Audi A3 2.0 TDI Sport

The new Audi A3 2.0 TDI is expected to be the best seller of the new range - we've driven it

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The Audi A3 is superbly made, drives well and has made serious ground in terms of weight reduction that benefits owners with fuel and running cost savings. Alongside the Mercedes A-Class and Volvo V40, its understated looks may seem a little bland, and while it’s no firecracker to drive, there’s no denying its refinement, quality and sophistication against its rivals.

The most popular engine of the new Audi A3 range will be the 2.0-litre TDi, Audi says, with the new 148bhp 2.0-litre TDI taking on the BMW 118d and Mercedes A200 CDI. Although it has the same 1,968cc capacity as the motor it replaces, the A3’s most powerful diesel is an entirely new engine. On top of 10 more horsepower, there’s common-rail technology, stop-start and a redesigned turbocharger which all help efficiency and drivability.

Our mid-range A3 Sport sits on optional 18-inch alloy wheels (£595) instead of the standard 17s. The A3 Sport gets a different front apron and integrated fog lamps, over the entry level SE as well.

The cabin is typically class-leading, with a standard 5.8-inch electrically folding display, lower driving position, and ‘lean and low’ dash design with high-end textures. The optional leather seats are classy and supportive, with the door trims and surfaces impeccably finished, apart from perhaps the dash top, which is a tad on the hard side. Yet it’s sturdy, with great attention to detail including aluminium inlays, dual-zone climate control and modern day necessities including Bluetooth and iPhone connectivity.

What’s it like to drive, though? It’s good, but it’s not a major step up against its rivals or the old A3. On paper, the new platform sees the engine mounted lower, less weight and a longer wheelbase with less overhang – great for dynamics – but on the road, the Sport’s larger wheels and firmer springs spoil it all – it’s simply too firm.

On the motorway, you can feel even the slightest surface change, making it jiggly and making you grip the wheel in case it’s shocked by a bump. It will fall into ruts and potholes, and even in the Drive Select’s softest ‘Comfort’ mode, it’s not what you’d expect of a premium hatch. We reckon the 17s and regular-spec springs would make it a more comfortable drive, especially over longer distances.

On the plus side, the wider tyres provide loads of grip, and combined with the diesel’s substantial 320Nm of torque, makes the A3 a quick point-to-point car. When you’re pushing the new 2.0-litre, the traditional diesel note from idle quickly fades, and it’s smooth, progressive in its power delivery with great refinement at 70mph The six-speed manual’s gearshift is quite light, but it’s easy to make slick changes, and while the steering’s also on the light side, it has better feel than before and combined with the firm brake pedal, makes windy roads great fun.

Since we last drove it, The A3’s earned a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, too, while the 2.0 TDI’s 68.9mpg improves on the old car’s 64mpg and betters BMW and Mercedes rivals, as does its 106g/km of CO2.

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