The Sportback is the more sensible member of the new Audi A3 family, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it – as it’s available with the same sporty diesel as the SEAT Leon FR TDI and forthcoming VW Golf GTD.
The 2.0-litre TDI engine offers 181bhp and all the performance you’d expect from a diesel hot hatch. It covers 0-62mph in 7.4 seconds, but feels a lot faster from the driver’s seat. There’s a huge hit of mid-range torque that’ll launch you past any slower-moving traffic in an instant. It feels as if it has much more than a 33bhp power advantage over the cheaper, 148bhp 2.0 TDI.
The 181bhp engine isn’t as refined, but the noisier, slightly more gruff sound suits this car. And this engine is still smoother and quieter than most of the four-cylinder diesels on the market.
Plus, despite its hot hatch intentions, the 2.0 TDI still sips fuel as a diesel should. Audi claims 61.4mpg economy and CO2 emissions of just 114g/km, so buyers won’t have to pay any road tax in the first year and only £30 annually after that.
Whether you go for the stiffer sports suspension or not, this A3 Sportback offers masses of grip and feels light on its feet through quick changes of direction. But although it has adaptive dampers and a Sport mode that weights up the steering and improves throttle response, the A3 isn’t as fun to drive as a BMW 1 Series. It’s simply not as involving.
Still, we prefer the Audi’s cabin, with its array of technology and stylish switchgear. Everything has an extremely high-quality feel, too, and there’s more space in the back seats than in the BMW, as well as a larger boot.
This version of the Sportback won’t go on sale until May, and it’s likely to cost around £24,000. That’s almost exactly the same price as the equally powerful BMW 120d – so you’ll be left with a choice between grown-up luxury and driving enjoyment.