2014 Audi A3 Test Drive Review
2014 Audi A3 – Click above for high resolution picture gallery

2014 Audi A3 Review

Car Tested: 2014 Audi A3 Sedan

Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 28.15 – 40.12 lakhs

The Audi A3 impresses in each and every department and is an unrivalled package

Compact seems to be the new mantra these days. It’s raining compacts all over but the story is not limited to compact sedans and SUVs alone, the luxury segment has seen a shift towards compact cars off late. Less than three years ago, you would have to be plain crazy to use the word compact and luxury in the same sentence but sometimes market preferences change rapidly and manufacturers have to shuffle their portfolio to come up with new and exciting products to meet demand. India’s love for sedans is well known, blame it on uplifting one’s status or just the fact that we like to have a three box, whether or not we need it. Riding on these market preferences, Audi decided to bring in the A3 to heat up the entry level luxury segment. Having the accolade of ‘2014 World Car of the Year’ to its name, the A3 will be the first compact luxury sedan in the segment and it looks promising as we get behind the wheel of the #NextBigAudi in the lake city of Udaipur.

Motor Quest: The A3 nameplate is not new in Audi’s portfolio. The first generation A3 came out in 1996. The second generation model was launched in 2003. The current model is in its third generation and was unveiled at the 2013 New York Auto Show. The European model is available in various body styles such as cabriolet, hatchback, sportback and sedan.

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The front profile follows the family trend, the A3 gets new compact headlamps

Exteriors – The target customer of the A3 is young, to whom design plays an important role. Keeping this in mind, the A3 is designed to look dynamic and sporty, which is likely to appeal to most. Though the design language is similar to its elder sibling, the A6, the car does look smashing from all sides. The new design gets angled upper corners with the indicative Audi front grille which houses the new Audi rings. The Bi-xenon headlamps are highly detailed and have LED daytime running lamps. The whole headlight assembly is now more compact with a low slung appearance. The hood gets sharp sculpted character lines which make the front end look quite sporty. The air intakes are large and fog lamps sit on their sides. Audi is offering the A3 with the S-Line exterior package and the S-Line badge can be seen on the front fender.

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The side stance looks dynamic owing to the bold shoulder and tornado lines

The side profile flaunts dynamism of the purest form thanks to the deeply sculpted lines and make the car look fast even when standing still. The distinct shoulder line runs along the sides and rear and the flared wheel arches add hugely to the styling quotient. On either side, between the wheel arches, the prominent tornado line looks striking. The roof is flat uptil the C-pillar after which it seamlessly merges with the shoulder line making the A3 a beauty to gaze at. Audi is offering two alloy designs on the A3. The diesel variant we drove was shod with 17-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels while the other option is 16-inch multi-spoke alloys.

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The rear profile looks very sporty, notice the new badging on the right side

The rear profile looks just as sporty as the front. An element of the sporty design, the rear spoiler is integrated with the boot lid and the narrow split tail light assembly is the highlight of the rear. The contoured bumper add to the sporty look. Another significant change is that the A3 onwards, Audi is using its new nomenclature with the badging. Our test car sports 35 TDI while the higher output petrol reads 40 TFSI. Now these are not just any random numbers but something which Audi calls the dynamic factor. In the earlier classification, the engine displacement was mentioned (eg. 2.0 TDI) but the same engine has different outputs in different models. To streamline this, Audi is now using the dynamic factor which is calculated based on the power to weight ratio and 0-100 km/hr timing. A higher value of the dynamic factor denotes better performance.

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Interiors are well put together with high quality materials enhancing the touch and feel

Interiors – Photographs do not do justice to the interiors of the A3. One has to see it in person to appreciate the interior quality. The dashboard design is fantastic with impeccable fit and finish. The quality of materials used is excellent. The A3 gets new jet turbine like air vents with spot/diffuse function with an aluminium finish dial (to open and close the vents) around it. There is phenomenal attention to detail in everything which is there inside. There is a three dimensional inlay dividing the dashboard into upper and lower halves. Audi is offering an option of beige or black upholstery and we specifically like the all black interior, however, customer preferences in India are more inclined towards the beige. Good thing is that Audi is offering both and one can take their pick.

