The new notchback variant of Audi's A3 is handsome, neatly packaged and high in quality
Moved Up A Notch PHOTO: TORQUE

Singaporeans generally prefer saloons to hatchbacks. The Volkswagen Jetta, for instance, is far more popular here than its five-door equivalent, the Golf. Simply put, a car with a "backside" is easier to sell in Singapore than a car without one.

In the case of the A3 Sedan, Audi expects every other A3 customer to choose it over the Sportback. The buyers will be getting not only "more" A3 for the money, but also a more capable vehicle as a whole.

At first glance, the saloon appears to be a straightforward derivative of the Sportback, but its exterior styling is actually more sophisticated than that. Not a single metal panel on the Sedan is shared with the other two A3 bodystyles (three and five-door hatch), and only the headlights, grille, mirrors and door handles have been carried over to the Sedan.

The designers' attention to detail extends to the boot lid, which terminates stylishly with a pronounced contour that acts as an integral spoiler. An S line bodykit and a set of 19-inch alloy wheels can be specified at extra cost to make the car look even sportier.

Compared to the A4 saloon, the A3 Sedan is about 25cm shorter from
bumper to bumper and 1cm lower, with a wheelbase that's 17cm less generous. In other words, the four-door A3 is noticeably smaller than the A4, but the shape, stance and (Hungarian) production standards of the newer notchback are, well, top-notch.

The inside is a delight, too, just like in the A3 hatchback. Seated behind the wheel, you survey a dashboard with idiot-proof controls and bomb-proof construction. The "jet turbine" air-con vents are virtually
automotive art pieces, while the matte brushed-aluminium inlays look and feel pretty artistic, too. Pure Audi quality oozes from every switch, every surface and every leather stitch, but the driver’s sunvisor in our early-production test car quivered when on the move.

Gadgets on board include a premium infotainment system (a full-blown Bang & Olufsen if you wish), state-of-the-art satellite navigation (with Google Earth imagery and real-world Street View), Internet connection (at blazing fast 4G broadband speeds where available), a classy 7-inch colour monitor, and a user-friendly "touchwheel" controller to operate
the various features.

In Germany, the A3 can also locate a nearby parking space and guide its driver there with the sat-nav. It even informs him how much it'll cost, and if equipped with Audi park assist, arranges its own "valet parking" at the location.

The A3 Sedan offers the same array of clever driving aids (either standard or optional) that keep the occupants in the A3 hatchback safe on the road. These aids include adaptive cruise control (with a 0-200km/h operating envelope), side assist (a blind-spot "spotter"), active lane
assist (for "digital" lane discipline), traffic sign recognition and City Emergency Braking (to avoid or mitigate sub-30km/h fender-benders). If an accident still happens despite all these preventive measures, multiple airbags will protect the occupants in the A3.

They'll be seated comfortably, although the back seat is far more comfortable for two adults than three. The Sedan's wheelbase is merely 1mm longer than that of the Sportback, yet there seems to be a lot more legroom in the rear. Headroom is decent, too, despite the 9mm "drop" in
vehicle height versus the A3 hatch.

This notchback provides 425 litres of boot space, a useful 45 litres more than in the Sportback, but the latter is a more versatile cargo carrier able to expand its luggage capacity to 1,220 litres by folding down the rear bench, which would liberate 880 litres in the saloon. That notch-boot
might be a utility area, but the design of its lid hinges and the velour of its carpeting are luxury-grade.

The ride in the A3 Sedan is luxurious, too – surprisingly closer to the A4 than the A3 Sportback in quietness and suppleness. Even on optional 19-inch wheels shod with low-profile 235/35 tyres, the suspension stays pliant. The well-controlled chassis sticks strongly to the tarmac, especially with quattro four-wheel-drive and sport suspension, both of which equip the 180bhp 1.8-litre model that we tried.

The easy-revving engine pulls well from just above 1000rpm and continues pulling with gusto until about 6000rpm. Its 6-speed, dual-clutch S tronic transmission swops gears smoothly and quickly, with paddle-shifters giving the keen driver another way to play.

Audi's handsome A3 Sedan will arrive in Singapore at the end of this year.

SPH Magazines


This article first appeared in the August 2013 issue of Torque.
 

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