Audi A3 Sedan 2014 Review

words - Marton Pettendy
First A3 four-door combines big-Audi tech, refinement and safety in a small, stylish, affordable luxury sedan

Audi A3 1.4 TFSI, 1.8 TFSI and 2.0 TDI sedan

Launch Review
Bowral, NSW

True to form, Audi’s first A3 sedan arrives Down Under packing all of the German luxury giant’s know-how into a classy little notchback that’s so roomy, so refined, so efficient and so satisfying to drive that it could easily be mistaken for one of Audi’s larger and more expensive traditional premium sedans. Built in Hungary alongside the A3 Sportback on the same MQB platform that underpins the Volkswagen Golf, the front- and all-wheel drive A3 sedan rides on a similar wheelbase but is longer, wider and offers more rear head room and, of course, a larger, separate luggage compartment. It might be $2300 pricier than the equivalent A3 hatch, but with a starting sticker of less than $40,000 it’s at least $10K more affordable than its nearest rival from Mercedes-Benz.

Very rarely, an all-new car comes along that ticks all the boxes and leaves all but the most nit-picking of automotive journalists struggling to find fault. We’d like it even more if it cost the same as its A3 Sportback sister model, but Audi’s first A3 sedan is just such a car.

We were impressed when we drove the four-door A3 late last year in Hungary, where it’s built alongside the A3 hatch, and now that we’ve sampled all four Australian-spec models on local roads it’s clear Audi has another winner in its showrooms.

Take Volkswagen’s highly accomplished Mk7 Golf, fit all of Audi’s latest driver safety and convenience technologies, dress it in a longer, more stylish and practical sedan bodyshell that’s as big as an A4 sedan of two generations ago and then apply the German luxury brand’s trademark interior design and build quality, and you get the drift of the A3 sedan.

Our first drive on home turf was in the entry-level 1.4 TFSI, which proves you don’t need to spend more than $40,000 to own one of the finest small sedans ever produced.

Fitted with the same cylinder shut-down technology as the $2300-cheaper A3 Sportback 1.4 TFSI COD, the base A3 sedan is ultra-refined at all times, offering no hint when it drops into twin-cylinder mode and combining 250Nm of torque from as little as 1500prm with a slick-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch auto to deliver silky-smooth, effortless acceleration whenever it’s asked.

Sure, the bigger 1.8 TFSI offers a little more power and torque at even fewer revs and hits 100km/h more than 1.5 seconds sooner in 6.6 seconds but, like the super-efficient 2.0 TDI diesel, costs $5000 more.

And yes, the flagship 1.8 TFSI quattro, which like the TDI runs a six-speed semi-auto, adds the mostly perceived confidence of all-wheel drive and still undercuts $48,000, but is hard to justify spending an extra $8000 on.

We averaged just 5.8L/100km in the diesel, 6.0L/100km in the 1.4 TFSI and 7.9L/100km in the 1.8 quattro. Given the 1.4 TFSI is also lineball with the 2,0 TDI in terms of 0-100km/h acceleration (8.4 seconds), the cheapest A3 sedan the pick of the litter on a purchase price and running costs versus performance and refinement basis.

Regardless of engine choice, the A3 sedan offers impeccable ride quality on all road surfaces and wheel sizes, including the TDI we drove with optional 18-inch alloys and 15mm-lower sports suspension, which made body control and steering response even sharper.

Just as noteworthy is the interior fit-out of all models, with soft surfaces extending beyond the touch points and a simple but stylish dashboard layout and generously sized front bucket seats with plenty of adjustment making for a highly ergonomic interior.

Rear-seat accommodation is also a highlight, with plenty of rear leg and head room in all three positions plus rear ventilation outlets, while the long but shallow 425-litre boot is fully lined, features concealed gooseneck hinges and can be extended via a 60/40-split folding rear seatback to swallow up to 880 litres.

Even the partial-leather trim of the standard seats in the base-model 1.4 TFSI we drove looked and felt classy, although the colour driver information display in Ambition grades and the larger (7.0- versus 5.8-inch) pop-up colour monitor in the Technik option pack are marked steps upmarket.

We think metallic paint at $1150 is a bit rude, but even when all options packages are combined in a fully loaded 1.4 TFSI, the cheapest A3 sedan remains more affordable – as well as quicker and more efficient – than the base Mercedes-Benz CLA 200 ($49,900).

Our advice is to take the most affordable A3 1.4 TFSI, option it with the $2000 Style package (xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, the choice of four 18-inch alloy wheels and 15mm-lower sports suspension), the $2990 Technik package (MMI navigation with touch pad and 7.0-inch screen, reversing camera and 10-speaker 180-Watt sound system) and the $1800 Assistance package, which combines big-car tech like adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency city braking, lane departure warning and high beam assist, and drive it away for less than $50,000.

Never has a fully loaded German luxury sedan been more attainable.

2014 A3 1.4 TFSI COD Attraction sedan price and spec:
Price: $39,800 (plus on-road costs)
Engine: 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol
Output: 103kW/250Nm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
Fuel: 4.7L/100km (combined)
CO2: 109g/km (combined)
Safety Rating: Five-star ANCAP

What we liked:Not so much:
>> Design and build quality
>> $1150 for metallic paint
>> Performance and efficiency
>> Price premium over A3 hatch
>> Refinement and practicality
>> That's it!

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Published : Friday, 24 January 2014
In most cases, attends new vehicle launches at the invitation and expense of vehicle manufacturers and/or distributors.

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