RAC

Audi A3 Sportback Range

Introduction

Audi's A3 Sportback offers premium style for premium-minded families. June Neary reports'

Will It Suit Me?

Family motoring doesn't have to be dull. Nor does it have to lack style. True, if you've a brood to rival that of the old lady who lived in a shoe, then something large and tank-like will be the order of the day but if like most families, you've the usual 2.2 kids, then there's no reason to be sucked into MPV-dom. Instead, something like Audi's A3 Sportback should work perfectly. Will it suit? Well, since this is an extended five-door version of Audi's smallest car, the A3, you know it's not going to be huge. Still, exactly how much space do you need? And how much style are you prepared to compromise to get it?

Practicalities

Although it lacks the nuggety compactness of the three-door car, the five-door Sportback isn't a bad looker at all, certainly a good deal easier on the eye than the rather 'challenging' BMW 1 Series. An 83mm increase in body length and extra wide opening rear doors adds up to easy accessibility and far better rear knee and head room than its three-door counterpart. Space up front is equally good, the transverse engine and front-wheel drive transmission minimising intrusion into the passenger cell. The interior has also come in for some treatment with the revised model I'm looking at here, which was needed if this Audi was to retain its perceived quality advantage over much improved versions of more mundane rivals. So it is that this A3 ups the ante with more aluminium design elements, revised switchgear, a better quality instrument cluster and a rethink for the upholstery choices. Quattro four wheel drive is of course offered on certain variants. The luggage compartment of the three-door car features 350 litres of fresh air with rear seats in place and then 1080 litres with them folded. As you'd expect, the five-door Sportback improves on this a little, its respective figures being 370 and 1220 litres.

Behind the Wheel

So to engines. Petrol buyers get a 102bhp 1.6 at the foot of the range, but most opt for one of the turbocharged TFSI engines: either the 125bhp 1.4, the 160bhp 1.8 or the 200bhp 2.0-litre unit. These are powerplants which sit below the 256bhp V6 3.2-litre FSI variant, though there's even more power on offer if you want it with the 263bhp 2.0TFSI S3 model. The 3.2-litre and S3 models are fitted with quattro all-wheel drive transmission as standard, something that is also offered as an option on the 2.0T FSI and the 2.0-litre 170 variants. The 2.0-litre 140bhp diesel I tried offers the sort of performance you'd expect from Audi. It hits 60mph in 9.2 seconds and tops 130mph, which makes it only marginally slower than the 2.0-litre FSI. With 60% more torque, however, there's no doubt which of the two cars will feel the stronger when accelerating down a motorway on-ramp. Its pull matches the 3.2-litre V6 model, a car which makes 60mph in 6.7 seconds and tops out at 153mph. Standard safety equipment includes window airbags, electronic stability control, ABS, brake assist, a part-electric power steering system and anti-whiplash head restraints. The cabin has been restyled to offer a little more design flair, Audi realising that high quality alone isn't enough to lure buyers into showrooms. There has to be some style on display too. The fascia struts ape the interior design of the TT, as do the round air vents and chrome-rimmed dials. It's still not what you'd call revolutionary, but it's beautifully executed.

Value For Money

If the A3 Sportback was a premium lager, it would doubtless be referred to as reassuringly expensive. Prices are a good deal more than you can expect to pay for something like a more mainstream Ford or Vauxhall but many will consider it a fair price given the overall aura of quality. The entry-level 1.6-litre model starts at under £16,000.

Could I Live With One?

My family loved it - and the space issue (with two kids and their kit anyway) wasn't, well, an issue. Everything is beautifully crafted and this is the kind of car that when you wake up in the morning, you look at out on your driveway and feel good about. The Audi A3 Sportback is a car that generates few complaints. It's not too showy - even in yellow - and offers solid engineering and a huge feel good factor. Perhaps the only area where it's possible to grouse is over the pricing, especially when you consider that it's based around more humble Volkswagen Golf running gear. If you can swallow the chunky up front asking price, you'll be rewarded with a car that does everything very well in a quiet, unruffled manner. I for one was sorry to see it go.

