!
Would I buy a new A3?
And confidently. This is a great car . The MQB will transform the rest of the line from parents and sister companies. Only the new golf will be at the same level of fit and finish as the new A3. Speaking of the golf, there is mention and rumour that the next iteration of the GTD will come with a 220 bhp Twin Turbo diesel. I could see this being offered in the A3 as the first S3 Diesel with a higher power output and Quattro.
Closing note, if you really want a good amount of space in the back, I would advise holing out for the Sportback or the saloon due next year.