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Audi A3 first drive | new model boosts fleet appeal

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The Audi A3 enters its fourth generation, building on the bolder styling of the smaller A1. That design is enhanced further with greater differentiation between specification grades. 

It is now 30mm longer and 18mm wider than before with more headroom and elbow room in the front and rear. Sportier S Line models include ‘Sport’ suspension, that reduces the ride height by 15mm.

Boot space stays at 380 litres – matching the BMW 1 Series and 10 litres more than the Mercedes-Benz A-Class can hold. With the rear seats folded, the A3’s capacity increases to 1,200 litres and a shallow load lip makes it easy to lift bulkier items in and out.

This A3 features a more driver-focused layout. A 10.25-inch ‘Virtual Cockpit’ digital instrument display is standard, with a larger 12.3-inch version optionally available. All models get a 10.1-inch touchscreen display for the infotainment system. Overall, there is a high quality to the cabin’s finish.

Audi will offer the most comprehensive array of engine options to date with the A3 as mild hybrid and plug-in hybrid models join the range.

The first diesel model to arrive in the UK will be the 35 TDI, powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 150PS. You can expect up to 56mpg and CO2 emissions from 118g/km.

Improved engine performance makes it smoother and quieter with all models getting acoustic windscreen glass to reduce noise.

The power delivery is smooth with plenty of performance thanks to its 360Nm torque output, while the S Tronic automatic transmission offers near-seamless gear changes. Expect the 116PS 30 TDI version to be popular with fleet users when introduced as it has lower CO2 emissions, starting from 111g/km, and fuel economy up to 60.1mpg.

Aside from slower acceleration there is little to fault with this engine. Its manual gearbox has a positive action with gearing designed for economy; it should suit most buyers as it can be frugal over longer journeys. We drove this with the standard suspension, which includes a torsion beam rear set-up (the 150PS version gets a multi-link design) and found it to ride well and offer plenty of composure on a variety of road surfaces. Optional adaptive suspension operates over a broader spectrum between suppleness and firmness in its sportier modes.

We liked the mild hybrid A3 35 TFSI model with its 150PS petrol engine. Aside from lacking in brake pedal feel, it’s smoother during start-stop, and the battery enables the engine-off coasting for short periods to save fuel.

From launch, the A3 will be available as a 35 TFSI with a 150PS petrol engine and a six-speed manual or a 35 TDI also with 150PS and a seven-speed S Tronic automatic transmission.

There will be three core trim levels: Technik, Sport and S Line. All will come with LED headlights, while S Line models receive LED rear lights with dynamic indicators. Additionally, Audi will offer Edition 1 and Vorsprung models above the S Line version.

Pricing will start at £24,900 for the 35 TFSI Technik manual, rising to £31,650 for the 35 TDI S Tronic S Line. Pricing and CO2 data for the mild hybrids will follow and a plug-in hybrid is also in the pipeline.

Specification shown for Audi A3 Sportback 35 TDI 150 Technik

Dave Humphreys


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