The world of cars seems to have come full circle. Not in terms of sales or the options available, but every single car that has grown over the decades to a size above now needs another model below it that is of the original size of that car. Premium manufacturers are also discovering a market in a size and price bracket below their traditional customers – this works out well for them, as these products are projected as an additional fuel-efficient model for the family in developed markets, and an easier step up to luxury in developing markets. Enter the Audi A3, which will be the easiest access to a premium luxury sedan when it launches.
EXTERIORS AND LOOKS
The 2017 Audi A3 is a facelift and it gets certain upgrades and new elements on the design front. While most of the car remains the same, there are few tweaks that enhance its appeal. To start with , the 2017 Audi A3 now gets a new front grille, which Audi calls ‘diamond inspired’. This grille is now wider and looks more premium as well. The car gets sharper lies this time. The headlamps are also new and have a cut on the lower portion that give it a dynamic look.
It also gets aggressive looking front and rear bumpers. The 2017 Audi A3 also gets new sporty looking 16-inch alloy wheels . The car also sees new taillamps which are 3 dimensional and have dynamic indicators. There is a rear spoiler which is integrated in the boot.The 2017 Audi A3 has got looks similar to a fastback and has a coupe like roof which slopes downwards.
INTERIORS AND SPACE
When you look at it, the A3’s cabin seems a little conservative, especially after the boldly styled interiors of its arch rival – the Mercedes CLA. Nonetheless, the interior remains thoroughly premium, with lovely black textures, plush leather and good quality materials. Audi has retained the all-black wraparound dash design with horizontal lines which heighten the sense of width.
Given that it’s a facelift, Audi hasn’t made any upgrades when it comes to seat comfort or interior packaging. As a result, the 2017 model is just as driver-oriented as the outgoing car. Upfront there is more than enough shoulder support and good cushioning. The under thigh support, too, is commendable. Like the outgoing model, this new A3 falls short of being a proper chauffeur driven premium car. While the rear seat itself is well layered with good contours for two adults, there isn’t much legroom on offer. That said the A3 beats the Mercedes CLA which is worse still and feels claustrophobic at the rear because of its tiny rear windows and huge front seatbacks.
The boot capacity is rated at 425-litres which is big enough for outstation trips and the fact that, the space saver spare tyre is neatly tucked away makes it more practical than the CLA which houses its wheel over the boot floo
For 2017 Audi has introduced wireless phone charging function and full LED headlights as all-new features. Meanwhile, the top-spec variants also get dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, panoramic sunroof, front and rear parking sensors and a 7-inch retractable screen for the MMI infotainment system. Features like start/stop button and keyless entry, however, have been given a miss.
ENGINE AND PERFORMANCE
This car uses a pair of familiar four-cylinder engines that can be found in a number of VW Group cars that are on sale in India, although thanks to Audi’s new performance-based model naming structure, they’re known in these forms as the 35 TDI and the 40 TFSI. The 35 TDI is just the 2.0 TDI producing 141bhp and 32.63kgm of torque, both very healthy figures for a car of this size and weight. As with most of the other cars that use this motor, in the A3, it’s mated to a six-speed dual-clutch gearbox, though surprisingly, gearshift paddles have been left off the spec sheet; in a car for the self-driven, it’s a desirable option to have. As ever, this engine’s biggest strength is its chunky mid-range and the gearbox does a good job of sensing when you need it the most. The ’box also works well to get you through the slight turbo lag, and it’s very happy to hop straight to sixth and sit there when you’re cruising on the highway. The A3 TDI managed to crack an impressive 8.97sec from 0-100 in our tests, which is quicker than both the BMW 1-series and Merc A-class diesels, incidentally. And not surprisingly, with that mid-range torque, kickdown times are a quick 5.46sec and 7.14sec for 20-80kph and 40-100kph respectively.
But then you drive the 40 TFSI, and it’s even quicker, crossing 100kph in 8.21sec, and despatching 20-80kph in 4.88sec and 40-100kph in 5.63sec in kickdown mode. Yes, it’s the same 1.8-litre turbo-petrol engine that we know and love, and this is undoubtedly its best iteration yet.
It churns out a creamy 177bhp and 25.5kgm, and despite being turbocharged, it simply loves to be revved. Power delivery is smooth and effortless, and so strong is the performance, you wonder if there’s any need for the latest crop of dedicated performance-oriented four-cylinder compact luxury cars. There’s a little hesitation at low revs, but it’s masked superbly by the wonderful seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. And while the TDI can sound a little clattery, this one is beautifully silent.
A lot is expected from Audi when it comes to driver involvement and the Germans are the masters of that but does this baby Audi drive like the others? Well, the answer is no. Blame it entirely on the new platform, the A3 is simply terrific to drive, a touch above the other Audi’s which are pretty good in their own regard. The electromechanical steering is light at low speeds and weighs up beautifully as the kms pile up. Handling is razor sharp and the A3 will corner with super precision, it will encourage you to push even harder. It loves taking corners hard and you have to appreciate how the light weight chassis offers terrific balance. The A3 also gets ‘Electronic Stabilisation Control’ (ESC) with ‘Electronic Limited Slip Differential’ as standard. High speed stability is very good too and inside the cabin, the speeds seem much slower than they actually are. The A3 is aimed at a buyer who will himself take to the wheel and the driver involvement the car offers will seal the deal for most who like to push their car to the limit.
With superb handling on offer, one would expect the ride quality to be stiff but that’s not the case here. In spite of the low profile rubber, ride quality is fantastic. Both at slow and high speed, the ride remains pliant and both front and rear passengers are engulfed in comfort. The light weight chassis and four-link rear suspension is hugely responsible for the same. The brakes offer good stopping power (all 4 discs) and our test was was shod on 225/45/17 Pirelli Cinturato tyres which offer phenomenal levels of grip. Even on wet surfaces, braking is spot on with no brake fade.
SAFETY AND FEATURES
The A3 sedan earns a five-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It scores four out of five stars on its frontal crash and rollover tests, and it achieves five stars for the side crash test. The A3 also does well in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests, earning a top rating in every category. The IIHS names the A3 a Top Safety Pick+. The Audi A4 receives the same rating from the IIHS, while the Volkswagen GTI earns a slightly lower Top Safety Pick designation.
Standard safety features in the A3 include a rearview camera with front and rear parking sensors. Other safety features are available. With adaptive cruise control, the A3 maintains a set following distance from the car in front of it, automatically slowing or accelerating with the flow of traffic. The A3 takes traditional adaptive cruise control a step further with the car’s ability to come to a complete stop and take off again, all on its own. Another driver assistance feature, lane keep assist, alerts you if you stray from your lane and gently nudges the car back into its lane. The A3 is also available with rear cross traffic alert, which monitors traffic behind the car while you’re reversing to prevent an accident.
Well, the A3 surely makes a great case for itself. It is much better equipped than its rival, the Mercedes-Benz CLA (read review here), it rides really well and that petrol engine raises the bar of what you should expect from the segment. The only complain with the car would be the design. It is a tad too understated and Audi’s target market, the young professionals of India generally prefer a more flamboyant design. And that is where the CLA has a slight advantage *cough* frameless windows *cough*. However, with the customers now deviating to petrol engines (the A4 petrol has been outselling the diesel by a huge margin), Audi’s 1.4 with its responsive nature, refinement levels and frugality, 19.2kmpl compared to CLA’s 15.9kmpl, could tip the scales in Audi’s favour. All that remains to be seen now is the pricing which we expect to be between Rs 25-30 lakh.