Nips and tucks add up to a refresh for Audi’s best-seller.
Up and down the motorways of Britain you see them here, there and everywhere. Usually they’re looking as though they’re in a bit of a hurry, with an eager press-on driver at the wheel. Where once it would be a BMW badge boring down on you in the rear-view mirror, it’s now just as likely to be four interlinked rings cutting a swathe through the traffic.
We’re talking Audi, and most likely an A3, the perky peach of the car range that accounts for one in five Audis sold around the world and is a firm favourite here in the UK. The popular A3 has just undergone a mid-life makeover to keep it on song in the sales charts.
The differences are mostly quite subtle, but under the bonnet there’s a more significant development. Audi has joined the growing three-cylinder club and added a one-litre, 113 bhp engine to the mix. This engine is already available in a sister-brand VW Golf, and it’s a zippy performer that suits the car really well, with a 0-62 sprint time of around ten seconds and decently frugal fuel consumption.
Exterior changes to the car are modest, so how do you spot a new A3 from the pre-facelift version? The front grille is a bit wider than before, the headlamps are longer and slimmer, the rear lights are a little less chunky, but you really need to be an Audi buff to see the difference straight off. It’s mostly about giving the A3 the latest version of the brand’s ‘family face’.
Inside, the cabin décor is pretty much unchanged, and there’s nothing much wrong with that because Audi has a flair for tailoring its car interiors. The style is chic – enhanced by the interesting pattern of the air vents – and all the materials used are tactile and high quality visually.
The A3 is now available for the first time with Audi’s very desirable ‘virtual cockpit’. It gives you a selectable display screen where the instruments dials would usually be. You have the choice of what you want to see straight ahead through the steering wheel, be it virtual dials, information about the car’s systems, or the satnav map.
It’s a boon having that spread out directly in front of the driving seat, ready for a quick glance down from the road ahead, instead of having to view it in the centre of the dash.
Another handy techy feature, optionally available, is the traffic jam assistant that does the braking and pull-away for you in heavy stop-start traffic, by temporarily automating the throttle control. It’s more relaxing to just sit and steer when there’s a sea of brake-lights ahead.
The new A3’s driving style is poised and mannerly, if not exactly characterful. There is a crisp, business-like fluidity to the way the car behaves. It is poised and tidy on the bends, rides smoothly, is quiet and civilised, and has the cachet of a prestige badge on the front.
As well as the one-litre petrol unit, the other engine options are a 1.4 (148 bhp) or 2.0 (187 bhp) turbocharged petrol engines, and three diesels. These are 1.6 or two-litre with power outputs from 109 to 181 bhp.
The hatchback body style – Audi call it Sportback – is by far the biggest seller, but the glamour version is the chic Cabriolet, with a fabric hood that motors open or shut in 18 seconds, and can be operated on the move at up to 31 mph. OK for the fickle British weather then!
Audi A3 Sportback: Stats Review
Model tested: Audi A3 Sportback 1.0 TFSI Sport S-tronic
Top speed: 128 mph
0-62 mph: 9.9 secs
CO2: 104 g/km
Price: circa £20,000