Audi A3 Sportback

2.0 TDI S line

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

AUDI'S A3 Sportback is a car that evolved out of the original A3 design blueprint and was arguably something of a spin-off - though nowadays it's pretty much the mainstream as far as the A3 range is concerned.

Once upon a time there were both three and five-door A3s and when the Sportback came along it was kind of like an A3 plus.

I recall driving one for the first time and being impressed with just how much extra versatility and practicality it offered over standard models.

Essentially it was a stepping stone between the A3 and the A4, offering an affordable family car with those famous sought-after four rings on the grille.

The A3 range has recently had something of a makeover with some of the key changes being far more standard kit and the ability to be ever more connected.

The Sportback is now the standard five-door model, with the range also featuring a three-door hatch, a cabriolet and a saloon.

Exterior changes to the A3 are minimal, in line with Audi's mastery of evolution over revolution.

Some might say Audi is over cautious with such a design philosophy but it's proved a winning formula so far, so why mess with it.

The most recent facelift is arguably more about giving customers more for their money and added interior features on all models include cruise control, auto lights and wipers and a multi-function steering wheel.

It's possible to get an A3 for under £20,000 (just) with the upgraded range starting at £19,365 for a three-door hatch with a 1.0-litre petrol engine in SE trim.

The connected technology that is one of the key selling points in the new models not surprisingly involves moving somewhat further up the range.

Audi is most excited about its ‘digital cockpit' which consists of a high definition screen replacing conventional dials.

In terms of technology I've often wondered how long it will be before all cars come with sat nav as standard and with the latest A3 that isn't far off - only SE models don't come equipped with it.

There are three trim levels - SE, Sport and S line and a choice of six engines, all of which are either new to the A3 or heavily revised.

For most it will probably be a choice between the 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel fitted to this car or the 120bhp 1.4-litre petrol unit, though there's also a more powerful version of the 2.0-litre diesel available.

Traditionally most might have plumped for diesel over petrol but the balance of power really is shifting with the latest small but powerful and efficient petrol engines really giving diesel a run for the money.

From an economic point of view there's a strong argument for the 1.4-litre petrol.

Choose the diesel and you'll fork out substantially more initially, as well as paying higher insurance costs.

Added to that from a handling and performance point of view the diesel engine is significantly heavier than the petrol unit.

Other engine options include the Volkswagen Group's impressive 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine and a new 2.0-litre 190bhp petrol unit. There's also a 1.6-litre diesel.

That said there's no doubting that the Sportback with the 2.0-litre diesel in S line trim is a small car with a very big attitude and a seriously grown-up feel.

Audi still leads the way in terms of in-car ergonomics, something that's reflected in finishing, instrumentation, switchgear and quality across the board.

The cabin really is an extraordinarily comfortable place to be - the kind of environment that makes pretty much any journey, long or short, a real pleasure.

If you're in the business of making that journey even more pleasurable and enjoying some home comforts another really great feature is Audi's ‘jukebox' offering 10GB of hard drive memory for music, effectively giving you the opportunity to listen to every album you've ever owned.

This car offered an eclectic mix of music old and new on its jukebox and all the members of the family enjoyed exploring it to see what musical gems could be discovered - an experience enhanced by exemplary sound quality.

In terms of practicality the Sportback is decent enough, though perhaps not as spacious as one might expect. Rear seat passengers probably have just about enough room and while the 380-litre boot is big enough for most everyday needs it's only 15 litres more space than is offered in the three-door.

FAST FACTS

Audi A3 Sportback 2.0 TDI S line

Price:£27,285

Mechanical: 148bhp, 1,968cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed:133mph

0-62mph: 8.3 seconds

Combined MPG: 65.7

Insurance Group: 23

C02 emissions: 109g/km

Bik rating:21%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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