Audi A3 Sportback review (2003-2012)
A3 TDI e is very economical and doesn’t shout about the fact
Driving The economy-boosting A3 features a 1.9-litre oil-burner that’s been assembled with low-friction components. It’s tuned to return excellent fuel consumption rather than outright performance. Yet the A3 still has a 120mph top speed and can sprint from 0-62mph in 11.4 seconds, while in-gear performance is livelier than these figures suggest. Tall gear ratios take the edge off acceleration, and you find yourself changing more frequently than normal. But the light shift eases this. What’s more, there’s a flip side of impressive cruising refinement. Precise steering and a smooth ride complete the dynamic package, but there’s nothing to get excited about – and the 1.9 TDI is noisy when cold.
Marketplace Going green is a serious business – and Audi has taken the plunge with the A3 TDI e. It emits just 119g/km of CO2 and qualifies for a road tax bill of just £35. However, despite the considerable efforts to improve the car’s economy, there’s not even a special badge to mark it out. For the record, the body has a few aerodynamic tweaks, while the tyres have a reduced rolling resistance. The TDI e offered in all A3 trims – standard, SE, Sport and S-line, in both three-door and five-door Sportback guise. Such ‘green’ variants are becoming big business in the family and premium hatchback sector – the BMW 118d is even more spectacularly efficient, while there are also eco editions of the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and even the Kia cee’d on the horizon.
Owning The cabin is regular A3 fare, which means a smart design and solid build quality. However, the five-speed manual gearbox has specially selected extra-long ratios, and there’s a digital display between the dials that tells you which gear to choose to optimise efficiency. And it’s economy that is the big story with this Audi. From a conventional diesel engine, that doesn’t even have BMW-style stop-start technology, the Audi returns a genuinely appealing 62.8mpg. This bodes well for running costs too. And while the Audi isn’t cheap, strong retained values should help further control expenditure.