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The 7-inch retractable screen is the highlight of the infotainment system

The centre console is slightly angled towards the driver and Audi has given special attention to the infotainment system. During the product survey, Audi has rightly concluded that a typical customer of the A3 prefers to have a good quality infotainment system on board. The highlight of the infotainment system is the 7-inch screen which shows relevant information including navigation and display for the rear parking camera. Mounted on the dashboard, this monitor is retractable and pops out when the ignition is turned on, adding to the novelty factor. The screen is extremely slim too. Audi’s MMI touch interface is well known and in order to reduce the number of buttons and to declutter the console, Audi has given the touch interface on the MMI dial itself. This touch interface also supports handwriting recognition which is very handy while searching for places on the map. To further reduce buttons, there is now a toggle switch between Navigation/Telephone and Radio/Media.

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The glovebox houses the multimedia input for SD card and DVD

Various inputs are available for the audio. You can pair your Bluetooth device (phone) and stream music directly or use the SD card slots or CD/DVD, both of which are in an integrated unit placed in the glovebox. To make thing even simpler, Audi has offered a 20 GB jukebox wherein you can download your favourite songs directly on the in-built hard drive. The central console also gets the Audi Music Interface slot which can be used to connect a USB drive (through the cable). Sound quality is brilliant with the speakers along with the subwoofer delivering some thumping beats.

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The front seats are comfortable but rear headroom is lacking for tall passengers

The Audi A3’s interiors might look simple in pictures but in person, they look very good and feel rich

The front seats are well sculpted and offer generous headroom, legroom and kneeroom. The Milano leather upholstery in both beige and black trims looks rich. Both the front seats get electronic adjustment along with electronic height adjustment and electronic lumbar support adjustment. The cushioning and back support is pretty good. The rear seats are reasonably comfortable but there are certain limitations. Even though legroom is sufficient for an average sized adult, the sloping roofline finds headroom wanting for tall passengers. Further the huge transmission hump makes the middle passenger uncomfortable. Even though the A3 is a front-wheel drive sedan, the transmission hump, though redundant in this case, is there for the quattro model available in Europe. The rear window size is also small and with the sloping roofline, it does lend a feeling of claustrophobia, therefore the rear seat is best suited for kids. A headrest has been provided for the middle passenger as well.

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The dual-zone AC works well to cool the cabin, vents are provided at the rear

The dual-zone AC works well to cool the car quickly. Vents have been provided at the rear too, keeping the comfort of rear passengers in mind. Other features include an electronic parking brake, electrochromic mirror, etc. There are sufficient storage areas inside the cabin and the glovebox also gets a light for convenience at night. Sunroof is available as an option only. The multi-functional steering feels good to hold and has numerous buttons for multimedia, phone, etc. The instrument cluster is well laid out and looks quite futuristic. The multi-information display on the cluster shows all the relevant information including navigation.

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Boot measures 425-litres and can be expanded to 880-litres by dropping rear seats

Even though the A3 is a compact luxury sedan, boot size measures a decent 425-litres and if you need more space, you can always drop the rear seats to get a whooping 880-litres of space. Audi is offering a space saver as a spare. Our test car had a 105/80/18 tyre mounted on a steel rim in the boot.

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The 2.0-litre TDI produces 143 HP and 320 NM, delivering some serious performance

Performance – Audi is offering two engine options on the A3, the 1.8 TFSI and the 2.0 TDI. Both these units have stood the test of time and are one of the best in the business. The same engines are also powering the new Skoda Octavia. The 1.8 TFSI (now labeled as 40 TFSI) spools up 180 HP of peak power between 5100-6200 RPM and 250 NM of twisting force from as low as 1250 RPM until 5000 RPM. Mated to a 7-speed S-tronic transmission, this petrol version hits a century from 0 km/hr in just 7.3 seconds with a ARAI certified fuel efficiency of 16.60 km/l. We haven’t driven this variant yet but if the Octavia (based on the same platform) is anything to go by (same engine in the same tune), expect it to spool up quite a racket.

