Thursday 19 April 2018

A3 saloon is booted and suited

The new Audi looks like the A4 but is actually a crisper, neater version of its big sister, writes Campbell Spray

Campbell Spray

Campbell Spray

LAST week, the column was about how cars are getting bigger, outgrowing their parking spaces and ending up with more dents and scrapes.

This week, it is a case of "Honey, I shrunk the executive saloon" with the launch by Audi of its A3 booted version, which at first glance looks like the A4 but is in fact a crisper, neater car that is bound to take from the great success of its big sister.

It will do especially well in North America and China where the booted car is as popular as it is here, as opposed to Britain where the hatchback and estate reign supreme. In Ireland, the small saloon market makes up 28 per cent of the whole market.

Sure, in the A3 saloon, you are going to feel a slight bit cramped in the back and, even in the front, everything does tend to crowd you. The boot, which is still large, is also restricted by a pillar box opening through which you would struggle to get a push chair or large suitcases.

But these are expected niggles and, overall, the A3 saloon gives the kind of precise performance you have come to expect from Audi. There is a polish and confidence exuding from the whole brand at the moment, which you pick up on as soon as you enter a showroom and is reinforced by the smile of the receptionist and the firm handshake of the sales executive.

And they have reason to be confident; Audi is riding high in the charts with a five per cent share of the overall car market and nearly 3,500 sales up to the end of last month. Since the enormous and quite horrible Q7 SUV kicked off a product offensive seven years ago, Audi has launched 47 different products.

Starting at cents under €30,000 before p&p, the A3 saloon is built on the same well-proven platform that has produced the VW Golf, Seat Leon and Skoda Octavia. It definitely isn't an A3 hatchback with a boot as it has completely new bodywork and is also longer, lower and wider than the five-door Sportsback. It is far better looking than the hatchback, which I never liked. Yet the attractive styling has also given the car small side mirrors, which, like the interior rear mirror, have their usefulness curbed by their size. I hope this is rectified by the time the A3 Cabriolet, which will be based on the saloon, is launched next year.

While most of the cars sold over here will be diesel, I hear great reports of the 1.4 TFSI 138bhp petrol engines in the A3 saloon, which feature cylinder deactivation technology. Apparently they can give up to 60mpg, emissions of 109gh/km while still delivering an 0-100km of 8.4 seconds.

I was driving the 2.0litre TDi engine, which claims nearly 70mpg is possible. I liked the car a lot better than the Mercedes-Benz CLA model, it just seemed to be better thought-out. Yet it wasn't cheap. While that engine size starts at €33,000, there were an awful lot of extras on board, which pushed the price well beyond €40,000.

The advantage, which might appeal to fleet buyers and private customers alike, is that you are getting a massively specced A3 saloon for roughly the same as a pretty bog-standard A4. The extras included tasty 17" alloys, Bang and Olufsen sounds, panoramic sunroof and Xenon lights.

Audi thinks that the A3 saloon will revolutionise its sales in this sector with every second A3 ordered being in the new format. It's smart, they're smart.

Sunday Independent

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