Sportback 1.6 TDI S line
to save money, pay
less tax and drive a cleaner car is
now a way of life for many motorists.
And Audis latest A3 Sportback offers
a way to do this without appearing
to have moved away from owning
or driving a premium brand car...
ARE NOW OFFERING LESS COSTLY smaller models which are still well equipped and
use smaller fuel-efficient engines. In many cases these cost-effective new models
still offer a relatively high level of performance as premium brand customers,
no matter what their financial situation is, do not seem able to compromise
on must-have brand image with get-up-and-go to match.
I have just had a spell in Audi's A3 Sportback (five-door hatchback-cum-estate)
fitted with their new 1.6-litre TDI direct injection turbocharged diesel engine
with Start-Stop function. My test car had a five-speed gearbox but Audi are
now just bringing to market the option of their S tronic twin-clutch auto transmission
for this engine and its 1.4-litre TFSI petrol unit counterpart.
The new 104bhp 1.6-litre TDI engine joins A3, A3 Sportback and A3 Cabriolet
ranges priced, respectively, from £17,485, £18,025 and £20,645. It replaces
the 1.9-litre TDI engine in A3 TDIe and A3 Cabriolet 1.9 TDI models and the
new smaller capacity unit is claimed to be 8% more fuel- and CO2-efficient than
the outgoing engine.
This new small turbocharged diesel unit features high pressure common rail injection
and delivers up to 68.9mpg with the help of Start-Stop and energy recovery systems.
As mentioned, it is used in conjunction with a five-speed manual gearbox and,
soon, an optional S tronic twin clutch auto box.
Just in case you think small equals slow, the A3 1.6 TDI Sportback has a top
speed of 121mph and gets to 62mph from zero in 11.7 seconds. But more importantly,
it will officially return 68.9mpg in the combined cycle (42.8mpg for me in real-life)
and its 109g/km CO2 output means the minimum road tax bill of just £35 and,
for company car users, 13% in Benefit-in-Kind tax.
Talking of cost, the A3 Sportback range starts at an eye-catching £15,805 but
that is for the basic 1.6-litre 101bhp petrol engine. If you want the best small
petrol engine then spend £17,420 on the new 123bhp 1.4-litre TFSI it's
well known, firstly in Volkswagen models, for its brilliant high torque low-mid
However, for diesel power the A3 Sportback with the new 104bhp 1.6 TDI unit
starts at £18,025 and my S line test vehicle the most popular spec
costs £21,350 on-the-road and without options. Top of the A3 Sportback range
is the 261bhp S3 2.0-litre TFSI quattro, at £28,020.
1.6 TDI Sportback, like most other derivatives in the range, is available with
Standard, SE, Sport and S line levels of trim and equipment. Core features for
these premium models includes central door locking, electric windows and door
mirrors, air conditioning, alloy wheels, split one/two-thirds folding rear seats,
a heated windscreen and a high level of safety equipment. Also standard is first
class build quality.
Sportback looks long
well up to its Sports
an Audi, there is a huge array of extra-cost options to meet user requirements
and budgets. S line specifications add larger 18-inch wheels, lowered suspension,
upgraded leather and cloth interior trim and multi-function controls on the
steering wheel. Outside the vehicle, there's sportier looking front and rear
bumpers and chrome trimmed exhaust tailpipes. It's a smart package.
4,292mm in length, 1,765 wide and 1,423mm high with a long 2,578mm wheelbase,
the five-seater Sportback looks long and purposeful well up to its 'Sports'
branding. Whether you call it a five-door hatchback or estate is open for discussion;
it looks more of an estate to me, especially as it can accommodate between 370
and 1,100 litres of luggage. The rear legroom is relatively good too, for what
is a medium sector car, but the rear seat headroom is on the low side.
The ride is firm because of the lower suspension and larger wheels a
constant issue with most Audi models. The handling is first class but the ride
comfort is hard and the suspension transmits road noise and shocks into the
car. My view, if you like comfort, is always to go for standard size wheels
and stay away from sports set-up suspension.
for the new 1.6-litre TDI engine? Getting the A3 Sportback off the line needs
some care; not enough engine revs and it will stall even though it's a diesel.
Once underway, the 184lb ft of torque from just 1,500rpm does its job and the
car pulls strongly without sounding stressed. Being tall geared (fifth and sixth
gear ratios are designed for improved fuel economy and lower emissions) means
more gearchanging on A and B roads in the 40-55mph speed range.
Once cruising the engine is quiet and relatively fuel-friendly although I wasn't
that impressed by the 42.8mpg my car averaged over a week's motoring which,
as usual, covered motorway, country and town travel.
The A3 Sportback's build quality and resultant heavy weight is the likely cause
of not obtaining close to the 68.9mpg fuel economy the official figures suggest.
The Start-Stop function worked well without intrusion or annoyance once the
car was up to temperature and with the air conditioning off. I wouldn't pay
extra for it, but if it comes as standard then that's fine.
While this Audi can be pricey, with real-life fuel economy much less than the
official figure leads you to expect, it is marginally cleaner than its main
rival, the BMW 1 Series five-door Hatchback. Officially the Audi has better
fuel economy and it costs more or less the same.
As an alternative to the A3 Sportback, the VW Golf 1.6 TDI Estate with the same
engine and more or less the same platform is over £3,000 less expensive and
it has more load carrying space. But then, as good as it is, it does not carry
the Audi brand name.
Apart from a fidgety ride, there's much to recommend the A3 Sportback: it's
stylish, high quality and has a tax-friendly engine option and strong residual
values. It also comes with a high safety specification and it's roomy and handles
well. David Miles
Audi A3 Sportback 1.6 TDI S line | £21,350
Maximum speed: 121mph | 0-62mph: 11.7 seconds | Overall test MPG: 42.8mpg
Power: 104bhp | Torque: 184lb ft | CO2 109g/km | Insurance group TBC