2012 Audi A3 driven
Friday 18 May 2012
The 2012 Audi A3 hatchback might not look too different at first glance, but look deeper and it gets a lot more compelling.
We’ve just driven it at its international launch and will bring you a full Auto Trader Expert Review closer to its UK on sale date this September.
Each line of the car has been moved and sharpened, and it now looks both more sporting and modern. The cabin is a much cleaner design, with a floating ‘Wing’ dashboard spanning the front of the car, punctuated by four circular air vents.
It’s less cluttered thanks to Audi’s MMI control wheel now being standard fitment between the front seats. It allows you to interact with menus on the pop-up display screen on top of the dash, controlling the majority of the A3’s functions.
But, what about under its steel and aluminium skin? Most impressive is the way Audi’s engineers have shed around 80kg of weight from the hatchback, improving all aspects of its performance, and proving models don’t need to keep getting progressively heavier.
In fact, weighing 1,175kg in 1.4-litre TFSI SE trim, it’s now the lightest A3 since the original 1990s version, despite packing a technology and safety kit count you could only have dreamt of back then.
There are two other engines available at launch, a 1.8-litre TFSI petrol with 178bhp and a 2.0-litre TDI diesel with 148bhp. All three are smooth and quiet, with a gradual power delivery at odds with peaky turbo cars of the past.
A 1.4-litre petrol featuring Cylinder on Demand technology, shutting down half of the engine when it’s not required, and then providing full capacity as soon as it’s needed, will also be available at a later date.
There are three suspension set ups – ‘Standard’, ‘Sport’ (15mm lower and firmer) and ‘S line’ (25mm lower than standard and firmer again). And, in a genius move from Audi, you can now choose to retain the standard set-up if you buy a ‘Sport’ or ‘S line’ trim level. That’s perfect for many UK customers who want the great looks, big wheels and extra technology of an S line model, without the overly firm and uncomfortable ride.
We tested all three engines on standard suspension and in all three trim levels, and they offered a greater level of comfort than the current model, while retaining plenty of grip at the limit. And, because most of the weight reductions have been from the nose of the car, it is happier to steer quickly into a bend and hold its line.
The Audi A3 will cost from £19,205 (1.4 TFSI SE) to £26,560 (1.8 TFSI S line) at launch, but will be joined by a host of further models over the coming years. This will include a frugal 1.6-litre TDI capable of 74.3mpg as well as quattro four-wheel drive versions. A five-door Audi A3 Sportback model will join the line-up next year.
By Andy Goodwin, senior web journalist