The Audi A3 has been around since the 1990s. It was Audi’s answer to the demand for a sporty small car in Europe. At first, it was a three-door sports hatch. Over time, it grew to a five-door hatch. And, this year, the Audi A3 has grown into a full-fledged sedan and is making waves around the globe, having been voted World Car of the Year at the New York Auto show this April. In India, the new A3 will be the first Audi car to be fully made locally. It will go head to head with the BMW 1-series and the Mercedes A-Class, both of which are pure hatchbacks.
It doesn’t take more than a glance at the new A3 to see the Audi bloodline. The front grille and the distinctly shaped headlights are quintessential Audi. Designers at Audi have really worked their magic to ensure this A3 sedan looks like a sporty fastback, as its predecessors, by extending the roofline and tucking in the boot. The sculpted front fender, signature headlights and integrated rear spoiler give it that edgy look.
The interiors will feel quite familiar if you’ve driven one of Audi’s bigger cars. Simple yet elegant, the top of the line A3 that I drove was equipped with brand’s trademark Multi Media Interface (MMI) system. A seven-inch retractable screen sits in the centre of the dash. The MMI’s equipped with navigation, can pair up easily with your mobile device, offers 20GB of multimedia storage and also doubles up as your parking assistant when you stick the A3 in reverse. It is equipped with a differential air conditioning system; sensors in the glass detect heat and turn up the cooling on whichever side of the car receives more heat. The interiors, it goes without saying, are superbly finished, and the panoramic sunroof makes the A3 feel bright and roomy.
From behind the wheel, it is very evident that this is a driver’s car. The A3 I drove had a 143-bhp, 2-liter diesel engine (it will also be available in a 1.8-litre, 177-bhp petrol version) and a super responsive S-tronicgear box. Stick it in S and watch the needle rise to a 100kph in just 8.6 seconds. The A3 is capable of getting all the way to 224 kph, and what’s astonishing is that after all of this, it still returns a decent fuel economy figure of 20 kilometres per litre. Ride quality on the A3 is exceptionally good, and the car, despite being designed for European roads, can deal with the challenges Indian ones pose. I hit a series of ruts and potholes at speed, and the car absorbed all of it without a fuss. Only the really sharp, nasty potholes gave the A3 any problems. The handling is neutral, and, even at high speeds, the body roll on the A3 is minimal.
The new A3 is slated to be launched in India in the beginning of August 2014 and is expected to be priced competitively – basically, somewhere between BMW’s 1-series and the Mercedes A-class, but less expensive than Audi’s own A4, which costs Rs 28 lakh (ex-showroom Mumbai). Considering you get a fun-to-drive, extremely well built, feature-rich sedan with a 425-litre boot, it won’t be hard to convince the wife which car is going to be your next one.