Spacious, speedy and practical, Audi has managed to improve on an already winning formula with the new Sportback
Bigger, longer, lighter, faster, and more fuel-efficient. Seriously, if I’ve heard it once I’ve heard it a thousand times. But perhaps more than other car manufacturer Audi has perfected the art of continuous improvement. Take this new Audi A3 Sportback for example. It doesn’t steer too far from the look of the preceeding Audi A3 Sportback but that’s the point. This is not a revolutionary car. Instead, it’s an automotive evolution working at its Darwinian best and this A3 is a genuine step up for two reasons.
Unlike before when the A3 Sportback felt like it was essentially a five-door car, this model is actually 38mm longer between the axles, with an increased wheelbase. It also comes with a boot. This equates to additional interior space allowing the new A3 Sportback to feel roomier and more practical despite being 90kg lighter. This model is a definite improvement on the previous outing.
The two A3 Sportbacks I drove both had a lot of personality, though they were quite different in terms of temperament. The first, the 1.8 TFSI model in Sport trim, was the most surprising. Its combination of 180PS 4-cylinder petrol engine and paddle-shift automatic gearbox is fun to drive. Fast and grippy, it has an excellent ride and gear shifts are easy. In fact, its published figures don’t quite do it justice, as it feels quicker than the official acceleration time of 0-62mph in 7.3 suggests. I wanted to own one in an instant, despite the automatic seven-speed dual clutch transmission (I usually prefer a manual).
The second was the 1.4 TFSI Sport (122PS) and I wanted that too. Why? Because it’s an excellent all-rounder and you can’t help thinking that this model offers more bang for your buck. It’s almost £4,000 cheaper and though it’s a good deal slower on paper – 0-62mph takes 9.5secs – it carries plenty of speed, rides and handles just as well and is also smooth and surprisingly quiet. It offers 53.3mpg and 123g of CO2/km because, at 1205kg, it’s 75kg lighter than the 1.8-litre version, in part, due to its small, aluminium engine.
My only complaint is the name. “It’s not really a Sportback is it?,” said my co-driver. At the rear its stocky looks are far more reminiscent of the boxy ending of the RS4 estate model. While the old A3 Sportback looked like a stretched A3, this new one looks like an A3 Avant, a model Audi doesn’t make. This further contributes to the grown up feel – which is fine with me because now it’s a lot fun too.
THE FACTS: AUDI A3 SPORTBACK 1.8 TFSI SPORT S TRONIC
0-62MPH: 7.3 SECS
TOP SPEED: 144MPH
CO2 G/KM: 130G/KM
MPG COMBINED: 50.4MPG
VALUE FOR MONEY ***