Earlier this year, Audi launched the updated, 2017-spec A3 sedan in India, which remains one of the most affordable vehicles in the German company’s India line-up. Available with a choice of petrol and diesel engines, the A3 sedan is priced from Rs 31 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) for the A3 35 TFSI. Undercutting the A4 by approximately Rs 8-10 lakh, yet offering the same uncompromising build quality and driving dynamics of its bigger siblings, the A3 is an attractive proposition for those looking at buying into the ‘premium German sedan’ experience at a relatively lower price point.
We recently had the opportunity to spend time with the petrol-engined Audi A3 35 TFSI, and here’s our take on the vehicle.
Design and Interiors
Audi currently sticks to one common design language for most of its sedans, including the A3, A4, A6 and A8, with only the A7 looking significantly different from all the other sedans in the line-up. That’s not necessarily a bad thing and like its bigger siblings, the A3 (with redesigned headlamps and taillamps to differentiate it from its pre-2017 predecessor) is a handsome car. With its short overhangs front and rear, 16-inch, five-spoke alloy wheels (shod with 205/55 Bridgestone Turanza rubber), blacked-out B- and C-pillars, optional full-LED lighting, restrained use of chrome, and clean, straightforward lines, the A3 is a ‘proper’ Audi and quite looks the part.
From some angles, the boot looks a bit abruptly truncated and might be a mildly disconcerting note for some. Overall, though, we’d still say the A3 is a good looking car. And while in terms of its dimensions (4,458 mm length, 1,796 mm width and 1,416 mm height), the A3 is 212 mm shorter, 18 mm narrower and 60 mm lower than a Skoda Octavia, the difference isn’t really all that much.
In terms of its interiors, the A3 displays most of the same solid, high-end build quality as the A4, with leather upholstery for the seats, electrically-adjustable driver's seat and Audi’s MMI navigation system, with electrically-retractable seven-inch colour display. The controls are all pretty much straightforward and easy to operate, and the MMI rotary dial controller makes things quite simply. Steering wheel-mounted controls are also provided for the infotainment system, which many will find quite handy. There’s also the ‘Audi phone box’ for charging your smartphone, though this might not work for all phones. The front seats are very comfortable for longer journeys, though the rear bench is a bit tight, with limited legroom and headroom. Best to think of your A3 as a four-seater and do try to avoid carrying very tall people at the back, if you want all occupants to be comfortable! Luggage capacity on the other hand, at 425 l, is not bad at all and doing airport runs shouldn’t be a problem.
Engine and Transmission
The A3 35 TFSI is powered by Audi’s turbocharged, 1.4 l four-cylinder engine, with double overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. This small, efficient engine punches above its weight, delivering 150 hp and 250 Nm of torque to the front wheels for impressive acceleration and effortless overtaking. Sure, this inline-four doesn’t have the massive stomp of Audi’s bigger six- and eight-cylinder engines, but the A3’s 1.4 l TFSI has another ace up its sleeve – fuel efficiency. Yes, this 1.4 l turbo-petrol engine has ‘cylinder on demand’ (COD) technology, which shuts down two of the engine’s four cylinders when cruising along steadily at low speeds (low load conditions) for better fuel economy. Of course, the system wakes up all four cylinders with aggressive use of the throttle and the transition from two to four, and back, is completely seamless. The benefits are two-fold; best possible fuel economy (Audi claims an ARAI-certified 19.2 km/l, which could translate to around 15 km/l in the real world), and strong acceleration for quick overtakes whenever you want. Win-win, right?
The A3 TFSI’s 1.4 l engine is mated to Audi’s 7-speed dual-clutch S tronic transmission, which offers the swift, decisive shifts that you’d expect from a high-tech DSG gearbox. It really is brilliant, with an uncanny knack for always selecting the right gear at the right time, keeping the engine humming smoothly as you cruise along, or eliciting a low snarl as you floor the throttle and the car surges forward almost instantly. DSG, we have to say, makes everything else feel old fashioned.
Ride, Handling and Safety
The A3 35 TFSI features McPherson strut suspension at the front, and a multi-link setup at the back. The suspension setup is on the softer side, which works very well on our roads, providing a very comfortable ride even on rough, rippled, patchy tarmac that’s commonplace in most of our cities. The car’s 205/55 Bridgestone tyres have a sufficiently high sidewall, which provides a fair bit of cushioning on bad roads, thus helping the suspension do its job better.
While the A3 TFSI is relatively softly setup and seems to be quite well optimised for our roads, it also does reasonably well when it come to high-performance driving. The electro-mechanical power steering doesn’t really provide a great deal of feel and can feel a bit inert at times, but pushed hard around corners, the A3 remains confident, never losing its poise for a minute. Of course, safety aids like ABS, electronic stability control and an electronic limited slip differential all play an important role in how the car handles at high speeds. With up to seven airbags, safety, too, is taken care of. Overall, we think most driving enthusiasts should be satisfied with this car.
Priced between Rs 31-35 lakh (depending on trim level) ex-showroom Delhi, the Audi A3 35 TFSI is an all-around performer that’s ideally suited to young families that are looking to buy their first premium German sedan. It’s a well-engineered vehicle, comes with a host of safety features, has impeccable build quality, and provides a driving experience that’s very much in line with higher-end Audi cars. We couldn’t ask for more.
Text: Sameer Kumar
Photos: Sameer Kumar / Audi