When we first tried Audi's A3, we thought it a great small car with all the concentrated goodness of a much larger one. But what if you could have a larger version of this successful recipe without getting, well, larger? Such is the thinking behind Audi's A3 Sportback. All right, so in essence, this car is little more than a 5-door version of the 3-door A3. But Audi would like you to see it as more than that. They've tried hard to style it differently (from the middle of the car backwards anyway) and the marketing hype positions the car much more towards the 'lifestyle' end of the premium compact market in which all A3s must compete. To be fair, even if you don't buy into all that stuff, the fact that an A3 Sportback is just, model for model, around £500 more than an equivalent 3-door A3 does make it a tempting proposition. So to engines. Petrol buyers get a 102bhp 1.6 at the foot of the range, but most opt for one of the turbocharged TFSI engines: either the 125bhp 1.4, the 160bhp 1.8 or the 200bhp 2.0-litre unit. These are powerplants which sit below the 263bhp 2.0TFSI S3 model. The S3 models are fitted with quattro all-wheel drive transmission as standard, something that is also offered as an option on the 2.0T FSI and the 2.0-litre TDI 170 variants.

When we first tried Audi's A3, we thought it a great small car with all the concentrated goodness of a much larger one. But what if you could have a larger version of this successful recipe without getting, well, larger? Such is the thinking behind Audi's A3 Sportback. All right, so in essence, this car is little more than a 5-door version of the 3-door A3. But Audi would like you to see it as more than that. They've tried hard to style it differently (from the middle of the car backwards anyway) and the marketing hype positions the car much more towards the 'lifestyle' end of the premium compact market in which all A3s must compete. To be fair, even if you don't buy into all that stuff, the fact that an A3 Sportback is just, model for model, around £500 more than an equivalent 3-door A3 does make it a tempting proposition. Standard safety equipment includes window airbags, electronic stability control, ABS, brake assist, a part-electric power steering system and anti-whiplash head restraints. The cabin has been restyled to offer a little more design flair, Audi realising that high quality alone isn't enough to lure buyers into showrooms. There has to be some style on display too. The fascia struts ape the interior design of the TT, as do the round air vents and chrome-rimmed dials. It's still not what you'd call revolutionary, but it's beautifully executed. The A3 Sportback range is available in standard, SE and Sport trims with the S-line upgrade pack to consider. An optional Open Sky twin sunroof system is also available for order. The A3 Sportback is a good example of the kind of product development which has seen Audi sales sky-rocket in this country. If you're buying an A3, you can't ignore it. And the same is probably true if you're buying virtually any other rival in this sector. So to engines. Petrol buyers get a 102bhp 1.6 at the foot of the range, but most opt for one of the turbocharged TFSI engines: either the 125bhp 1.4, the 160bhp 1.8 or the 200bhp 2.0-litre unit. These are powerplants which sit below the 263bhp 2.0TFSI S3 model. The S3 models are fitted with quattro all-wheel drive transmission as standard, something that is also offered as an option on the 2.0T FSI and the 2.0-litre TDI 170 variants. The latest changes to the A3 haven't revolutionised the way it drives. That was always pretty impressive, with even the humblest models riding on multi-link rear suspension. Instead the engineers have concentrated on improving the quality of the driving experience using some high-tech features that have filtered down from loftier points in the Audi range. Audi magnetic ride is one of them. Adaptive action shock absorbers filled with a magneto rheological fluid allow the driver to choose between a comfort-oriented normal mode and a tauter sport mode at the touch of a button. An option on more powerful models, it's the way all cars will soon ride.

Scores
Performance 6
Handling 6
Comfort 8
Space 8
Styling 9
Build 9
Value 6
Equipment 6
Economy 6
Depreciation 9
Insurance 6
Total 79

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