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2013 Audi A3 Saloon Road Test

By raccars Published

Audi A3 Hatches a Saloon

10 Second Verdict

Can’t afford an Audi A4 saloon but still want an exec-style junior Audi? The German premium brand now has an answer – RAC Cars finds out if it’s the right one.

Price: £24,275-£28,105
Engine: 1.4-litre turbo petrol, 1.8-litre turbo petrol, 2.0-litre turbodiesel
Power: 140hp-180hp
Torque: 184-236lb ft
Gearbox: Six-speed manual, seven-speed S tronic
0-60mph: 7.3-8.7 seconds
Top speed: 135-146mph
Fuel economy: 50.4-68.9mpg
CO2: 107-129g/km
Insurance group: tbc

Three UK Audi A3 Saloon facts

  • The A3 Saloon costs £550 more than an A3 Sportback in the same trim
  • The car will make up 10% of Audi’s UK sales mix – that’s 3000 cars a year
  • At launch, there are three engines and two trims – Sport and S line

What is it?

Audi has sold the A3 as a hatchback for more than a decade and a half now (has it really been that long?). It was one of the first brands to offer a premium compact hatchback – a posh alternative to a Ford Focus – and has enjoyed a long advantage because of this.

The firm is a global brand though, and other countries prefer saloons to hatchbacks. Add in the fact Europeans are downsizing in ever-greater numbers these days, and the conclusion is obvious: produce an Audi A3 Saloon.

That’s just what this car is. But don’t think it’s just an A3 hatch with a boot – it’s actually had a thorough redesign, with flared wheelarches, new side body design and even a lower roofline.

Audi is pitching it slightly upmarket compared to the hatchback. It’s a bit more expensive, only offered in Sport or S line trim and is likely to get a range of additional engines and trims in time – including a rumored hot S3 version.

Performance

Three engines are currently offered in the A3 Saloon. The 140hp 1.4-litre turbo petrol is surprisingly sweet and efficient, and actually seems the wiser choice when compared to the alternative 180hp 1.8-litre: the bigger engine is a bit faster on paper but both engines have the same pulling power, so doesn’t always feel it on the road.

The 1.4-litre also gets Audi’s fuel-saving ‘Cylinder on Demand’ system, which turns off two of the four cylinders when you don’t need all the power. This is totally imperceptible, making this trick tech even more impressive.

Both petrol engines are currently only offered with Audi’s seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic gearbox. This performs as swiftly and smoothly as we’ve come to expect: those who prefer a manual must wait a while, with the carrot of list prices around £1400 cheaper as a reward.

We suspect many buyers will choose a diesel A3 Saloon: the 2.0-litre TDI is familiar from other cars in the VW Group, although the 150hp motor is still a relatively new design so still impresses with its refinement, pulling power and general demeanor.

Ride and handling

We know the latest Audi A3 is a very capable and grown up car and the A3 Saloon continues this trend. The interesting thing here is the range of sporty suspension setups Audi offers.

It works like this: both Sport and S line get a ‘sport’ suspension as standard: this is 15mm lower and more focused than the no-cost-option ‘regular’ suspension also on offer (it’s interesting that Audi’s default is sport here…). On S line cars only, there’s a third ‘S line’ suspension choice, again a no-cost-option, lowering it by another 10mm.

You can guess what happens to the ride quality as you get progressively sportier, particularly if you combine it with super-large 19-inch wheels. RAC Cars advises sticking to the middle option, certainly until more powerful engine options come along.

Inside story

Unlike the outside, the interior is basically identical to the A3 hatch and Sportback up front. So, you get the same extremely high quality dashboard boasting the same clean and modern design, packing in the same range of high-tech options including on-board internet if you so wish.

The seats are comfortable and the trims are rich; it’s decent in the back too – you don’t get any more passenger space but the A3 Sportback is not deficient here so passengers shouldn’t have any grumbles.

It’s boot space that boasts the biggest gain. It’s up to 425 litres, 45 litres more than the Sportback. It’s not as practical as it could be though, because the saloon opening isn’t as large as the hatch. Swings and roundabouts. At least the seats fold.

Marketplace

This isn’t going to be a volume car for Audi, but it will be a nice addition to the range that will ensure the A3 range is strengthened at a time when so many people are downsizing.

Audi says it will be particularly appealing to retail buyers, rather than the fleet-focused Sportback hatch: hence its decision to move the trim centrepoint upwards (with higher average prices as a result).

The firm may well have stolen a march on rivals here. If it’s sensed the mood and people are keen to buy compact hatchbacks, expect many rivals to follow suit – chiefly BMW. Saying that, the battle with the Mercedes-Benz CLA will be interesting. Which will buyers prefer – subtle and classy or sporty and standout style?

Verdict

We like the Audi A3 Saloon. It’s more than just an A3 Sportback with a three-box extension added to the rear, and we feel Audi’s care in giving it a bespoke look will ensure the market takes to it.

Sales goals are low in the UK to start with, but it’s a car that’s more than able enough to live up to them, we think. And if it can spawn a hot S3 – or even an RS 3 – then it will be a very welcome addition indeed.

Five rivals

Mercedes-Benz CLA: Coupe-like upmarket alternative to Audi’s more straight-laced saloon design
Audi A4: High-spec Audi A3 saloon or entry-level Audi A4? Now you have the choice
BMW 1 Series: A hatch, not a saloon, but expect BMW to put that right in time
Skoda Octavia: Another cracker from the increasingly classless Czech brand
SEAT Toledo: Pay around half the price for this saloon-look hatchback from Audi’s Spanish sister company

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