Audi's classy hatch

Audi A3 hatchback, action
Audi A3 hatchback, front
Audi A3 hatchback, rear
Audi A3 hatchback, boot
Audi A3 hatchback, interior

THE Audi A3 is a gem of a car to drive whether it be as three door hatch, five door Spaceback or four door saloon.

From 2012 - just like the earlier models - it has marvellous handling and road-holding even without the optional sports suspension, which actually makes it a lot less comfortable.

As with most Audis, the A3's design is understated but svelte and sophisticated.

This current car is both wider and longer than previous models, but it weighs about 80kg less, which means better performance with increased economy and lower emissions.

Even the base 1.2 TSi petrol turbo is fun and, of course, as you go up the scale performance only gets better. There are also 125 and 148bhp 1.4 turbos, or a 1.8 with 177bhp.

Diesels are a 1.6 with 110bhp, or 2.0-litres with power ranging from 147 to 184bhp and the higher output units are best for performance with economy. The top two engines are available with Quattro four wheel drive.

Of course, Audi's strong image and excellent build quality mean high secondhand prices so always hunt around for the best car your money will buy.

Boot space in all models is very good, and all get folding rear seats to get longer items in or simply more luggage.

Audi quality fit and finish is top notch, and controls are all well to hand. As I said, the ride is good over most surfaces, with hip and back hugging front seats, but sports suspension is to be avoided.

Rear legroom is better than in earlier models and as with all others, rear access is never elegant in the three-door.

Base models have fair equipment, but most cars will have added spec from the wide and expensive extras list from the original owner.

All get air con, DAB radio with the Audi Music Interface, voice control and 16-inch alloy wheels.

Sport adds bigger alloys, aluminium interior trim, the Audi Drive Select system to change ride characteristics and that sports chassis.

FAST FACTS

Price: Pay about £11,000 for a '12 12-reg SE, or £14,500 for a '13 13-reg S-Line

Mechanical: 138bhp, 1,395cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 132mph

0-62mph: 8.3 seconds

Combined MPG: 60

Insurance Group: 16

C02 emissions: 109g/km

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