There is no questioning the Audi A3’s list of abilities. It is well made, rides brilliantly and handles better than similarly priced cars. What’s more, the 2-litre diesel motor is both punchy and frugal as ever and makes the A3 a more formidable package than its arch-rival, the Mercedes CLA.
Premium compact sedans were unheard of when Audi India brought along the A3 in mid-2014. Sharing market space with a few luxury hatchbacks at the time, the A3 ticked most of the right boxes for first-time premium car buyers and came with a good mix of luxury and performance. Fast-forward three years and this segment has expanded somewhat, allowing Audi India to burst on to the scene again with the updated 2017 A3.
We have already driven the A3 35 TFSI with the downsized 1.4-litre petrol motor and now it’s time to test out the 35 TDI variant featuring VW’s familiar 2-litre diesel engine. As is the case with its petrol-powered sibling, the minor design tweaks have brought the new A3 35 TDI in line with Audi’s latest sedan line-up. The single frame grille and the revised headlights for instance have been inspired from the new A4. The taillights, too, benefit from sharper detailing and Audi’s dynamic turn indicators. All in all, despite the lack of drastic design updates the A3 still looks the part. Whereas the Mercedes CLA is all about the curves and the flares, the A3 remains handsome but demure.
Inside, there’s no doubting the new A3 is among the better examples in the sub Rs 35-40 lakh price bracket. The interior remains thoroughly premium, with lovely black textures, lush leather and good quality materials. The design and layout is a little dull though when compared to the CLA which has a rather lively looking dual-tone cabin.
Upfront, the seats are superbly accommodating while the headroom and legroom is great, too. Space at the rear, however, is just about average for the class. An averaged size adult will find enough space with a bench that is well layered and has good contours. The only other grumble with the rear seating are the relatively small windows which may lessen the sense of airiness for some. Speaking of which, the A3 still fares better than the Mercedes CLA which has huge front seats and even smaller rear windows, making the rear half of the cabin quite confined.
Both petrol and diesel variants come with the same set of equipment. In this top-spec variant, passenger entertainment comes in the form of a nice sounding audio system and a 7-inch retractable screen for the MMI infotainment system. You also get climate control, powered front seats, front and rear parking sensors and a panoramic sunroof. Interestingly, the 2017 A3 also comes with a wireless charging box for your smartphone.
The A3 35 TDI is powered by one of the most popular diesel engines around – a 2-litre, four-cylinder TDI unit that makes 141bhp and 320Nm of torque. It’s a sweet little engine that loves a good rev. Maximum power comes in at 3,500rpm while all that torque kicks in at 1,750rpm so there’s a good real world balance between the two, allowing the A3 to get up to speed effortlessly and keep it there. It may be a little noisy when worked hard but it never feels vibey or harsh. Like in the older car, there is more than sufficient pulling power, all of which is efficiently transferred to the road via a 6-speed dual clutch automatic. Like its petrol-powered counterpart, gearshifts are rapid and smooth on the go but the overall response is a little jerky at crawling speeds.
It’s almost surprising how well the old A3 dealt with bad roads and yet offered great feedback and control over twisty roads. Fortunately, the 2017 model feels just as good. The body control, in fact, is generally taut and it remains a polished partner in crime when you want to drive spiritedly. Better still, it’s suspension does a great job of dealing with poor-quality roads, with the A3 never feeling crashy over sharper bumps and ruts. Even sharp-edged road joints fail to disrupt the car’s poise overall.
Average rear seat space and diminutive road presence limit the A3 from becoming the ultimate entry-level premium car. However, there is no questioning its list of abilities – it’s well made, rides brilliantly and handles better than similarly priced cars. What’s more, the 2-litre diesel motor is both punchy and frugal as ever and makes the A3 a more formidable package than its arch rival from Mercedes.