Audi’s entry level compact car, the A3 has been in production since 1966 and its first two generations were based on Volkswagen Group A Platform. The third generation A3 is underpinned by Volkswagen Group MQB Platform. It was launched as a three-door hatchback at 2012 Geneva Motor Show. The car then arrived in five-door Sportback, four-door sedan and two-door cabriolet versions.
In India the competition in lower end of luxury segment was sparked off with the approach of European hatchbacks. Mercedes brought its A and B Class, BMW launched the 1 Series, and Volvo offered its V40 Cross Country – these were the options for a new category of buyers who wanted to get behind the wheel instead of being chauffeured in swanky cars. But Audi played its game differently and even though the entry of its car in the new segment was delayed, it brought out a compact sedan instead of a hatch. Audi’s decision is based on the view that Indian buyers do not view hatchbacks as ‘premium luxury cars’.
The launch of this sedan was being discussed since mid 2013 and we saw it at the Auto Expo in February next year but it was in August (2014) that the A3 finally arrived in the market. And this car is being produced in India at Volkswagen Group’s Aurangabad plant. Besides giving the luxury hatchback rivals a challenge, it now competes against Mercedes CLA Class which was also launched in July 2014.
Engine options for Audi A3 include:
? Petrol: 1.8 litre, 4 cylinder, direct injection turbo with 177 bhp at 5100-6200 rpm and 25.49 kgm torque at 1250-5000 rpm. Transmission - 7 speed Dual Clutch
? Diesel: 2.0 litre, 4 cylinder, turbo with 141 bhp at 3500-4000 rpm and 32.63 kgm torque at 1750-3000 rpm
Transmission – 6 Speed Automatic
The new A3 is every bit an Audi – it is another example of how the company has shrunk a standard design to create a new segment in its widening range of models. Even though the styling is generic, the design is clean, uncluttered and the proportions look well planned. The front end is similar to its elder siblings A4 and A6. But the big difference lies in their size with the A3 positioned at the lowest end of the range. Its footprint is only tad larger than the Volkswagen Vento but you can’t compare it to Jetta and Skoda Octavia that are bigger.
A3 does not have dollops of chrome that Indians usually associate with ‘luxury factor’. Upfront, it’s only the border of the hexagonal grille that is done in chrome. The bi-xenon headlamps have the usual family design. The front end looks aggressive and the understated lines give it a characteristic European attribute.
Window sills get a chrome lining. The A3 has short front and rear overhangs and its wheelbase measures 2637 mm. It runs on 5-spoke 17 inch alloy wheels covered in 225/45 tyres. There are two discernible swage lines on the door panels – one running between tail lamp and headlight and the other sloping upward from the front towards the rear wheel arch. A3’s roof has a small sun-roof open area.
At the rear you see the tail lamps in their trademark wedge shaped form and they have LED daytime running lights. Dual exhaust outlets get a black honeycomb surround.
Inside the beige and black cabin, the material quality exudes a premium feel. Yes, there are some bits of hard plastic on the dashboard and the buttons on control panel are rather small and clustered together. But on the whole, Audi has not skimped on luxury elements for its entry level saloon.
The MMI display screen glides in and out of the dash fluently and its graphics are easily readable. The shortcuts for frequently accessed functions like music, Bluetooth telephony and satellite navigation are easy to use. The chunky leather wrapped steering wheel is also nice to hold. Large front seats provide ample comfort and are electrically adjustable. But the slope of the roofline has restricted the headroom at the back and so tall people would not be quite comfortable on the bench seat. Despite the 2637 mm wheelbase, the legroom is also restricted and if the front seats are pushed back, the rear seat occupants feel squeezed in.
A3 sedan gets dual-zone climate control system. Ergonomics are well planned and footwell has a sufficiently big dead pedal. All floor mats can be latched onto the floor for firmer feel.
On the whole buyers will like the fit, finish and feel of this new Audi. What’s more, it has 5 star safety rating with 6 airbags, ABS, electronic stability control, anti slip regulation and all disc brakes. The luxury features that it misses include paddle shifters, smart key entry & go and memory package for the seats.
The Petrol A3 has been launched only in Premium Plus version priced at Rs 30.05 lakhs (ex showroom price Delhi) and the Diesel trims available as Attraction, Premium, Premium Plus and Technology are priced between Rs 22.95 lakhs and 32.66 lakhs (all prices ex showroom Delhi)
Audi A3 was recently declared the 2014 World Car of the Year at New York Auto Show. Earlier in 2013, it received the What Car? Car of the Year Award.
With a torquey diesel and punchy petrol engine alongside the usual bells and whistles in the cabin, the A3 in India can eat into A4’s sales. The dual-clutch transmission with smooth shift quality is another good trait. ARAI fuel efficiency of this sedan is rated at 20.38 km/litre for diesel & 16.60 km/litre for the petrol version.