What is it?
A very commendable entry point into Audi’s line-up, the A3 is for those graduating to the luxury car segment as well as for existing luxury car owners looking to add a second or third or even a fourth car to their driveway. To keep the above mentioned members of the car-buying public interested, Audi has updated the A3. Differentiating this car from the one it replaces are a few visual changes, a few new features on the inside and a new petrol engine under the hood.
One of the most critical requirements of a luxury car is that it should make an impression, and the A3 does so in an understated fashion that’s typical Audi. Dominating the restyled face is a large ‘diamond’ grille that the latest of Audis sport, flanked by sharper, more angular, headlights that link the A3 to the new A4. Bi-xenon headlights are standard but Audi will offer an LED lights package (on our test car) as an option.
Part of the package are reprofiled tail-lights that get excellent LED detailing, including indicators that swipe in the direction of the turn. It really does look very cool. On the whole, the A3’s design is not dramatic like the Mercedes-Benz CLA’s, but it is neat, clean and likeable.
What is it like on the inside?
On the inside, things are much the same as before though the new three-spoke steering wheel adds a degree of sportiness to the cabin. One of the most interesting bits, without question, is the front air con vent design – the jet-turbine-like vents look and feel, for a lack of a more polished word, awesome. There is a pervasive sense of quality to every surface and every knob, and the cabin is fantastically put together too; definitely not something you would call ‘entry-level’. Sadly, the Indian A3 does not get Audi’s Virtual Cockpit or Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
In terms of equipment that it does get, there’s two-zone climate control, a 7.0-inch screen for the MMI infotainment system, electronically-adjustable front seats, a sunroof, a rear view camera, proximity sensors at the front and rear, a wireless phone charging pad in the front armrest and seven airbags.
The front seats are very comfortable and supportive, and offer loads of adjustment too. The rear seats are comfortable, but legroom in the back is not generous and headroom is outright tight. You’ll still be better off than you would be in a Mercedes-Benz CLA.
What is it like to drive?
The new petrol engine is a 1.4-litre, turbocharged, four-cylinder unit. It is the same as the one in the new A4, but with one crucial difference here – it gets cylinder-on-demand technology. When pulling low- to mid-range loads, this engine operates on just two cylinders, putting all four to work only under heavier loads. You would think that the switch from two to four cylinders would be noticeable, but remarkably, it isn’t. The engine runs smooth at all times, quiet for the most part and only sounds busy when you extend it.
This unit produces 150hp at 5,000-6,000rpm and 250Nm at 1,500-3,500rpm. While these numbers are lower than those put forth by the erstwhile 1.8-litre engine, the A3 35 TFSI still manages a respectable claimed 0-100kph time of 8.2sec and top speed of 224kph. Those familiar with the old 1.8 will miss the explosive mid-range here but performance from the small engine is quite good too. What helps is the dual-clutch gearbox that is really quick in shifts and delightfully responsive to manual inputs at the gear lever.
While this new engine is down on power to the older 1.8, claimed efficiency is up from 16.6kpl to 19.2kpl. Real-world economy will still be down to how you drive and what you make of the performance.
Undoubtedly, greater fuel economy will be the prime reason buyers might be more interested in the other engine on offer – the 143hp 2.0-litre diesel engine that’s been carried over unchanged. It’s a torquey engine that pulls eagerly across the rev range. Refinement levels are good by class standards, but the engine has started to feel (and sound) a bit last-gen compared to Audi’s latest diesel unit that we experienced recently on the new A4.
On other fronts, the A3 doesn’t feel different. Ride quality is nice and absorbent as before and largely free from the thuds and thumps we’ve come to expect from European cars. What’s also good is that the A3 remains a fun car to pilot. It feels tight and compact from behind the wheel, the steering though on the lighter side is precise and there’s lots of grip on offer. It really is one of Audi’s better handling cars.
Should I buy one?
The move to a smaller engine, at the cost of power, is a move towards reducing the basket emission levels for the entire Audi line-up, and we can expect something similar across the Audi range in the coming future.
While Audi has not yet revealed prices for the updated A3, you can expect prices to start at around Rs 28 lakh (estimated, ex-showroom) when it goes on sale in April this year.
On the whole, the A3 continues to be a great car, and though we’ll miss the power and performance of the old A3 petrol, not many others will. That version contributed to less than 10 percent of A3 sales. However, the more efficient, new engine could just bring about a small shift in buyer preference.