Like ’em sleek but not too sporty? Audi’s middle-of-the-range A3 40 quattro might be the one for you.
Audi has a well stocked range of compact offerings including the little A1 and a pair of SUVs in the Q2 and Q3, with myriad variants therein. The most seasoned of the compact models is the A3, twenty five years young and now in its fourth generation.
Given the variety of other small choices in the Audi showroom, the range of A3s is now pared back, with the base A3 35, the 40, and a pair of sporty (and pricey) numbers in the S3 and the yet-to-arrive RS 3. We recently had a shot at the A3 40.
We didn’t quite know what the 40 meant, Audi’s model designation policy about as confusing as the Government’s Covid response strategy. The number relates in some way to output rather than the size of its package and, even after driving it, we were unsure what might be lurking under the bonnet. Turns out the 40 is powered by a 2.0 turbopetrol. It makes 140kW with 320Nm, channelled via a seven-speed twin-clutch. And the 40 also gains all-wheel drive, or quattro in Audi lingo.
This 40 goes alright too. It pulls away cleanly with its torque fronting strongly from a tick over 1500rpm. It even hauls down to 1200rpm when in gear. Its idle-stop system is of the proactive sort but it’s not a nuisance for it refires quick smart, the 2.0 TFSI then spitting you off the mark briskly when needed. While Audi’s Drive Select features the usual range of modes, we left it in Auto, where it switches between them to suit. You might consider Eco, which exploits the ‘coasting’ function (rolling along in neutral when off the throttle) in the hope of reducing fuel use, which the 40 was combusting at a rate of 10L/100km, almost double the claimed 5.7L/100km. The transmission you can’t bemoan, being refined at low speeds, if a little slow to kick down, but we like how simple the little gear lever is to use.
This is an easy drive overall. It’s quick on the turn, the steering tuned with a consistent assistance, and it grips in the bends, the mix of rubber sticking it there and the AWD traction shooting it off the curve. It also rides the bumps in decent fashion, though the tyre noise can border on intrusive over rougher coarse chip passages. The turbo’d engine spins okay, though runs out of puff around 6000rpm, while the auto kicks on better if you tug on the lever to activate its Sport mode.
The A3 has a sharper set of clothes nowadays, the style familiar but the tailoring more sophisticated in S line guise. The front end is particularly fetching with the new take on the old grille, complete with the various apertures above and beside, while the LED lights come with a distinct signature. The new A3 is a little longer now, but still a compact 4.3m in length, the wheelbase remaining the same. Inside, this car had the S line interior upgrade with its sport seats and a darkened theme.
The cabin ambience gets a lift when the vibrant displays come online, including the 12-inch configurable instrument panel, though this is a $700 option for the 40. All A3s gain the new 10-inch touchscreen as standard, the infotainment system now with added smarts and a raft of connectivity options including integration with the myAudi app and the ability to save up to six user profiles so various drivers can get in and have everything automatically configured to their liking. There is a voice-activated assistant, you can write on the screen to enact commands (okay if you’re a southpaw in a RHD market but otherwise a bit tricky), although the logical layout of the menus and size of the soft buttons make it one of the easier systems to operate manually. The presence of a few buttons on the dash helps simplify operations, particularly when it comes to setting the ventilation.
Ergos are generally well done and it’s nicely trimmed with some interesting details, like the stitching on the rubber dash; it’s odd but it works well.
Most shouldn’t have trouble finding a suitable driving position and you can get really low if that’s your thing, the antithesis of the SUV command style. You do have to lower yourself using a manual lever but, you know, you’ve only paid $69k, what do you expect?
The sporty seats are rather nice though, the supportive bolstering not overdone. Climbing in the back, you’ll find the leg room is only passable as the backs of those sports seats in front rob passengers of knee room in the rear. It’s a comfy bench though, and there are a pair of USB-c ports.
The 40 has a power-operated tailgate as standard, overkill on a hatchback we think. While the hold is not a bad size, the quattro model has less space thanks to the AWD bits, reducing from the front driver’s 380 to 325L.
The A3 comes with the usual safety aids, the active lane keeping far less annoying and persistent than some, and therefore you’re less likely to turn it off immediately. And though the active cruise is operated via a wand hanging from behind the wheel, once familiarised, it’s not too vexing to operate.
With its relatively compact dimensions, turning circle included, and quick, light steering, this makes easy work of urban sorties and car park battles. Still, for those who are too busy with other things, there is a self-parking function (a feature most will rarely use). We wish the wing mirrors were a little more generous, not that there is an issue with a blind spot (there’s a safety system on guard there), but more for reversing as the camera only relays a rear view; there’s no surround view here.
So another job well done by Audi. There are no great deal breakers here, other than the price. Where the 35 starts at $57,900, this is $69,990, a rather large number for a small hatch, though it undercuts its main competitor, the Merc A 250 4matic, just.
If either seems over the top pricewise to you, consider something a bit different but equally stylish, the Cupra Leon. It might surprise, while saving you $10k as well.
|Model||Audi A4 40 TFSI|
quattro S Line
|Engine||1984cc, IL4, T, DI|
|Drivetrain||7-speed twin clutch, AWD|