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Review: Audi A3

PUBLISHED: 21:46 16 May 2015 | UPDATED: 21:46 16 May 2015

Audi A3 Sportback

Audi A3 Sportback

Archant

A Sportback model has propelled Audi into UK sales' top 10 to highlight the German marque's executive-sector strength

BMW used to be the UK’s favourite German premium brand and the proof was the top 10 seller rating of the ubiquitous 3 Series.

But Audi’s four-rings badge now leads the premium sector; indeed, it was 2014’s fourth best-selling brand overall in the UK with a 6.42 per cent market share, behind the rather more mainstream Ford, Vauxhall and its own sister brand VW.

But if you thought the change has been wrought by Audi’s 3 Series rival, the A4, you’d be wrong. It’s the smaller A3 that is responsible, replacing the 3 Series in the UK sales Top 10 and largely because the five-door Sportback model is a compact executive car for all seasons and reasons.

The version tested here certainly fits that all-rounder role, being the A3 Sportback 2.0 TDI Sport 184PS which, at £25,505, commands a £660 premium over its three-door sister. It’s good value when you realise that this five-door spin-off justifies its distinctive Sportback label through a slightly longer wheelbase delivering more cabin space, and it has a bigger boot/load area: 380 and 1,220 litres respectively versus the three-door’s 365 and 1,100.

Of its premium rivals, only the Lexus CT hybrid comes close for boot space (375 litres), but the Japanese car can’t challenge the Sportback in any other department, including sheer snob value.

But where the Sportback scores highest – and particularly with the test model – is in balancing sporting looks and handling with economy. The 182bhp diesel is smooth, refined yet fiery, with a 0-62mph sprint speed of 7.4 seconds and still has an official 67.3mpg (combined cycle) while real-world driving is still likely to be around 50mpg; impressive for such a free spirit.

To be fair, many would-be buyers might be more interested in the only slightly less potent (0-62mph in 8.6 seconds) 150PS (148bhp) 2.0 TDI versions; with our Sport model you’ll save £1,310 on list price and enjoy even better economy (68.9mpg).

This generation of Sportback, launched in 2013, is claimed to be around 90 kilos lighter than the previous car; this shows in the car’s poise and flat stance in corners.

And this is with the no-cost option standard suspension fitted, widely regarded as the better all-round option. The standard six-speed gearbox is slick enough to exploit the car’s on-road prowess too, though you can also have a seven-speed twin-clutch auto.

Inside is the durable yet stylish and upmarket Audi cabin trim with its thoughtful layout. Indeed those in front may well feel they are riding in a car from the class above, such is the impression of space and elbow room.

There is also decent leg and headroom in the back for the outermost passengers, even if it might be a bit cramped for three across – a minor gripe, however, for a car performing so well across the board.

Audi A3

Price from: £18,575

Model featured: A3 Sportback 2.0 TDI Sport 184PS £25,505

Power: 182bhp and 0-62mph in 7.4 seconds

Engine: 1,968cc four-cylinder diesel

Fuel consumption: 67.3mpg combined cycle

Road tax: £20/year (zero, year one)

Best rival: VW Golf

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