At a passing glance, Audi’s new A3 Sedan looks like any other sedan Audi makes now. But Ingolstadt’s smallest sedan right now is the latest challenger to the BMW 1-Series and the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and CLA, models that are spurring the premium compact car market onwards to greater heights of popularity. Does Audi’s new small sedan have what it takes to challenge its German compatriots? Read on and find out.
Available in two specs, the Audi A3 Sedan can be had with the modest 1.4TFSI which starts at RM179,900, or you can opt for the 1.8TFSI quattro model, which will set you back RM240,888 onwards. But don’t mistake small and cheap for being generally horrible. Regardless of which variant you choose, the A3 Sedan is undoubtedly the best car Audi currently makes outside of the R8 supercar; it simply blows the competition out of the water with its ride and handling, and feel-good factor.
Key Specs: 2014 Audi A3 Sedan 1.4TFSI
Engine: 1.4-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch, front-wheel drive
Power: 122PS @ 5,000-6,000rpm
Torque: 200Nm @ 1,400-4,000rpm
Acceleration (0-100km/h): 9.3 seconds (claimed)
Fuel consumption: 4.9L/100km (claimed combined)
Key Specs: 2014 Audi A3 Sedan 1.8TFSI quattro
Engine: 1.8-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged
Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch, four-wheel drive
Power: 180PS @ 5,100-6,200rpm
Torque: 280Nm @ 1,350-4,500rpm
Acceleration (0-100km/h): 6.7 seconds (claimed)
Fuel consumption: 6.6L/100km (claimed combined)
Exterior & Interior Looks – Simplicity at its Best
Where its obvious German rival, the Mercedes-Benz CLA, uses its sleek dramatic shape to turn heads, by comparison the A3 Sedan sports an unassuming but timeless shape. Its taut body accentuated by crisp lines from nose to tail makes it look as though it wears a tailor made suit, handsome and dignified.
When it comes to cabin appointments though, it might look as though Audi left most of the buttons back at the factory, but trawl through the MMI interface and you will find that all the features you could ask for are there. The design of the giant front air-conditioning vents is sheer genius. By using flexible plastics on the vents, users can easily adjust the air flow coming from each vent to be direct or diffused at the push or pull of the centre knob.
Even though it sits in the lower rungs of Audi’s model hierarchy, the A3 Sedan doesn’t feel cheap or built on a tight budget. There is an air of solidity and quality in the way the dashboard is put together.
Drivetrain & Performance – Something for Everybody
The A3 Sedan is available in Malaysia with either a 1.4-litre or 1.8-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. For the sake of efficiency, both variants come specified with an automated start/stop system.
A3 Sedan 1.4TFSI: With a modest power output of 122PS and 200Nm of torque, sent through to the front wheels via a seven-speed dry dual-clutch transmission, the 1.4-litre turbocharged engine is capable of delivering a 0 to 100km/h time of 9.3 seconds, and a top speed of 205km/h. Though this powertrain is good enough to warranty some spirited driving, top speed isn’t its trump card and it lacks a kick when it comes to accelerating at higher speeds. However, with a rated combined fuel consumption of 4.9L/100km, it is performance that you can certainly live with.
A3 Sedan 1.8TFSI quattro: If you want some spring in the A3’s step, the 1.8TFSI quattro is the one to go for. Despite having the engine from the basic A4 sedan, the 1.8-litre engine is good for 180PS and 280Nm of torque, while its quattro system and six-speed wet dual-clutch transmission will launch it from 0 to 100km/h in 6.7 seconds and onto a top speed of 228km/h.
Where the 1.4TFSI feels adequate in the power department, the 1.8TFSI’s has no shortage of power. And its impressive 0 to 100km/h time is proof it has the firepower to give entry-level sports cars and hot-hatches a hard time on the straights.
Ride & Handling – Ahead of its Class
When it comes to corners, the A3 wowed us with its sharp and responsive helm, and its surefootedness. You don’t need the four-wheel drive quattro to enjoy some proper cornering excitement, as it is the case with the 1.4TFSI variant. The grip from the chassis is generous, and its poise and balance through tricky corners is sublime. Add the quattro four-wheel drive system to the mix and the A3 1.8TFSI delivers gut-twisting amounts of grip, without compromising on steering alacrity or responsiveness.
Handling though is often at the behest of ride quality, and this is where the A3 impresses us the most. The suspension is supple and the damping delivers a well cushioned ride on rough roads, without making the A3 feel aloof when cornering or driving over undulating roads.
Equipment & Options – All You Could Ask For
Equipment wise, there is not much difference between the 1.4TFSI and 1.8TFSI variants. The base 1.4TFSI comes with a full complement of safety systems, seven airbags, front and rear seat ISOFIX child seat mounting points, and its ESP stability control system with traction control, electronic differential lock, ABS, EBD, and brake assist. The Audi Drive Select feature allows drivers to cycle through five different settings for the throttle and gearbox mappings, whereas occupants can enjoy tunes cranked out from the A3 Sedan’s 180W 10-speaker sound system with iPod and USB connectivity. The 1.8TFSI variant tops the spec sheets with the addition of sports seats, and keyless ignition.
For a little extra, you can specify the A3 with an optional Pearl Effect paintjob (RM3,000), Panoramic glass roof (RM5,000), Full LED headlights (RM8,000), and a Bang & Olufsen sound system (RM4,000).
With prices starting at RM179,800 the Audi A3 Sedan is by far a superior product in both package and capabilities compared to the unrefined and rather pricey Mercedes-Benz CLA200. Ringgit to Ringgit, the A3 Sedan biggest rivalcomes in the form of BMW’s 1-series range. Though only available as a hatchback, the rear-driven 1-series doesn’t quite offer the A3 Sedan’s perfect balance in ride and handling, and its rear occupant space is quite pinched, no thanks to its rear-wheel drive mechanics. The greater portion of the 1-series’ talents is allocated to its handling, and one for those who crave the rear-wheel drive balance and fun. However, when it comes to day-to-day driving, the A3 easily trumps the 1-Series in terms of practicality and comfort.
We aren’t exaggerating when we said that the A3 Sedan is probably the best thing from Audi right now that isn’t a mid-engined supercar. Don’t only take our word for it either, the A3 itself earned the title of 2014’s World Car of the Year. It might not boast the sheer luxury of the A8L or the wide berth of capabilities of a Q7, but how it manages to trump its competitors so convincingly. It isn’t just good at certain aspects, but excellent in all regards, and that makes it rather special; even in Audi’s current stable.