Audi's marketing slogan for the A3 Sportback is, A new kind of vorsprung, and there is no doubt that Audi is indeed coming out with full force to give the Sportback the edge.
The Sportback isn't quite a traditional five-door hatch or an estate, but more a bit of both. Therefore the Sportback, which is 83mm longer than its three-door sibling, offers you a perfect balance of space and a sporty flair.
Its main rival is obviously the BMW 1 Series and Audi says that it also targets the Mercedes A-Class. Another rival in terms of pricing is probably the Volvo V50 but if the Sportback is to steal sales of any of these cars it will be the 1 Series.
In fact the Sportback already proves to be popular as there is a waiting list of three months and Audi dealerships can prepare themselves for a flood of potential buyers.
What gives the Sportback with its coupe-like side profile a further advantage is that it has more space and engine options than the 1 Series. There are four and six-cylinder engines available and some models come with the VW-Audi group's revolutionary DSG transmission.
Visually, the Sportback can easily be spotted thanks to its all-new single-frame grille, which will become available on its three-door equivalent too later this month.
At the rear it also gets different taillights than the three-door model. The Nuvolari concept car influenced the design of these new two-piece lights, which arches into the hatch.
Of course one of the Sportback's biggest attributes is its versatility and it offers 370 litres of luggage space, which can be increased to 1 120 litres. Unlike the 1 Series, the Sportback has more than enough space for rear passengers and there is ample legroom.
As with other Audis the Sportback's perceived build quality and ergonomics are superb giving the car a real premium look and feel. A host of standard comfort and safety features are available while buyers can also spec their Sportback for their individual needs.
An interesting optional extra is the large area glass roof, which stretches from the windscreen to the rear window. This roof consists of glass panels of which the one above the front passengers can slide open.
If you have an extra R16 000 you can also give your Sportback an even sportier flair if you opt for the S-line exterior package. This will ad modified bumpers, an S-line grille, special scuff plates and a different rear spoiler.
3.2 six-cylinder engine: 184 kW, 320 Nm
2.0 T FSI four-cylinder: 147 kW, 280 Nm
2.0 FSI four-cylinder: 110 kW, 200 Nm
2.0 TDI four-cylinder: 103 kW, 320 Nm
All models are fitted with a 6-speed manual gearbox as standard while a six-speed tiptronic automatic can be selected for the 2.0 FSI. DSG is available as an option on the 2.0 TDI, 2.0 T FSI and 3.2 V6 quattro.
Behind the wheel
On the launch we had the opportunity to drive the 2.0 T FSI and 3.2 V6 derivatives. The 2.0 T FSI is the same as that of the Golf GTI.
As with its VW sibling the Sportback 2.0 T FSI offers potent turbo power which makes it a great driver's car. But it seems quieter than in the Golf and in the Sportback it has a more "grown-up" feel to it as it doesn't feel as wild.
Though it is still fun and this model is a superb combination of performance and the need of a practical and versatile vehicle. This model offers a smooth ride but once the turbo kicks in at about 2 000 r/min the fun really starts.
Of course the 3.2 V6 with Audi's quattro all-wheel drive is even more sharper and its road-holding manners are impressive.
As with the three-door, the Sportback is also fitted with electromechanical steering with speed-dependent power assistance.
This combines optimum feedback from steering movements with a low level of sensitivity to vibration from the road and crosswinds.
Its basic suspension layout is shared with the three-door A3 and thanks to its McPherson front axle with triangular wishbones and advanced four-link rear axle, the A3 Sportback provides agile handling.
However, in general the Sportback feels better balanced than the normal A3.
The Sportback is a car with a big "wow" factor and it is an impressive package indeed. This is a vehicle which comes with loads of style without sacrificing versatility.
Furthermore this is complimented by superb fit and finish giving it a touch of class, which is not matched by its biggest German competitor.
This Audi's potent and frugal engine range makes the Sportback even more desirable.
The Sportback is not only a car which you want to be seen in, but also one you want to drive.
2.0 FSI ambition 6-speed manual: R219 500
2.0 FSI ambition 6-speed tiptronic: R232 500
2.0 TDI ambition 6-speed manual: R 242 000
2.0 TDI ambition 6-speed DSG: R258 000
2.0 T FSI ambition 6-speed manual: R255 000
2.0 T FSI ambition 6-speed DSG: R271 000
3.2 V6 quattro 6-speed manual: R324 500
3.2 V6 quattro 6-speed DSG: R340 500
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