Ten Point Test

Auto Trader Ten Point Test rating: 76%

Grown-up driving with sporty appeal is the big selling point for Audi’s A3 Sportback. But owning the original premium hatch comes at a price.

And very often that’s not simply a case of the model you choose but the extras you specify.

We drove one for a week to find out whether it was worth it.

1. Looks 8/10

The A3 looks every inch a premium hatchback and the five door Sportback model we drove even more so. In an age of crossover vehicles this model A3 looks more than the sum of its hatchback parts, with a distinctly coupe like styling to the rear windows. But it is done in a very grown-up way. Longer, lower and wider that its predecessor and boasting its own rear-light cluster and discreet spoiler point to performance, but as with the rest of the car there is an understated elegance at work.

2. Looks inside 9/10

A darkened interior roof makes the car appear less roomy than it is. But rear-seat passengers were happy to confirm there is plenty of space in the car. Everything has a quality, slightly minimalist look, with controls which are both easy to find and simple to use. The quality of materials used adds to the premium feel. Still unusual enough to be a novelty are the paddle shift controls on the steering wheel, which should have your passengers pointing.

3. Practicality 8/10

The Sportback model has the same wheel base as the regular Audi A3, which is longer, wider and lower than the previous generation model. And of course its got those two extra doors to make access to the rear seats easier. However, despite this being the sporty version, it is still a practical hatchback. The boot can swallow 370 litres of luggage and shopping with the rear seats in place or 1120 litres when they are folded. Its capable of seating five adults and stylish storage solutions mean there’s somewhere for drinks and travel sweets.

4. Ride and Handling 8/10

The steering adapts to the car’s speed with response varying for low-speed manoeuvring and higher speed changes in direction. We found it responsive and fun to drive. As for the ride, our first impression was that the sports suspension had left it a little too rough. However, that view changed through the course of a week’s loan, by the end of which we had got used to the car’s individual character and were more than happy

5. Performance 8/10

A3 buyers have a choice of nine engines, covering both diesel and petrol, ranging from the 1.6-litre FSI turbo model to the 3.2-litre V6 which powers the Quattro model. The 140bhp 2-litre TDI S tronic A3 Sportback achieves 0-62mph in 9.2 seconds and has a top speed of 129mph. It also has an impressive 236Ib/ft of pulling power to call on. The model we drove featured the semi-automatic S tronic transmission. Designed to combine the advantages of a conventional six-speed manual gearbox and a modern automatic transmission while keeping an eye on the fuel economy the gearbox anticipates changes up and down with the appropriate gear ready to take the strain. Smooth.

View our Audi A3 Sportback slide show

6. Running Costs 7/10

Average fuel consumption of 48.7mpg (57.6mpg for economical driving). C02 emissions of 154 g/km place it in tax band D which currently incurs an annual bill of £140. Audi’s prestige helps ensure strong resale prices. Insurance for our model was a reasonable 11E, the whole range stretches from 9E to 18E

7. Reliability 7/10

Audi has a good reputation for reliability. In the 11 years since its launch the A3 has proved a reliable car with electrical problems the main source of worries after an average four-and-a-half years into the vehicle’s life. This generation model only dates back three years but we found the car very robust during our week’s ownership

8. Safety 7/10

The A3’s electronic stabilisation program is the umbrella for a host of driver aids including anti-lock brakes and electronic brake force distribution. Driver, front passenger and front side airbags are fitted as standard. The A3 scored a four star rating following EuroNCAP crash test

9. Equipment 6/10

The A3 range consists of A3, A3 Sportback and S3 Quattro models. There are variations in specification (standard, SE, Sport and S Line) between these three. Standard features on the A3 Sportback model we drove include CD/radio, electric front and rear windows, electric heated door mirrors and central locking. The SE model adds cruise control, 17” alloy wheels, light and rain sensor pack, interior light pack and storage pack. The Sport models also has front sports seats, front fog lamps and sports suspension. The S Line model we drove adds a black roof-lining, rear roof spoiler, exclusive front and rear styling and gearshift paddles (a manual version is also available). The S3 Quattro specification includes 18” alloys, four-wheel drive, six speed manual gearbox, chrome oval-shaped exhaust pipes and heaps of “S” sporty styling. However buyers could soon find themselves compiling a shopping list of other nice-to-haves from Audi’s huge options list which could substantially change the price. Our A3 features a huge array of extras which helped send the price just a few hundred pounds short of £30,000. Choosing the S line model cost £3,800, the DVD satellite navigation system plus was £2,175 while the Automatic S tronic transmission was £1,400. More modest extras included a BOSE stereo system for £440, heated front seats at £250 and 6 CD multi-changer for £320

10. X-Factor 8/10

It’s a grown-up fun hatch. No, that isn’t an insult. There comes a time when the desire to drive an involving hatch isn’t accompanied by a desire to drive a car which looks like it dressed for the roller disco. The A3 Sportback is fun and grown-up. Suits us.

Key facts

Model tested: Audi A3 Sportback 2.0 TDI (140PS)
On the road price: £18,915
Price range: £15,540 – £27,000
Date tested: August 2007
Road tester: Adrian Higgins