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Audi A3 Sportback 1.6 TDI (105 PS) SE

Audi A3 Sportback
In spite of all the developments under the skin, the new A3 doesn’t look that different

Audi car review: DAVID WILKINS

What is it?

THE Audi A3 Sportback is the five-door version of the third-generation Audi A3 hatchback launched earlier this year.

The first five-door Audi A3, launched in 1999, kept the silhouette of the three-door car but since then Audi has increasingly tried to give the three-door and five-door models separate identities.

The second-generation car, which came along in 2005, had modified rear styling and was also given the Sportback name for the first time.

Now, with this third-generation model, the differences between the Sportback and the three-door increase again, most notably in the form of a stretch of 58mm (more than two inches) in the wheelbase, which means that the new car is a lot more serious about providing decent space for rear-seat passengers.

Audi A3 Sportback
The new car is longer, so rear seat passengers get a much better deal

Audi says there will be no Avant estate version of the current A3, but the new Sportback, with its extended rear roof-line, already looks and feels like it is halfway into wagon territory anyway.

The latest Audi A3 will expand to a saloon version for the first time, though – and that one’s coming to the UK despite our traditional preference for hatchbacks when it comes to smaller cars.

Audi A3 Sportback
It’s bigger than before, but lighter – so it’s more economical and the handling is sharper

One reason for the increasing diversity of A3 models – the increased flexibility offered by Volkswagen’s modular MQB chassis architecture, which also underpins the new VW Golf, SEAT Leon and forthcoming Skoda Octavia.

With the introduction of the Audi A3 Sportback comes the first chance to try some of the less powerful but more economical, low-CO2 versions of the A3 that will be of particular interest to tax-aware company car drivers, including the 1.2-litre turbocharged TSI petrol, and the car we’re concentrating on here, the base 105 PS 1.6 diesel option which delivers 99g/km and 74.3 mpg.

What’s hot?

  • The Audi A3 Sportback provides all the attributes of a big Audi in a compact and reasonably priced package. Sportback prices start at £19,825 and the 1.6 diesel costs from £20,775.
  • The usual Audi standards of quality are present – materials, fit and finish are all excellent.
  • Three trim levels are offered in the initial line-up – SE, Sport and S line, mirroring the range for the three-door car
  • SE models get 16-inch alloys, MMI (multimedia interface) with 5.8-inch dash screen, Bluetooth, aircon, and a leather steering wheel.
    Audi A3 Sportback
    Bluetooth, aircon, and a big multimedia interface screen all surrounded by high quality materials, fit and finish
  • Sport models cost £1,225 more than the SE and add 17-inch alloys, two-zone climate control, sports seats, aluminium trim elements and Audi drive select, which allows drivers to tweak the car’s set up for, for example, sporty or economical driving styles.
  • S line cars cost £2,150 more than Sport models but get 18-inch alloys, body mods, chrome tailpipe trims, half-leather seats and Xenon headlights with LED running lights.
  • Buyers who want a real load-lugger will be looking elsewhere but the bigger body makes this car more practical than its predecessor.
  • Weight savings associated with the switch to the MQB architecture mean better economy and more agile handling – especially with the smaller petrol engines.
  • Early petrol choices, all turbocharged, will include a 1.2 TFSI (105 PS), a 1.4 TFSI (122 PS) and a 1.8 TFSI (180 PS)
  • Early diesels are a 1.6 TDI (105 PS) and a 2.0 TDI (150 PS)
  • The 1.6 TDI delivers an impressive 99g/km and 74.3 mpg – and provides smooth, tractable performance as well as low running costs.
  • For company car drivers, the company car tax band for 2013/14 will only be 14%

What’s not?

  • While the A3’s designers have worked hard to differentiate the Sportback from the three-door by giving it an extended wheelbase and roof-line, this car still conforms heavily to the Audi look. Many buyers will be reassured by that. Others will ask why the company couldn’t be a bit more adventurous. Volvo’s V40 has shown the way with a design that bears the unmistakable stamp of its maker but is also fresh and original at the same time.
  • The A3’s pricing is very competitive when set against that of premium rivals such as the BMW 1-Series, Mercedes A-Class and Volvo V40. But for anyone who doesn’t care for badges, much of this car’s technology is available in the cheaper, but still highly impressive, Volkswagen Golf and SEAT Leon – not to mention the forthcoming Skoda Octavia.
  • The diesel A3 Sportback’s 99g/km just misses the new 100% write down allowance tax break that arrives in April of 95g/km.
Audi A3 Sportback
74.3mpg and those low company car taxes make this another business car favourite
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