Friday 15 December 2017

Audi A3 saloon really puts boot into BMW in compact executive bloodbath

By Philip Hedderman

What's the bloody point? That's the very question I asked at the launch of the Audi A3 Saloon.

Er, Hello .... see that over there – it's called an A4.

Surely that's the motor for you if you're in the market for a 4-door family car with the four rings adorning the bonnet.

Well no.

It was only when I spotted the price that the penny finally dropped and I ‘got' the whole A3 Saloon thing.

It's all about brand loyalty and getting new bums on seats is the beginning of this very lucrative journey.

Costing just €850 more than the A3 Sportback (5-door hatchback) the new saloon gives aspiring Audi owners a very viable option if the A4 proves a little too rich.

That basically means that you could be in a very decently

kitted out diesel A3 saloon with a few goodies for the price of the entry-level petrol A4.

Now, to many punters out there that means nothing but to seasoned Audi fans it means snazzy alloys and of course the all-important Xenon headlights which often push the price into the ‘I can't afford it’ bracket.

In fact, opt for the 1.6litre, 105bhp diesel and you'll be in the greenest saloon money can buy with CO2 emissions of 99g/km meaning over 70mpg and €180 (tax band B) a year in road tax. 

More about the engines later.

 First let’s look at the second biggest lure of this car – the boot.

Boasting a luggage capacity of 425 litres (25 more than the Sportback) the designers managed to retain the generous rear legroom giving the whole chassis a much bigger feel.

So airy and roomy is the cabin, one begins to doubt the badge on the bootlid.

The quality and premium feel of the cockpit is what we have come to expect from Audi and the decluttered dash is a joy as is the pop-up colour screen housing the music/infotainment system.

As with all Audis the options list is extensive but there is a decent amount of standard kit including 16-inch alloys, air con, Bluetooth, cruise control, leather multi-function steering wheel, park assist, electric windows/mirrors and the aforementioned state of the art 5.8inch MMI retractable touch screen monitor for music etc.

Also included is a centre arm rest, space saver spare wheel and 60/40 split folding rear seats. 

Drive-wise the Saloon is remarkably nimble and agile thanks to its lightweight design with aluminium bonnet and front suspension subframe – it comes in at just 1,200kgs.

 In fact I may even be as bold to say that the 2.0litre, 150bhp diesel proved a better handling car than the A4 with fresher chassis and less bulk.

It was sprightly and frugal too with a 0-100kph in 8.7 seconds, a top end of 220kph, returns a mega 69mpg (4.1l/100km) and €190 road tax.

There are also two petrol engines available – a 1.4 litre TFSI 125bhp, and the eco friendly 1.4TFSI 140bhp Cylinder on Demand (shuts down two pistons when car hits cruising speed).

All in all the new A3 Saloon is very clever piece of strategy in the Vorsprung durch Technik’s assault on the compact executive segment.

Considering a whopping 28pc of Irish cars sold last year were compact saloons, Audi have struck gold here.

Looks like BMW have had their eye wiped again.

A3 Saloon starts at €29,950.

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