Snapshot: Sophisticated, classy and hugely desirable. The new Audi A3 saloon promises to be the most affordable Audi in India yet.
Good things come to those who wait, they say – and that is probably what Audi believes in. Because unlike Mercedes and BMW the company wasn’t in a hurry to bring in its smallest hatchback into India. Audi instead waited for the saloon version of the A3, to be launched internationally and got that in, because the company knows Indians love the social status of a proper saloon car.
The car is a looker from all angles and it’s hard to mistake the A3 for anything else but an Audi. The big hexagonal ‘goatee’ grille on the face, the sculpted headlamps and the pronounced wheel arches all hint that this is an Audi. In fact seen from the front three-fourth view, the new A3 looks like a shrunken version of the bigger A4. The short boot, large 17-inch wheels and the relatively compact dimensions give it a sporty purposeful stance, while the sleek profile ensures that you will turn plenty of heads while on the road. The biggest news though is the boot, which at 425-litres trounces any other hatchback rival in its segment.
We’ve come to expect the best interiors from Audi and the A3 does not disappoint. Step inside the cabin and you will realise that this car is as much about form as it is about function. The cabin is made from first rate materials, and there is nothing that you can find fault with. The minimalistic design works really inside this high quality cabin and we especially love the aircraft type circular AC vents. All controls work via a circular knob located on the central console. It’s easy to operate even when on the move and you can view most features of the car through the large screen which pops out from the middle of the dashboard— it’s Audi-tastic. The seats themselves offer good support and there is good legroom upfront. Rear passengers get decent legroom but headroom can be tight for taller passengers. There is a rear AC vent at the back and throw of air is pretty good as well. But the tall transmission tunnel means that the third passenger sitting in the middle will have a tough time with kneeroom.
Engine, performance and gearbox
There will be a 1.8-litre turbo petrol with 177bhp on sale along with the engine we drove, the 2-litre TDI diesel engine with 142bhp of power. This engine is the last word on refinement in diesel cars. It is also very responsive in nature and remains very quiet even when the revs mount. Performance is brisk to say the least and with a superb six-speed S-Tronic gearbox, gearshifts are effortless. In fact, when you are cruising at around 110-120kph, the engine is spinning at a relatively relaxed 2,000rpm with very little buzz entering the cabin. The best useable power is between 2,000-3,500rpm and if you keep the engine in this range you will be rewarded. Though the gearbox doesn’t come with shifters behind the wheel you can do them manually by shifting into the ‘S’ mode.
Ride and handling
The A3 blends right comfort and agile handling very well. The ride is very flat for most part and it remains sure footed even as the speeds rise beyond 120kph and small patch-worked roads are dealt with a nonchalance that few cars can show. Only the worst road crevices dare to enter the cabin. The ride does have a harsh edge to it but not uncomfortably so. The steering is pretty communicative as well and this along with the sharp and agile chassis really helps make the car a good fun package for keen drivers.
Safety and equipment
Being an Audi safety is a given, you get multiple airbags, ABS along with full leather seats, a touch pad to type name of the numbers in your directory, dual zone climate control, steering mounted audio controls among a host of other stuff to make you feel good.
The BMW 1-Series and the Mercedes A-class are the closest rivals in terms of pricing, and while they both have their own unique set of qualities non can match the A3’s single biggest USP, a large boot.
The A3 is so good that it makes you wonder if you really need that bigger (and posher) A4. It has class, sophistication and a glorious set of engines. The most affordable way to enter the luxury car club is also one of the best.
Audi A3 Test Drive Review – Autoportal