Audi A3 Sportback review
The five-door Audi A3 Sportback is as luxurious and grown-up as the three-door but offers a whole lot more space
The previous-generation Audi A3 Sportback was just an A3 but with an extra set of doors and some more headroom for rear passengers. For this latest-generation model, though, Audi has actually stretched the wheelbase of its BMW 1 Series rival by 35mm compared with the three-door. This means that passengers in the back are treated to genuinely impressive legroom and the boot gets a bit of a boost, too. It may not look as stylish as the three-door model and it costs £620 more, but with its luxurious cabin, grown-up handling and new-found practicality, the Sportback is one of the best all-rounders Audi builds.
Our choice: A3 Sportback 1.6 TDI Sport
The A3 Sportback is more than just a three-door version of the A3. It gets a roof spoiler, a longer wheelbase and a higher roofline in an effort to boost practicality. As a result it now rivals the VW Golf for space and practicality and is far roomier than a BMW 1 Series. However, teh Sportback doesn’t look as sleek as the three-door and that extra 35mm in the wheelbase shows, too. Getting Sport or S line suspension adds to the sporty look by lowering the suspension by up to 25mm. The interior is best-in-class, with a stylish, understated design, plus fantastic attention to detail and excellent build quality. All versions get ait-conditioning, Bluetooth phone connection and a leather steering wheel.
The A3 is available with a wide range of engines, from a turbocharged 104bhp 1.2-litre petrol engine to a 181bhp 2.0-litre TDI. Arguably the pick of the bunch is a 138bhp 1.4-litre turbo with cylinder deactivation, which in certain conditions shuts down two of its four cylinders to save fuel a slash CO2 emissions. All the diesels are refined, while the 181bhp 2.0-litre TDI feels blisteringly fast. The A3 Sportback has loads of grip and thanks to a lightweight construction, it feels agile, too. On standard suspension it also rides nicely over rough and bumpy roads, doing a far better job than the three-door car. We'd recommend steering clear of the S-Line suspension, though, as it provides a rock hard ride and does little to improve the A3's handling.
Audi finished a respectable fifteenth in our 2012 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, so while the chassis and engines used in the Sportback are relatively new, buyers shouldn’t be worried about reliability. The A3 Sportback hasn’t been crash tested by Euro NCAP but the standard A3 scored a full five-star rating. There’s a range of safety systems to help prevent accidents, too, including a lane departure warning system and a ‘Pre Sense’ program that will tension the seat belts and close the windows if the car skids.
The Sportback’s larger exterior dimensions free up some extra legroom for rear passengers, while the additional set of doors makes fitting a baby seat a whole lot easier. You can easily get four six-footers in the cabin and you could squeeze another in the middle of the rear bench, too. Boot space is up from 350 litres in the standard A3 to 380 litres in the Sportback, and you can fold the rear seats down to create a 1220-litre load area. Those figures are better than a five-door BMW 1 Series, Mercedes A-Class and Volvo V40, and similar to a VW Golf. The interior also benefits from plenty of useful storage, including a large glovebox and deep door bins.
Audi has made a real effort to bring down fuel economy and CO2 emissions for the Sportback, and it really shows. A 1.6-litre TDI is currently the most efficient, with fuel economy of 74.3mpg and 99g/km of CO2. The 2.0-litre TDI engine provides the best mix of outright speed and fuel efficiency, with a 0-62mph time of 8.7 seconds and 67.3mpg. Even the 1.4 TFSI petrol with cylinder-on-demand tech is frugal, as it’s able to run on just two cylinders under light throttle loads. Better still, the Sportback benefits from strong residuals, meaning you'll get more of your cash back when it's time to sell. It's not all good news, though, because unlike VW and BMW, Audi doesn't offer any form of pre-paid servcing package.