THE trend-setter in filling up “white spaces” in product lineups never did let up in introducing new models—or twists to existing ones. In doing so premium-car maker Audi has routinely come up with automotive concoctions offered by none of the brand’s equally haughty competitors.
Its A3 Sedan is one of such, and the car recently made its way into Audi’s showrooms in the Philippines.
Audi actually builds the A3 in four cuts; three-door hatchback, five-door hatchback (tagged Sportback in some markets), two-door cabriolet and four-door sedan. Now on its third generation, the latest A3 is propelled by a range of TFSI gasoline and TDI diesel engines, and even natural gas in the car’s g-tron variant. A plug-in hybrid e-tron version is expected, too.
Any question regarding the present-gen A3’s competence should be addressed by the fact that it has been named 2014 World Car of the Year (COTY), having been voted by a panel of 69 automotive journalists who came from 22 countries. The award means Audi has won World COTY twice, after the A6 took the inaugural title in 2005. Oh, and the A3’s other siblings also made sure Audi has the most prizes in World COTY—the 2007 RS, 2008 R8 and 2010 R8 V10 have three World Performance Car titles between them while the TT and R8 have each won World Car Design of the Year.
While the second-gen A3 was sold in the Philippines solely in five-door hatch form, the new car arrives in the country exclusively as the A3 Sedan. Audi Phils. is all too aware of the shift; it knows the brand is “entering the world’s largest market segment, the class of compact sedans.” Remember, though, that locally Audi is not giving up on hatchbacks; there’s the Audi A1, offered in both three-door and five-door versions, to take care of that segment.
The A3 Sedan launches in the country with engine choices made up of the 1.8-liter TSFI, 2.0-liter TDI and the 2.0-liter, four-pot, turbocharged, 280hp gasoline mill that powers the yet-to-arrive, top-spec S3. The gasoline A3 Sedan 1.8 TSFI comes in a single trim level while the A3 Sedan 2.0 TDI is available in Attraction and Ambition lines.
Audi said the engines are completely redesigned, flaunting the brand’s direct fuel injection, turbocharging and innovative thermal management techs.
The 1.8 TFSI makes 180hp and 250Nm of torque, thanks partly to dual direct fuel injection. It shoots the A3 from rest to 100kph in 7.3 seconds and on to a 242-kph top speed. Audi reckons fuel consumption should hover around 5.6 liters per 100 kilometers.
In comparison, the 150hp, 320Nm 2.0 TDI accelerates the A3 Sedan from a stop to 100kph in 8.4 seconds and takes it to a 219-kph top speed. Fuel consumption is rated at a very frugal 4.4 liters per 100 kilometers.
Audi’s S tronic automatic transmission bolts to both engines, a seven-speed dual-clutch in the 1.8 TFSI and a six-speed in the 2.0 TDI. In both units, rowing through the gears can be done either with the selector lever or steering wheel-mounted paddles. An S mode engages, well, sporty driving traits as the transmission lets the engine spin to higher revs before it snatches the next gear.
Most of the premium kit found on upscale cars are fitted to the A3 Sedan; Xenon headlamps with daytime running lights, LED tail lamps and side-mirror indicators, dual-tailpipe finishers, pieces of leather-wrapped furniture, auto headlights and wipers, multimedia with Bluetooth/aux/USB and phone connectivity, power-everything. There are some differences in trimmings between the Attraction and Ambition 2.0 TDIs, but both roll on 16-inch alloys. The 1.8 TFSI wears sportier 17-inch wheels with 225/45 tires.
On the road
Whether in 1.8 TFSI or 2.0 TDI configurations, the A3 Sedan is smooth, balancing a mature, sophisticated poise with athletic moves and looks. This, in large part, no doubt comes as a result of its just-right size.
In gridlock the A3 Sedan is easy to position. In freer city roads its tight turning radius would surprise you in a U-turn. Visibility all around, afforded by Audi’s thoroughly handsome arcing greenhouse, is excellent so parking the car is a cinch—the sensors even seem superfluous, but still always welcome. When traffic miraculously, however briefly, opens up, floor the A3 Sedan’s go pedal and enjoy a quickie that’s both forceful and silken.
In either seven-speed or six-speed transmission, shifts are as smooth, the step from one gear to the next imperceptible. There’s a bit of lag between the time you step on the throttle and when the car starts moving, like the case is in traffic-crawling, but it’s just something to learn to adapt to. And the gearboxes’ ability to downshift when you lift off the accelerator is very much welcome. Also a delight is the speed-sensitive, electrically assisted steering, which may be numb and light at slow speeds, but gratifyingly weighs up when the speedo needle climbs.
The A3 didn’t get named World COTY for nothing.