Audi A3 Saloon
By Bill McCarthy
Making a particular model stand out in a range as huge as Audi’s is a challenge, but the new A3 saloon does that in spades.
A sleek, slippery-through-the-air compact saloon with elegant lines, angles and creases, it is perhaps a challenger to its own bigger sibling the A4 in the premium market.
While the hatchback, or Sportback as its now called, offers more practicality, the saloon, which Audi describes as a reboot, is a better looking machine altogether to my eye.
And despite the VW diesel emissions furore, the firm is sticking with a new generation of cleaner, more efficient oil-burners offering excellent economy, low carbon emissions and even lower harmful nitrogen oxide, or ‘NOx’ levels.
There’s a range of petrol, hybrid and diesel with this 150PS diesel unit offering the pace of, if not quite a red-hot hatch, certainly very warm indeed.
It does look good with striking honeycomb grille flanked by trapezoidal LED headlight units, plus LED daytime running lights with specific light signatures which differ by model.
In addition, the new aerodynamics reduce drag significantly.
The interior is a mini-masterpiece of combining high-end materials, fixtures and fittings, sweeping wraparound dash and cutting edge technology.
It has the usual high-end, soft touch materials associated with the brand, while the dark headlining on this model is offset by smart chrome finish and insets throughout the cabin. In addition there are stylish air vents, while the new, tiny auto gearbox shifter adds to the hi-tech image of the car.
The interior is dominated by the central 10-inch MMI touchscreen, which controls functions like navigation, infotainment and connectivity through the cloud, mated with another 10-inch digital cockpit display in the binnacle.
The latest modular infotainment platform provides internet access via a Wi-Fi hotspot and also makes a broad spread of web-based Audi connect services available as standard, including online traffic information, news and additional information such as photos, opening times, and user reviews relating to points of interest.
An additional head-up display projects information onto the windscreen in the driver’s direct field of vision.
Interior space is good with excellent legroom, if slightly more cramped to the rear, but the boot is a decent enough size. Obviously not as practical as the hatchback, where folding seats and loading to the roof give it the edge, but more than enough for day to day activities.
On the road, the diesel engine is refined and economical. It literally purrs along, especially at higher motorway speeds, where the extra torque makes overtaking a breeze.
It is also extremely lively. Mated to the seven speed S-tronic auto box, it hits 60mph in just over eight seconds.
You can increase the fun by switching to Sport mode and shifting gears via the steering wheel paddles. Whatever mode, occupants are protected from wind and road noise and the cabin is a comfortable place to be.
Add to this real world WLTP mpg of nearly 60mpg and low CO2 emissions and you can see why diesel is still an attraction to many.
Handling matches performance with the upgraded suspension soaking up the worst of UK roads and keeping the car stable when cornering at speed. There is also excellent feedback to driver from speed sensitive steering, which gets heavier as speed for added stability.
As a premium vehicle, it’s not cheap, but you do get what you pay for and Audis always retain good residuals.
Audi A3 Saloon 35 TDi S-Line S-tronic
Mechanical: 150PS 1,968cc, 4cyl turbo diesel engine driving front wheels via 7-speed automatic gearbox
Max speed: 144mph
0-62mph: 8.4 seconds
Combined mpg: 58.9
Insurance group: 21
CO2 emissions: 125g/km
Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles