The facelifted A3 gets new engines tied to a new seven-speed twin-clutch transmission. The popular midrange 2.0l sport model also gets more active safety gear. It’s a truly fun front-drive machine.
Back in 2013 we were driving Audi’s new A3 Sportback, and now the facelifted version has arrived. It’s not merely a freshening of bumper, headlights and grille either, though those boxes are ticked. The model range has been rationalised with three versions now available, all with new petrol engines, making room for incoming Q2. Refreshed e-tron and RS 3 models will arrive later.
Meantime at the top there’s an S3, packing 228kW and 400Nm, up by 7kW and 20Nm, and costing $79,900 whereas the former model went for $81,900. Extra technology comes aboard too, like LED headlights, active safety aids, heated seats, comfort entry and a sports pack which includes magnetic ride control. It can hike, hitting 100 in a claimed 4.5sec.
At the opposite end of the line, the new 1.4 TFSI Design costs the same as before, $49,500, but adds city autonomous braking, parking sonar and rear view camera, MMI navigation and a new 1.4 engine. Power rises significantly from 90 to 110kW and with cylinder deactivation claimed fuel economy is 5.0L/100km.
The third new model, featured here, is the A3 2.0 TFSI Sport, replacing the 1.8, and with 140kW/320Nm on hand there’s a gain of 8kW and 40Nm. Previously selling for $56,900 the replacement 2.0L costs $61,500 but it gets a host of added specification, including the upgrades fitted to the 1.4 model. There’s also adaptive cruise, 18-inch alloys, comfort entry, S line body kit, and a D-shaped wheel. Our car featured the $4500 technology package, consisting of Virtual Cockpit, MMI Nav Plus, self-parking and lane- and high beam assist, taking the price to an even $66k.
Leather trim is a $4500 option, along with heated, electrically powered front seats. There’s also an S line Sports package for $2000 which includes firmer suspension and cloth/leather upholstery, amongst other things.
We’ve always liked driving the A3 and, after the Q7, it is the most popular seller in Audi’s line-up here, accounting for 20 per cent of sales. We can see why, and the new 2.0 turbo builds on that; it’s a fun motor, with little in the way of lag and is almost disarmingly quiet. Naturally, with the extra drive, it is a bit quicker than the 1.8, the quoted 0-100 time improving half a second to 6.7sec, or in our hands 6.9sec.
The seven-speed twin-clutch rifles through the cogs, and it feels quick and effortless using revs from 2500-3500rpm. Pull begins way down low too, as is typical of modern turbopetrols, allowing easy commuting through town in fifth gear, and impressive fuel use in the low fours at 100km/h on the flat. On our open road jaunts we had to try hard to get into double figures, and it only stayed there momentarily.
It’s a fun car to be a try-hard in too, especially using the Dynamic drive mode which amps the engine and steering, along with the Sport mode of the transmission. The latter can be used briefly for easy overtaking if you so desire, then another pull reverts to D for economical driving.
But where’s the fun in that, especially given this engine gives of its best above about 3500rpm? Most of the time in Sport transmission mode you’re in sixth rather than top, but the engine is still spinning at relatively low revs thanks to tallish gearing. Alternatively, you can use the paddles if you’re a control freak.
Despite its rather comprehensive spec levels, the A3 Sportback is relatively unburdened at just under 1400kg, so feels light on its feet. With a typical front-wheel drive weight split of 60/40, understeer is the eventual order of the day but we found grip on the Bridgestone Turanzas great, with impressive mid-corner speeds, particularly with a dab of brake to settle the nose going in. And by setting the ESP into its Sport handling mode, you get less electronic intervention, making it a quick point and squirt vehicle. Quiet on the go it is too, with most dB readings in the low 70s, and just the odd harmonic tyre noise on certain surfaces. The steering doesn’t scream its electric-ness either.
Suspension is fixed, but it’s fixed good; springs compress and rebound in well controlled fashion making for a silky ride, yet the body remains on the level. The seating position is good too, and controls sensibly sited. A lack of lumbar adjust is questionable in a car costing this much. Of the option packs, we’d probably go for the leather and powered and heated seats, though some might prefer all the assistance (lane, high beam, parking) offered in the tech pack.
It’s a thoughtful upgrade the A3. For similar money BMW offers its 125i hatch which is more dynamic but smaller inside, while Mercedes has its more expensive and slightly quicker A 250 and remember the aforementioned Q2 as well.
|Model||Audi A3 2.0 TFSI Sport||Price||$61,500|
|Engine||1984cc, IL4, T/DI, 140kW/320Nm||Drivetrain||7-speed twin-clutch, front-wheel drive|
|Fuel Use||5.6L/100km||C02 Output||130g/km|