If you’re a young driver with a slightly plumper piggy bank than most and you want a hatchback that looks the business, performs with a (sensible, of course) punch, has enough gadgets to impress your geeky cousin and doesn’t gasp for fuel like a carrot out of soil, could this Audi be for you? I spent a week with one to find out.
What’s Daniel Craig got to do with it?
Audi never really shock with the design of their cars. Instead, they subtly evolve and manage to become more and more attractive each time. It’s amazing what a few nips, tucks and lights can do. This third generation, all-new A3 hatch has been to the gym and it tells, not only in its reduced weight but also its appearance. The tubby, cheerful image of the original A3 and the slightly dull design of the second generation model have been elbowed out of the way by a muscular, sharp, suited and booted look. In A3 terms, Eamonn Holmes has made way for Daniel Craig. In sporty ‘S line’ trim, the 10-spoke alloy wheels, athletic body mouldings and the tasty new lights at the front and back result in one mighty fine looking hatchback.
The inside is where you’ll spend most of your time and almost every part of the new Audi A3 oozes class without shouting about it. The doors shut even more reassuringly than on a Golf, the leather seats were wonderfully soft and every button, knob, dial, switch and surface felt, looked and operated like a lot of thought had gone into it. Even the cupholders lit up elegantly.
An added Touch of class
I would be here ‘til the cows come home if I listed and discussed the entire interior specification, but for me, the highlights were the flat-bottom steering wheel which felt perfect in my hands, the racy flick switches and the large colour screen that rises up out of the dashboard. And get this, Audi’s ‘Touch’ system lets you scrawl letters with your fingers to input sat nav destinations or phonebook names. How cool is that?
It won’t cramp your style
Unless you’re going on a road trip or something, your mates or relatives will be fine in the back and if you need a decent boot for sports equipment or some other hobby, again the A3 won’t let you down. I just didn’t like the lack of electric front seat adjustment and it felt wrong having to fold the wing mirrors in with my hands and start the car with an old-fashioned key. Obviously this 3-door isn’t as practical as a 5-door A3 but generally the interior is amazing and felt just like a R8 in terms of quality.
How it drives
Safe, responsible driving doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, which this A3 dished up by the bucket load. Don’t be fooled into thinking that it’ll be a bit flat because it’s a 1.4. Everything about the A3 felt sharp, taut and purposeful. The petrol engine was almost silent until I put my foot down, the exhaust had a nice tone to it and the sporty 6-speed manual gearbox was lovely to use. The ride hugely impressed me, too. Five driving modes can be selected: efficiency, comfort, auto, dynamic and individual. I started off in auto and then gradually worked my way round the others. They all do what they say on the tin, but it was just as easy to leave it in auto and let the car decide. It tackled speedbumps like they weren’t even there, which made it a pleasure to drive in town. Out on the open road, its agile ride, exciting acceleration and sharp handling really made it a car that put a grin on my face. Whatever I asked it to do, the A3 obeyed.
But what is CoD?
It stands for ‘cylinder on demand’. Basically, engines in most cars run on four cylinders, but to save fuel and make it more environmentally friendly, the boffins at Audi have given this A3 a clever engine that only uses two cylinders whenever it can. The CoD version of the A3 1.4 is actually more powerful than the non-Cod 1.4 and most of the time I really didn’t feel any of the very clever stuff going on behind the scenes. The car susses out what you’re upto, so if you’re in slow-moving traffic or coasting, it runs on 2 cylinders. If it senses that you’re in a hurry or even driving on a road with multiple roundabouts spaced close together, it gives you the full beans of all four cylinders, partly for safety reasons so you don’t run out of steam. The start-stop system also worked really well, saving even more fuel by stopping fumes being pumped out when stopped at traffic lights. Buying an Audi A3 1.4 with CoD is therefore not a reason to put a paper bag over your head. In fact, it’s actually really cool.
Aren’t diesel cars more economical?
If you don’t cover many miles each year, petrol often works out better and this A3 1.4 TFSI will almost certainly be cheaper to buy, fuel and service than many diesel alternatives in the same 150bhp power category. I got 46mpg out of it (after not driving it that carefully) and its impressively low emissions of only 109g of carbon dioxide per kilometre are just as green as a BMW 114d. Besides, it’s looking like diesel vehicles will be banned in more and more cities around Europe in the not-too-distant future; just Google ‘Boris Johnson diesel’ to see what’s happening and why economical petrol engines make more and more sense unless you’ve got a job as a sales rep.
The Audi A3 1.4 TFSI S-Line CoD is significantly better than haddock. On a serious note, this posh hatchback combines an economical yet exciting engine with a fantastic ride and a superb interior. Unless you actually need a bigger car, the A3 ticks pretty much all the boxes so it’s no surprise that it was voted Best Small Hatch at the UK Car of the Year awards in late 2013 and crowned World Car of the Year for 2014. If you’re in the nice position where the 1.4 CoD’s £30,440 price tag doesn’t boot it out of your reach, go test drive one and see if you’re not impressed.