Character takes on many forms for Audi’s line-up of luxury/sports vehicles. And when Audi entered the world’s largest market segment of compact sedans, the 2015 A3 series had all the strengths a dynamic four-door has to offer. With a low-weight design, thanks to lightweight materials, powerful and highly efficient engines with numerous high-end solutions for infotainment as well as driver assistance systems, this “2014 World Car of the Year” awardee will be a formidable entrant to the sub-compact market in the Philippines
Style and design
The 2015 A3 comes in three variations: an all-new 1.4-liter TFSi gas turbo; 2.0-liter TGI turbo diesel; and the S3 2.0-liter TFSI gas turbo Quattro. All have a sporty stance on the road. It is precise and highly expressive in every detail and its design is a cross between the classic three-box concept and coupé philosophy. The “tornado line” design element forms a distinct light-refracting edge that runs over the entire side. The overhangs are short with a 2.64-meter long wheelbase and an overall length of 4.46 meters. The A3 also conveys independent lines in the contour of its hood, in the bumpers, air intakes and its execution of the massive single frame grille. At the rear, the spoiler is integrated in the trunk lid and the lights emphasize the car’s horizontal lines with their broad and low cuts.
Audi demonstrates its technical competence in the body, with the primary factors for weight reduction found in the shaped steel for the occupant cell and the aluminum bolt-on parts (engine hood and fenders). For example, the A3 1.4 TFSI has a curb weight of just 1,175 kilograms (2,590.43 pounds). Its weight has been reduced by up to 80 kilograms (176.37 pounds) from its predecessor.
It seems almost redundant to talk about the basics. Of course, a perfect driving position is achievable for all types to the freakishly tall or short. The dials are epitomes of clarity, with what little switchgear there is laid out in such a simple, intuitive manner you wonder why all cars don’t follow suit. A strikingly new addition is the trendy pop-up screen that hides in the middle of the dash where the infortainment system is controlled by an aluminum dial mounted just before the gear lever.
But it is the quality of the fittings that’s the real news here along with the way they have been put together. It all looks so effortless that it’s tempting to think all those neat radical and millimetrically perfect panel fits, or just happened rather than being the result of years of blood, sweat and euros. But when you start pushing and poking at the soft fabrics and plastics, you soon realize there’s very little in here that merely looks the part.
I found the A3 to be typically Audi-pleasant, although the vast wrapping of soft-touch material spanning the dash needs to be of a higher grade to successfully execute the bold, sparse look the automaker has pursued with this car. The seats were comfortable and supportive and although some have complained about the B-pillars’ intrusion into peripheral sightlines. I didn’t find it to be an issue during a journey with plenty of furtive side-glances to check for faster-moving traffic.
Audi offers A3 sedans with plenty of flexibility, excellent throttle response and consistent power delivery. The 1.4-liter TFSI turbo and intercooled engine is rated at 135 horsepower at 5,000 revolutions per minute with a brawny 250 Newton-meters of torque at 1,500-3,500 rpm. That’s from a measly 1400 cubic centimeters of displacement.
Meanwhile, the robust 2.0-liter TFSI turbo and intercooled engine produces 285 hp with a massive 380 Nm of torque at 1,800-5,500 rpm.
Both engines have cylinder on demand (COD) technology that deactivates two cylinders at low load. Lets not forget the economical diesel 2.0-liter TDI turbo with 147 hp that comes in at 3,500-4,000 rpm and a whopping 320 Nm of torque at 1,750-3,000 rpm.
Audi’s standard six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission offers smooth, quick and reliable gear changes. It seems to default to lower gears even in manual mode, which was a problem when we were gunning for efficiency above all else—that may be the first time I noticed a transmission for wanting to hold a lower gear. But that could be good thing when you want those instant bursts of speed for overtaking or when waiting for the lights to go green.
Ride and handling
It should first be said that Audi should be commended in making this A3 ride like no other A3 in history. All the old shake over rough surfaces are gone, replaced by a silken smoothness much closer to what you might hope from a limousine.
Driving the A3 fast is at best pleasurable, but it is only a briefly diverting experience when you’re always stuck in traffic. You might enjoy a run up on a decent road, but it’s hard to see it tempting you to seek one out or remembering it for long thereafter. At low speeds, there’s still a little drumming over rougher surfaces but nothing you’d not find in its leading competitors. The steering lacks feel, the chassis needs the kind of throttle adjustability to encourage committing to a corner, while better tire and wheel upgrades should complete the package up from the standard that I tested.
The fact is the old A3 was able to dominate the class without ever being close to its best car. Dramatically improving the product while providing the reassurance of a familiar face requires existing customers to make no great leaps of faith, which should ensure their continued patronage. For ourselves, admire the new A3 as we do, but we would have preferred Audi to be a little more courageous – an RS3 maybe?
If you have the choice and can afford it, the 2.0-liter TDI motor is by far the best engine available for the Audi A3 and the brand has proven this on the 24 hours of Le Mans countless times. The petrol engines are smooth and sweet, but simply don’t add up when you consider the price paid in erratic costs, carbon dioxide emissions, range and limited low-down torque. As it stands, the stronger impression left by the A3 even how clearly good it is, is how much better it could or perhaps should have been.