Audi finally gets it right with 3rd gen A3
You might think this is simply the new, third-generation Audi A3. In fact, it’s rather more important than simply being Ingolstadt’s latest full-sized hatchback.
Why? Well, new Audi A3 is South Africa’s first contact with the VW Group’s new MQB platform, which also constitutes Golf7 and is set to support a tremendous array of model derivatives into the next decade.
Suffice to say, if you are an Audi or VW customer you’ll probably be purchasing a MQB platform car within the next five years. Is it any good, then?
Well, we threaded a few derivatives of the new A3 around the best Western Cape mountain passes on offer and first impressions are rather good. Our greatest experience of joy with the new car is that Audi’s inexplicably combination of wooden steering feel and vertically harsh ride quality that has often bedeviled driveability of previous A3s has been smartly suppressed in new car.
Although the core is shared with Golf7 interchangeable elements such as steering geometry, calibration and suspension kinematics are all custom A3 crafted. The result is a car with amazing (for an Audi) ride quality and an appreciable level of mechanical grip. To call it soft would be an unfair description of the excellent mechanical engineering golden mean that has been achieved but the ride quality revolution over previous A3s is nothing short of remarkable.
Beyond the outstanding ride/handling balance A3’s pretty evolutionary. Cabin architecture cues many A1 features, including the redesigned centre console and hang-down section, whilst the instrumentation font design and generally tactile quality remains stellar Audi – which means class-leading. Exterior design is tidy and possesses that finite percentage greater desirability than a Golf. In three-door configuration it should appeal to those who desire a premium German hatchback yet don’t have kids and the need for five-door entry and egress convenience.
Drivetrains? Six-speed manuals and seven-speed DSGs, so no issues there. Engines are the proven 1.4 TSI petrol (90kW) and 77kW 1.6 TDI. Pick of the bunch for now is the 132kW 1.8 FSI, with a 77kW 1.2 FSI and 135kW TDI 2-litre being added in 2013. S3 arrives somewhere in 2013 too as does the five-door Sportback, which should be A3’s volume seller.
Quite a convincing car? Very. As always, it has premium appeal thanks to the associated Audi brand cachet of R8 and RS-line.
The cabin too, remains, in a trait particular to all Audis, a very pleasing environment to pass time and the drivetrains are ace. Perhaps most impressive though is the revolution in chassis dynamics, where Audi’s cement-damper dynamics have finally been redressed.
In a conjecture extrapolated from our experience with these first new A3s; the third-generation S3 should quite some car, by our estimation, the fundamentals are most definitely there.
Audi A3 1.2T FSI manual S: R267 000 (available in February 2013)
Audi A3 1.4T FSI manual S: R274 500
Audi A3 1.4T FSI S tronic S: R291 500
Audi A3 1.6 TDI S tronic S: R302 500
Audi A3 1.8T FSI manual SE: R305 000
Audi A3 1.8T FSI S tronic SE: R322 000
Audi A3 1.8T FSI quattro® S tronic: R351 500