With a slightly menacing appearance from the front, the A3 Sportback 2.0T announces its intentions, overtly sporting the now familiar "Auto Union-esque" grill and aggressive headlamp arrangement.
Its standard fitment of the 225/45 17-inch wheels with the slightly lowered ride height gives the car an athletic stance, and the altered tail light clusters, now more elongated, seem to modernise the rear of the car. This leaves the original three-door hatch's rump looking a little bulbous and slightly unflattering by comparison...
The uncontested highlight of this very complete car is its superb engine. While it cannot claim to be the exclusive property of this car, doing duty in all manner of VW, Audi, Seat, Moulinex and Kelvinator appliances and probably starring shortly in a theatre near you, it is, as evidenced by its multiple awards, quite extraordinary.
Nominal figures of 147 kW and 280 Nm of torque, while fairly impressive in their own right, do not adequately convey the seemingly effortless thrust and the sensation of surfing this never-ending wave of torque. Mated to a slick shifting six-speed 'box with a pleasingly short and very positive shifting action, every drive is an invitation to play with this superlative power plant.
Dynamically, the car is very good without paying the inevitable penalty for razor-sharp handling of loose fillings and frequent dialysis sessions occasioned by battered kidneys. The spring rates and damping are well chosen to provide positive turn-in and mid-corner stability (not in the same league as some of the more anorexic Lotus offerings) but very good nonetheless.
There is very little torque steer to speak of and generally only if the roads are wet and your right foot is very heavy. Braking is handled by the now de rigueur all disc setup with ABS and multiple redundant systems that you'd expect in a car like this.
Nanny from Ingolstadt
A full suite of airbags and the obligatory plethora of safety devices is available for those times when your reach exceeds your grasp and the electronics then step in to prevent you from spreading yourself around the countryside. I can attest that this intrusion is subtle and it never feels like the nanny from Ingolstadt is there to spoil your fun.
The interior of the car has a "hewn from the solid" feel to it with a reassuring "thunk" when the doors are shut. The interior architecture is pleasing in an archetypical Teutonic way, while not being groundbreaking or looking like the designer tried too hard to be clever (Chris Bangle anyone?) The switches and buttons are all well padded and it's a pleasure to fiddle in the cabin (sometimes with the buttons!). The sport seats are clad in a mixture of leather and "alcantara" (suede to you and me) and are well suited, both when pressing on or just cruising.
All-in-all, a supreme and very pleasing effort from Audi...the only difficulty is...what do I replace it with...?!
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