What is it?
The latest and biggest addition to the Audi A3 range. It adds an extra two doors to the recently-launched three-door hatchback, and is expected to take two out of three A3 sales.
Audi is quick to point out that the Sportback is not simply a five-door A3 – it has added 58mm between the front and rear wheels to create more interior space. That manifests itself as extra room for rear passengers and a larger boot. For that extra interior flexibility, Audi asks an additional £620 over the equivalent three-door.
The front axle has been moved forward by 40mm compared with the old car, creating a shorter overhang. The Sportback uses a McPherson suspension arrangement up front, with a four-link rear set-up at the rear.
Predictably weight has increased. The car tested here has gained an additional 30kg over the three-door, which has had a marginal impact on its on-paper performance and fuel economy. But you’d have to test them side by side to notice. Even with the weight increase, it is still substantially lighter than the car it replaces.
The 2.0-litre TDI engine we’re testing here will account for around 40 per cent of this model’s sales. It’s a comprehensively worked-over version of the engine from the old car, but Audi has done enough to keep it among the class best. The engine will be initially offered with a 148bhp output, but a 181bhp version will arrive next spring.
What’s it like?
Like the old A3 Sportback, but better in virtually every regard. Our test car was in entry-level SE trim and shod with small (for an Audi) 16-inch wheels. While they do wonders for the ride, Audi buyers like a little more in the diameter department, so we’ll have to wait until cars arrive in the UK to deliver a definitive verdict. Certainly, on smooth French blacktop, and on these wheels, the ride was supple, quiet and comfortable.
The steering offers more engagement than before. It is still a couple of steps behind the class best – a slightly artificial tone sees to that – but it is accurate and consistent. Our test car was fitted with the optional Audi Drive Select system which beefs up the experience through Comfort to Dynamic modes.
The latest development of the 2.0-litre TDI engine is stronger than ever. It feels like it offers more urge than the unit it replaces, and it feels fractionally quicker than its 8.7sec 0-62mph time suggests. It achieves this benchmark one tenth slower than the hatchback, but its v-max is unchanged at 134mph.
Cabin noise is well suppressed, although it is slightly less refined than the 1.6-litre entry-level TDI unit. The gearchange isn’t as precise as that mated to the smaller engine either. But in isolation, the 2.0-litre turbodiesel and six-speed manual gearbox are an exceptionally strong pairing.
Should I buy one?
Yes. If you’re buying an A3, you’d be well advised to choose the Sportback, with its useful additional space. There’s no discernable impact on performance or economy, and to these eyes, the styling is every bit as attractive.
You’ll find extra equipment fitted to its cousin, the Volkswagen Golf, but any extra you spend speccing an A3 to Golf levels will likely be recouped when you come to sell.
The A3 Sportback is, by any measure, an improvement on the old model. But with genuine rivals emerging from within the VW Group stable, the appeal of the brand is more important than ever.
Stuart Milne
Audi A3 Sportback 2.0 TDI SE
Price £22,125; 0-62mph 8.7sec; Top Speed 134mph; Economy 67.3mpg; CO2 108g/km; Kerb weight 1310kg; Engine 1968cc, 4 cyls, turbodiesel; Power 148bhp at 3500rpm; Torque 236lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual

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