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Audi A3 Sedan – So much more than a boot

1/24/2015 8:32:34 PM
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You love your parents, but don’t wish to be exactly like them. They continue writing embarrassing notes on your dormant Facebook wall, while you’re mostly active on Twitter. They think brown rice contains good carbs, whereas you’ve been eating quinoa since that final year at university.

It’s the reason one feels somewhat ill at ease about buying an Audi A4.

Back in the late 1990s, when the A4 evolved Audi’s standing from peripheral German luxury brand to authentic BMW and Merc alternative, pre-millennial yuppies bought into the alternative cool of A4. It was a yearning for a semblance of office car park distinctiveness. Perhaps your parents were early A4 adopters, and that’s exactly the issue: A4 is no longer the contrarian German four-door.

Audi A3 Sedan

It’s become too popular, for one. If you’re a millennial making that first discerning luxury car purchase, you don’t want to be associated with that 40-something in accounts, who still e-mails you in-office, instead of using an IM service.

That’s an A4 person. For you, Audi has just the thing: the A3 sedan. Which only the cynics will call a cramped A4. Because the truth is, it doesn’t really matter if you or any of the haters dislike it. What matters is that Chinese and Americans, who make up the largestand second-largest car-buying populations in the world, like sedans. A lot. They think hatchbacks are for European fashion assistants who live in single rooms in Paris or Milan and don’t have a garage. Or for people who don’t own things precious enough to stow away in a safe metal boot.

That's an A4 person. For you, Audi has just the thing: the A3 sedan. Which only the cynics will call a cramped A4

Those influential buyers are why Audi relented and finally built an A3 sedan, adding a page to the A3 portfolio of hatchback, SUV and cabriolet, though logically the sedan should have been first off the lines when Audi’s compact class launched back in 1997.

The sedan though, is rather different. Not one body panel is borrowed from either the hatch or Sportback, all because it couldn’t share their C-pillar. Which opened up all sorts of design possibilities. It’s 146mm longer, and 9mm lower, yet the numbers don’t convey the elegance of it. A stubby boot, tidy ‘tornado’ character line across the flanks and some tucked and trimmed surface details between the headlamps and grille make for a much prettier compact executive four-door than the rival, Mercedes-Benz’s melted-in-the-sun CLA.

The cabin retains a blend of minimalist A3 architecture and gorgeous accoutrements, with chronograph quality fonts and dials to keep you aware of mechanical essentials.

The cabin retains a blend of minimalist A3 architecture and gorgeous accoutrements, with chronograph quality fonts and dials to keep you aware of mechanical essentials. Compared to an original TT cabin, the design metamorphosis is remarkable. It’s comfortable too, with a wheelbase 28mm more generous than the five-door Sportback, making the A3 sedan less claustrophobic for passengers than its hatch-based siblings.

But beside good looks and interior comforts, it's great to drive, in large part due to its excellent foundation: VW's superbly engineered MQB platform

But beside good looks and interior comforts, it’s great to drive, in large part due to its excellent foundation: VW’s superbly engineered MQB platform. Ride quality, contrary to the Audi reputation, is beautifully resolved thanks to that inched-out wheelbase. An extra 20mm of tracking width also helps counter the A3 sedan’s tipping motion on the corners a smidge better than in the stubtailed counterparts. And in line with Audi’s premium rep, there’s an astounding level of mechanical vibration dampening and atmospheric sound insulation too – at the opportunity cost of effortless but rather artificial steering, another current Audi signature.

Dynamically most surprising is the 1.8 turbo petrol’s Q-car identity. A 0-100 sprint in 7.3 seconds is a lot swifter than 132kW and 250Nm suggests, though credit must go to Audi’s S-tronic transmission. It never feels as though it’s churning bubble-gum somewhere in the drivetrain, reacting with the consistency of a golden retriever in fetching just the ratio you need, when you need it, every time.

Dynamically most surprising is the 1.8 turbo petrol's Q-car identity. A 0-100 sprint in 7.3 seconds is a lot swifter than 132kW and 250Nm suggests, though credit must go to Audi's S-tronic transmission

Haters are going to hate, but there are facts. Audi’s smallest sedan is not a three-quarter scale A4, it’s a spacious A3. And it has one key advantage over a hatch. In road-trip mad South Africa, can there be a better place to serve roadside brunch than on the waist-height aluminium bootlid of an A3 sedan? Not something you can do with a hatch, a Sportback or even a Q3.

Two decades ago, trendy parents drove A4s. In 2014 their kids have no desire to slavishly copy the folks. The millenials have grown up: dinner parties have replaced DJ gigs, they’re back from journeys of self-discovery to South East Asia, have tossed the sandals and beads, and now juggle work obligations and timeshare vacations on their i-branded digital calendars. Audi says it’s time to become an adult too, so they’ve built just the car for your 30th birthday present.

Specifications

Vehicle

         Year Make Model: 2015 Audi A3 1.8T Sedan (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 6A)

Drivetrain

         Configuration: Transverse, front-engine, front-wheel drive

         Engine type: Turbocharged, direct-injected, inline-4, gasoline

         Displacement (cc/cu-in): 1,798/109

         Block/head material: Aluminum/aluminum

         Valvetrain: Double overhead camshaft

         Compression ratio (x:1): 9.6

         Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 178 @ 5,100

         Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 184 @ 1,250

         Fuel type: Premium unleaded (required)

         Transmission type: Six-speed auto-double-clutch manual and steering-mounted paddles

Chassis

         Suspension, front: Independent MacPherson struts, stabilizer bar

         Suspension, rear: Multilink

         Steering type: Electrically assisted

         Steering ratio (x:1): 15.3

Track Test Results

         0-60 mph, mfr. claim (sec.): 7.3

Fuel Consumption

         Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.):13.2

Dimensions & Capacities

         Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.): 3,020

         Length (in.): 175.5

         Width (in.): 70.7

         Height (in.): 55.7

         Wheelbase (in.): 103.8

         Track, front (in.): 61.2

         Track, rear (in.): 60.0

         Trunk volume (cu-ft): 15.0

 
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