Audi A3 Sportback hatchback (2004 – 2012) expert review
Read the Audi A3 Sportback hatchback (2004 - 2012) car review by Auto Trader's motoring experts, covering price, specification, running costs, practicality, safety and how it drives.
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The Audi A3 looks every inch a premium hatchback and the five-door Sportback model even more so. It takes the hatchback’s elegant looks and adds new design rear-light cluster, coupe-like styling to the rear windows and a discreet spoiler which points to performance. But the overall look is of understated elegance.
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.
The Sportback model has the same wheelbase as the regular Audi A3, which is longer, wider and lower than the previous generation model. And of course, it has 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, which increases to 1,120 litres when they are folded. It’s capable of seating five adults and stylish storage solutions mean there’s somewhere for drinks and travel sweets.
Ride and handling
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 firm. However, that view mellowed through the course of a week’s loan, by the end of which we had got used to the car’s individual character.
A3 buyers have a large choice of engines, covering both diesel and petrol, ranging from the 1.2-litre TFSI to the 2-litre TFSI petrol engines. The 140bhp 2-litre TDI S tronic diesel version 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.
For the popular 2-litre TDI, average fuel consumption of 48.7mpg (57.6mpg for economical driving) and CO2 emissions of 154 g/km place it in a mid-table tax band. Audi’s prestige helps ensure strong used prices. The insurance group for our model was reasonable, but some of the big petrol engines incur higher costs. The 1.6-litre TDI with stop and start technology is the most economical of the lot averaging 74.3mpg and emitting just 99g/km of CO2.
Audi has a good reputation for reliability. The A3 has proved to be a dependable car but there have been reports of electrical problems when vehicles get to four-and-a-half years old. This generation model has received overwhelmingly positive feedback thus far.
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 side airbags are fitted as standard. However, the A3 scored a four-star rating following EuroNCAP crash testing, compared with newer rivals which score the full five stars.
The A3 Sportback is available in four trim levels: standard, S, SE, Sport and S Line. Standard features include a CD player, electric front and rear windows, electric heated door mirrors and central locking. SE models add cruise control, 17-inch alloy wheels, light and rain sensor pack, interior light pack and storage pack. Sport also comes fitted with 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). However buyers could soon find themselves compiling a shopping list of other nice-to-haves from Audi’s huge options list which could substantially ramp the price.
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.