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Audi brings new A3 Sportback

2013-04-25 08:27


A BIT BLAND?: Audi's new A3 Sportback might be popular but it doesn't have anything to write home about. Image: Audi SA

Audi has launched the new generation A3 Sportback in South Africa. And as much as it didn’t tickle my fancy, there’s no doubt South Africans will love this car.

Stemming from the A3 “five-door” from 1998, the A3 Sportback made its international debut in 2004 and arrived locally in 2005. Since then Audi has sold more than 15 000 cars in SA.

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I’m a simple girl and I’ve always believed that less is more. If I’m going to wear a dress it won’t have any sequins, bling and frilly bits, I’ll be in a plain cocktail number and that’s how I like my cars. While the A3 Sportback is exactly that, something about it just bothered me all day during the launch in Cape Town.

I remember driving the RS3 when it was launched here in 2011 and I was rather stoked about the sporty car. The A3 Sportback has almost identical styling and the same uncluttered interior, yet it lacks some personality.

The new car is 4.31m long, 1.78m wide and 1.2m high with a 58mm longer wheelbase than the outgoing model. Thank makes the three-door version only 35mm shorter than the Sportback.

On the looks front, there are three side windows; the distinctive single-frame Audi grille has large air intakes and xenon headlights. Lines are bold and sharp to emphasise the flanks and powerful shoulders. Big wheels arches, a spoiler mounted at the rear of the roof and a sculptured bum all tick the right boxes for a subtle but sporty attitude.

At the back there are LED rear light clusters; an adaptive brake light and either one or two tailpipes - depending on the engine derivative - on the left side of the car.


The cabin is where I found myself at a loss – the styling is absolutely minimal. There are four huge air vents through the facia but little else. Such vents might have been really cool on the old TT, back in the day, but now their retro look and size are too much. The lower-specced models have three dials on the lower part of the centre facia for the aircon, all other controls are in the centre console just in front of the gear-lever, including the multimedia infotainment (MMI) controls with a circular touchpad.

There are remote controls on the steering wheel but the volume control on the centre console is in a rather awkward position. The driver will most likely be felt-up while the passenger turns up the volumne; depending who’s riding shotgun, I wouldn't like that.

Is the A3 comfy? Of course it is, it’s an Audi. I liked that hardly any wind noise got through the door panels and the soft leather seats are so snug I dozed off rather rudely for a few minutes while a colleague was driving – that's how comfortable it is.

That said, one car we drove had a two-tone interior: a vivid burnt orange and black combo that give me a headache and could be the reason my eyes just wanted to close involuntarily. It’s horrid, especially on a white car, but I concede it might work with a black shell.

Audi has proved itself with its great T FSI engines throughout the family stable and they can hardly be faulted – it’s no different in this line-up.


The full range will include four engines in seven models, 1.2, 1.4 and 1.8 TFSI petrol units in either manual or S tronic (auto) guise, and a 1.6 TDI diesel in S tronic S only. All models will be in “S” trim, with the 1.8-litre available in SE or all-wheel drive options.

Only the 1.4, 1.6 and 1.8 is available with S tronic until the 1.2 and 1.8 manual models and a 1.8 TFSI quattro arrive in August 2013.

With all that said, handling remains superb. I haven’t felt so comfortable in a screeching tight corner in a very long time. 


Driving is smooth, gear changes are on point - manual or auto - and the car delivers of its best on the Cape's twisting roads. Perhaps it has something to do with the cars being 90kg lighter than the previous range.

We drove the 1.4 S tronic first. It allowed some spirited driving but the 1.8 put delight on my face. You can feel the power difference almost immediately. The 1.6 TDI option is gutsy but not as boastful as the 1.8 but overtaking is easy in any of the three models.

The new 1.4 TFSI has an aluminium block that weighs only 107kg and makes 90kW/200Nm. It hits 100km/h in 9.5sec and top speed is 203km/h. Average fuel consumption is listed as 5.3 litres/100km by Audi SA and it pushes out carbon dioxide at a rate of 123g/km.

The 1.6 TDI auto claims 3.9 litres/100km with 102g/km of C02 emssions, zero to 100km/h takes 10.9sec and it tops out at 194km/h.

The new 1.8 TFSI makes 132kW/250Nm, goes to 100km/h in 7.3sec and can reach 232km/h. Average fuel consumption is quoted as 5.6 litres/100km with 130g/km of C02.

The car might not have me waving jazz hands in excitement and the original model did win the SA Car of the Year accolade in 2006, I still found it boring. The A3 has always been much-loved by the local public so despite my lack of stirred emotions and it’s steep pricing, it’ll most likely sell as well here as it does in the rest of the world.  

The Audi A3 Sportback comes with a five-year or 100 000km Audi Freeway plan.


A3 Sportback 1.2T FSI S - R283 000 (available August 2013)
A3 1.4T FSI S - R290 500
A3 1.4T FSI S tronic S - R307 500
A3 1.6 TDI S tronic S - R319 500
A3 1.8T FSI SE - R322 000 (available August 2013)
A3 1.8T FSI S tronic SE - R 339,000
A3 1.8T FSI quattro S tronic - R370 000 (available August 2013)
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