Audi A3 Sportback

makes a connection

Audi A3 Sportback, front action
Audi A3 Sportback, rear action
Audi A3 Sportback, front static
Audi A3 Sportback, side static
Audi A3 Sportback, boot
Audi A3 Sportback, console detail
Audi A3 Sportback, dash detail
Audi A3 Sportback, dashboard

FORGET the acceleration times or how far the car goes on a gallon, for some potential owners the way their iPhone hooks up is the decider.

Or, as the man from Audi said about the newly update A3 range, "to some younger customers being connected is more important than the car itself".

So, younger customers rejoice! This workover of Audi's biggest selling range brings extra standard kit and the possibility (at extra cost, it's an Audi, remember) of keeping yourself connected like never before.

With four body styles to choose from - three and five-door hatch (Sportback in Audi speak), saloon and cabriolet - and six engines on offer, there ought to be a car to suit most upwardly mobile people in search of a classy set of wheels.

Priced from £19,365, the latest A3 comes with a mild rejig on the outside and more bits inside, including cruise control, auto lights and wipers and a multi-function steering wheel.

You have to move up the range, or pay for extras to appreciate all the new techno upgrades, which can include what Audi calls a digital cockpit; really a high definition screen replacing conventional dials that you can make display the sat nav with cinema screen clarity or let the instruments dominate.

The entry level A3 is a three-door hatch with 1.0 litre petrol engine and SE trim but not many people will be tempted, heading instead to the Sport (+£1,550) and the S line (+£2,150), where bigger alloys, styling tweaks inside and out and LED headlights (and natty rear indicators that flash in a bulb-sweeping action) mark the car out as the range topper.

You'll find satellite navigation on all but the SE but find £995 for a technology pack and you'll add high speed 4G internet access via a SIM card with no date charge, Google Earth and Street View and Twitter.

If you're mobile phone is clever enough you can pop it in the Audi Phone Box between the front seats, where it charges itself without needing to be plugged in and works through the car's own aerial for a better reception.

Oh, and there's 10GB of hard drive memory for every song you've ever bought and need to download to the car. So you'll stay very connected indeed to your life outside your Audi.

Add a driver assistance pack for £1,950 and an auto-geared A3 will slow to a halt and start off again all by itself, maintain a safe distance behind the vehicle ahead at cruising speed and briefly steer the car at speeds up to 37mph.

There are a couple of option boxes you can tick without adding to the price of your car - to delete the badges on the back to keep your engine details to yourself, or to delete the lowered, stiffened suspension that comes with an S line package. Two paint colours cost nothing extra either (solid white or black) although everything else costs £550, or £775 for a crystal effect black.

Alongside a carried over selection of engines there's the first application in the A3 of the Volkswagen Group's feisty 1.0 litre three-cylinder petrol engine and a new 2.0 petrol power unit with 190 horsepower and coupled to a new seven-speed automatic gearbox.

As ever, slipping into the latest A3 reinforces the company's reputation for building cars as well finished as anything near the price; this is a high quality environment in which to spend hours of your life at a stretch.

Choose the popular 2.0 litre diesel and S line trim and you'll have a car that shrugs off the miles, the engine a distant thrum as the suspension stays firmly in contact with the road, doing its best with big alloy wheels and stiffened springs to smooth your path.

Lesser versions with smaller wheels - or an S line on the optional softer suspension - would ride more serenely but lack the positive edge to the steering that makes the A3 feel taut and... connected.

The trip computer showed 54.9mpg after a brief but spirited drive. Combine that with the way the car is predicted to hang on to its value as the months roll by and this new Audi is clearly connected to real world values.


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