Audi A3 Sportback 2.0 TDI

10 Jan, 2013 2:45pm Luke Madden

Higher-powered new diesel engine gives the five-door Audi A3 Sportback an injection of fun


This powerful 2.0 TDI engine gives the Sportback hot hatch performance with rock-bottom running costs. Add the car’s practical, luxurious cabin, and you have almost everything you could ask for – but there are a couple of minor ingredients missing here. The ride still errs on the firm side and the handling may be a little too lifeless for some people.

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.

Disqus - noscript

This is a very nice car, but the Golf is even nicer.

In isolation and compared with similarly priced and specced offerings from Ford and Vauxhall, Audi A3 Sportback 2L diesel impresses as both fast and frugal.

But unfortunately its price tag puts it squarely in the line of one rival that beats it in almost every area including brand appeal. Namely BMW 120D SE.

The beemer does the 0-62mph sprint in 7.2 seconds, falls in the same VED Band C, is similarly equipped, is rear-wheel drive and thus in terms of handling would run circles around this latest effort from Audi.

The beemer may have good stats but it is damn ugly.

+1 to that

Not only is the 1 series grotesque, in fact let's not hold back... it's absolutely hideous, and I'm certain many people would completely disagree with what you have said. It's the A3 that beats the 1 series "in almost every area". I suspect the A3 would beat the 1 series in a sprint - but you know what, who cares? These are hardly sports cars - they're small diesel family cars - and does anyone give two hoots about a manufacturer's claim of a 0.2 sec advantage to 62. With regard to image, unfortunately many people believe that most BMWs are driven by (insert derogatory word here) - not really a good brand appeal - in fact it's extremely off putting, and the reason many people avoid BMWs.

Well put PetrolHead and oh so true.

From your outburst I gather that you don't like the BMW. I agree that the baby Beemer has distinctive looks. That helps it stand out from the crowd of compact cars. Take out A3's California-size grille and what you're left with could be a Golf or a Kia Ceed. You can't say the same about the 1-Series.

I totally disagree with the second part of your comment where you call these cars "small diesel". Packing 181 horses this is in fact the most powerful engine Audi offers in A3. To help you put things in perspective: VW offers the same diesel unit in 110bhp in Tiguan which is almost half a ton heavier than A3.

Besides Audi is nothing more then expensive skoda, seat, vw. We get premium price for nicer look inside but in details those are the same cars. On every part you have logos whole VAG cars. I dont like it. BMW is still unique. I agree its smaller, meterials inside are not so good but it is car made for driver and for those who like driving.

Well, I'll agree with you one one thing - Audi's awful gawping grill (across the entire Audi range)... that too, like the 1 series, is simply horrendous.

The Golf & the A3 are now priced the same, there's no difference, in spec or price when choosing the same engine - check out the dealer configuration sites and you'll see. In fact the Golf can be slightly more expensive than the A3 with the same engine. I'm not into all this "premium snobbery", but the Golf is a "Premium car" if your comparing like with like. The Golf competes with, as it's just as good, if not better, than the Audi, and miles ahead of BMW & Merc.

Spot on. I drive a 2012 A3 Sportback 2.0 TDI which at the time on the company car scheme was cheaper than the Golf with the same engine (Even with leather seats and Bose stereo) due to the Audi having start/stop tech resulting inlower emissions. The Sportback gives me more boot space than the Golf and for me it's a more refined motorway cruiser for my job.

Key specs

  • Price: £24,000 (est)
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbodiesel
  • Power: 181bhp
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph/Top speed: 7.4 secs/144mph
  • Economy/CO2: 64.1mpg/114g/km
  • Equipment: Air-con, infotainment screen, electric windows
  • On sale: May