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The 2.0 TDI engine revs to nearly 5000 RPM in the manual mode before shifting up

Out test car for the drive was the diesel powered A3 having the 2.0 TDI motor under its hood. This engine has proved its mettle in quite a few cars over and over again. It’s no secret that Audi is more keen to sell the diesel variant and that is precisely where the consumer preferences lie. Badged as 35 TDI on the rear, this 4-cylinder oil burner produces 143 HP between 3500-4000 RPM and 320 NM torque between 1750-3000 RPM. Coupled with a 6-speed S-tronic gearbox, this engine belts the A3 from 0 to 100 km/hr in just 8.6 seconds with an impressive fuel efficiency of 20.38 km/l as per ARAI.

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Performance is brisk with 0-100 km/hr coming up in a claimed 8.6 seconds

The A3 is based on the Volkswagen Group’s lightweight MQB architecture (only other current car in India on the same platform is the Skoda Octavia) and reduction of weight has been a key focus while developing this platform. The A3 uses aluminium bits in the front suspension and even the hood is made of aluminium amongst other things. All these small bits lead to a drastic reduction in weight and the A3 35 TDI weighs just 1315 kgs (unladen). With a better power to weight ratio to brag, the A3 2.0 TDI is quick and feels up to the task at all times. Power is channeled through the front wheels and the 2.0-litre engine feels responsive throughout the rev band. Once the VGT spools up to full song around 1750 RPM, the engine has more than enough grunt for all that is required with a strong mid-range and a reasonably good low-end enabling it to master both the city and highway.

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The dual clutch 6-speed S-tronic automatic gearbox does duty on the diesel version

The 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine offers even better performance in the A3, thanks to the car’s light weight

The 6-speed S-tronic dual clutch gearbox has three modes, the regular drive mode (D), sports mode (S) and the manual mode (M) through the tiptronic function. The ‘D’ mode is suited for a comfort oriented driving style. The A3 hits the rev limiter at around 4250 RPM in each gear and the upshifts are smooth and non jerky. In order to declutter the dashboard and the central console, Audi had reduced the number of buttons. So now there is no button to get into ‘S’ or Sports mode. All you have to do is flick back the gear stick and the gearbox slots into ‘S’ mode. The car now hits the rev limiter at nearly 4500 RPM and feels even more sure footed. In the manual mode, each gear hits the rev limiter at just under 5000 RPM and progress is quick. The A3 35 TDI has a top speed of 224 km/hr. It reaches 180 km/hr in a flash after which progress is slow to the 200 km/hr mark. The dual clutch S-tronic gearbox is smooth and works the cogs into place with super precision with barely any lag between shifts.

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The Audi A3 35 TDI will be doing majority of the volumes in India

Audi has used high quality sound deadening material between the cabin and engine bay and that has a major role to play in the NVH levels. The cabin is insulated from most of the outside sounds and even the engine is not audible at idle. It’s only at high revs when the engine sound makes its way inside the cabin, that too devoid of any diesel clatter. Though we were unable to gauge the real world mileage of the A3 on the drive, we reckon that the 35 TDI should return around 13-14 km/l in the routine Indian driving cycle.

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The A3 offers brilliant ride and handling combination, enough to keep you smiling

Driving Dynamics – A lot is expected from Audi when it comes to driver involvement and the Germans are the masters of that but does this baby Audi drive like the others? Well, the answer is no. Blame it entirely on the new platform, the A3 is simply terrific to drive, a touch above the other Audi’s which are pretty good in their own regard. The electromechanical steering is light at low speeds and weighs up beautifully as the kms pile up. Handling is razor sharp and the A3 will corner with super precision, it will encourage you to push even harder. It loves taking corners hard and you have to appreciate how the light weight chassis offers terrific balance. The A3 also gets ‘Electronic Stabilisation Control’ (ESC) with ‘Electronic Limited Slip Differential’ as standard. High speed stability is very good too and inside the cabin, the speeds seem much slower than they actually are. The A3 is aimed at a buyer who will himself take to the wheel and the driver involvement the car offers will seal the deal for most who like to push their car to the limit.

