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Car group tests

Audi A3 Sportback vs Volvo V40 vs Volkswagen Golf

Audi has facelifted its classy A3, and we test the five-door Sportback against the fresh Volvo V40 and capable VW Golf in a posh hatch fight

The current Audi A3 marked a new era for the VW Group at launch in 2012. It was the first car to use the new MQB chassis, while Audi injected it with a premium feel and sporty drive that have become familiar from the brand.

Now the A3 has been given a mid-life facelift with an enhanced look, new kit and more efficient engines. However, it isn’t the only updated premium hatch to be launched this year, as there’s a revised V40 on the block as well. As with the A3 it was originally introduced in 2012, and it maintained Volvo’s reputation for building safe and stylish models. Its range of efficient diesels meant it was popular with fleets, too.

The update gives it a sharper nose inspired by that of the XC90 SUV, while the engine line-up promises to deliver even greater efficiency without sacrificing performance. To see how these two newcomers fare, we’re testing them against a fresh version of the evergreen Volkswagen Golf. The R-Line Edition offers the sporty looks of the GTI and R models, but comes with a range of more sensible engines.

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Audi A3 2016 facelift review

We’re rating 2.0-litre diesel versions of all three cars here, so performance is similar, which means our newcomers will need to impress in other ways if they’re going to come out on top.

Safety

The V40 and Golf have standard-fit autonomous city braking, but the radar-based system is a £475 upgrade on the A3. This also incorporates adaptive cruise control, which is standard on the Golf, yet you have to spend £1,900 on Intellisafe Pro to add it to the V40. The pack also brings lane and blind-spot detection, auto main beam and traffic sign recognition.

Emissions

With its best-on-test 99g/km CO2 emissions, the V40 is the cheapest company car choice. Even if you swap our cars manual box for an auto, the Volvo undercuts both manual rivals here, while adding Quattro 4WD sees the A3’s emissions jump from 109g/km to 126g/km. 

Options

Front and rear parking sensors are standard on the VW, but rear sensors are a £425 option only on the Audi and £325 on the Volvo. The VW also has panoramic glass in R-Line Edition trim, while adding it to the A3 sets you back £1,075. On the Volvo, it’s £1,000. 

Verdict

1st place: Audi A3 Sportback

It’s a subtle update of a proven formula, but the new A3 Sportback does enough to come out on top in this test. It has a premium feel that its rivals can’t quite match, while S-line trim now delivers a great mix of sporty handling and comfort that its predecessor struggled with. If you’re buying on finance, the extra monthly outlay over the Volvo is well worth investing in. 

2nd place: Volvo V40

Low emissions place the V40 ahead of the VW here, but the update doesn’t quite go far enough for it to overcome the Audi. From behind the wheel little indicates you’re in the new car, while R-Design trim delivers a firm ride that isn’t backed up by a sporty drive. The Volvo is still a great alternative choice, especially for business users, but it does feel a little old in this company.

3rd place: Volkswagen Golf

Third place seems a bit harsh on the Golf, as in a lot of respects it’s still a great family car that delivers an upmarket experience. However, in R-Line trim it doesn’t make as much sense as its rivals here; it doesn’t quite have the same sporty appeal. There are some key bits of kit missing, too, while the lower-spec GT model is nearly as well equipped and £1,000 less. 

Also consider…

BMW 118d M Sport

BMW 118d M Sport front cornering
Price: £26,240
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Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 150bhp

The class’s handling benchmark is still the rear-drive 1 Series, and the 118d M Sport has just enough power to make the most of its chassis. If your budget is tight, the three-cylinder 116d isn’t far behind and running costs are lower for £1,145 less.

Lexus CT 200h F Sport

Lexus CT 200h action
Price: £26,995
Engine: 1.8-litre hybrid 134bhp

Petrol hybrid power is the way to go for the lowest company car costs, but while the Lexus is a fleet leader, there’s little fun to be had, even in the racy F Sport. Still, it emits just 94g/km of CO2, and official 68.9mph economy is in the ballpark of this trio.

Figures

 Audi A3 Sportback 2.0 TDI S lineVolvo V40 D3 R-DesignVolkswagen Golf 2.0 TDI R-Line Edition
On the road price/total as tested£27,285/£37,150£25,345/£26,845£26,370/£28,225
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000)£11,896/43.6%£11,355/44.8%£11,787/44.7%
Depreciation£15,389£13,990£14,583
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£1,144/£2,287£961/£1,922£1,158/£2,316
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,176/£1,959£1,141/£1,901£1,322/£2,204
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost25/£782/B/£2022/£646/A/£017/£564/C/£30
Servicing costs£900 (3yrs/30,000)£823 (3yrs/54,000)£288 (2yrs)
    
Length/wheelbase4,313/2,637mm4,369/2,647mm4,255/2,637mm
Height/width1,426/1,785mm1,439/1,857mm1,452/1,799mm
Engine4cyl in-line/1,968cc4cyl in-line/1,969cc4cyl in-line/1,968cc
Peak power/revs148/3,500 bhp/rpm150/3,750 bhp/rpm148/3,500 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs340/1,750 Nm/rpm320/1,750 Nm/rpm340/1,750 Nm/rpm
Transmission6-spd man/fwd6-spd man/fwd6-spd man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel50 litres/space-saver62 litres/£15050 litres/space-saver
Boot capacity (seats up/down)380/1,220 litres335/1,032 litres380/1,270 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,305/560/1,800kg1,561/419/1,500kg1,354/581/1,600kg
Turning circle10.7 metres10.8 metres10.9 metres
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/3yrs3yrs (60,000)/3yrs3yrs (60,000)/1yr
Service intervals/UK dealersVariable/11818,000 (1yr)/114Variable/223
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.21st/25th*13th/22nd*24th/30th*
Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./stars95/87/74/5 (2012)98/75/88/5 (2012)94/89/65/5 (2012)
    
0-60/30-70mph8.7/8.2 secs9.0/8.7 secs8.8 (wet)/7.9 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th3.6/6.3 secs3.5/5.4 secs3.7/6.3 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th8.1/12.1 secs8.0/11.3 secs8.5/10.4 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph135mph/1,800rpm130mph/1,900rpm131mph/1,800rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph49.6/30.6/9.9m45.1/31.5/9.5m48.8/31.0/11.2m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph68/47/60/68dB69/49/61/67dB65/47/59/65dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range52.3/11.5/575 miles53.9/11.9/735 miles46.5/10.2/511 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined55.4/74.3/65.7mpg64.2/80.7/74.3mpg54.3/74.3/65.7mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined12.2/16.3/14.5mpl14.1/17.8/16.3mpl11.9/16.3/14.5mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket145/109g/km/21%140/99g/km/19%163/112g/km/22%
    
Airbags/Isofix/parking assist/cameraSeven/yes/£875/£375Seven/yes/£850/£375Seven/yes/£475/£265
Automatic box/AEB^/adaptive cruise£1,550/£475/£475£1,485/yes/£1,900£1,415/yes/yes
Climate control/leather/heated seatsYes/£1,220/£300Yes/£600/£575£415/£1,900/£400
Metallic paint/headlights/keyless go£550/LED/£400£550/LED/£550£560/halogen/£365
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/BluetoothYes/yes/yes/yes£850/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yes
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