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The Audi A3 is exceptional when it comes to high speed manners

With superb handling on offer, one would expect the ride quality to be stiff but that’s not the case here. In spite of the low profile rubber, ride quality is fantastic. Both at slow and high speed, the ride remains pliant and both front and rear passengers are engulfed in comfort. The light weight chassis and four-link rear suspension is hugely responsible for the same. The brakes offer good stopping power (all 4 discs) and our test was was shod on 225/45/17 Pirelli Cinturato tyres which offer phenomenal levels of grip. Even on wet surfaces, braking is spot on with no brake fade.

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The low profile rubber does not affect the ride quality and the tyres offer oodles of grip

Safety – The Audi A3 received 5-stars in the Euro NCAP crash test. There are abundant safety features on offer and the car feels very well built. Front and side airbags are standard across the range and the higher end models also get rear airbags and knee airbag for the driver. Besides the standard ABS, the A3 is also equipped with ‘Electronic Stability Control’ (ESC) and ‘Electronic Limited Slip Differential’ as standard.

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The A3 is a hard to beat package and hits the sweet spot with pretty much everything

Verdict – Audi has studied the market well and the A3 is a product which is sure to appeal to a vast audience. Going with the Indian love for sedans, the A3 will pull buyers not only from the luxury segment but also attract those going for other brands in and around the same price range. Audi also has the first mover advantage in the luxury compact sedan space as there is nothing offered in this segment by competing brands. The next luxury compact sedan in the market, the Mercedes-Benz CLA, will only see the light early next year. We expect the A3 to be priced around the Rs. 28 lakh mark for the top end variant, which should be a good deal considering the number of features on offer. The A3 has impressed us on all fronts be it design, interiors, performance or ride and handling and it’s no surprise that it already has the title of the ‘2014 World Car Of The Year’ under its belt. Finally, if Audi can hit the sweet spot in terms of pricing, there is no stopping the Audi A3 from being a runaway success.

The Audi A3 is a well packaged compact luxury sedan which not only excels on multiple counts but is one which appeals both to the heart and head and is sure to find many takers in the Indian market.

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Beige upholstery is expected to be very popular with Indian buyers

What’s Cool

* Performance
* Build quality
* Brilliant dynamics
* Feel good interiors
* Infotainment system

What’s Not So Cool

* Cramped rear bench

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With no competition in sight for sometime, the A3 has an unrivaled run for a while

2014 Audi A3 Specifications

* Engine: 1798cc TFSI, DOHC, 4-Cylinder (Petrol), 1968cc TDI, DOHC, 4-Cylinder, VGT (Diesel)
* Power: 180 HP @ 5100-6200 RPM (Petrol), 143 HP @ 3500-4000 RPM (Diesel)
* Torque: 250 Nm @ 1250-5000 RPM (Petrol), 320 Nm @ 1750-3000 RPM (Diesel)
* Transmission: 7-speed S-tronic automatic (Petrol), 6-speed S-tronic automatic (Diesel)
* 0-100 km/hr: 7.3 seconds (Petrol), 8.6 seconds (Diesel)
* Top Speed: 235 km/hr (Petrol), 224 km/hr (Diesel)
* Fuel Consumption: 16.60 km/l (Petrol), 20.38 km/l (Diesel) [ARAI certified]
* Fuel Type: Petrol, Diesel
* Suspension: McPherson Strut (Front), 4-Link Rear Suspension (Rear)
* Tyres: 205/55/16 (Standard), 225/45/17 (Optional)
* Brakes: All 4 Discs
* Safety: 9 Airbags, ABS, ESC, Electronic Limited Slip Differential

2014 Audi A3 Dimensions

* Overall length x width x height: 4456 mm X 1796 mm X 1416 mm
* Wheelbase: 2637 mm
* Turning Radius: 5.2 metres
* Ground clearance: 160 mm
* Boot Space: 425 litres, 880 litres (with rear seats folded)
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 50 litres
* Unladen Weight: 1295 kgs (Petrol), 1315 kgs (Diesel)

Further Reading –

Audi A3 vs Mercedes CLA
Audi A3 Cabriolet Review