View Full Version : Audi A3 Sportback review

04-21-2005, 11:18 AM
My daily driver is an Alfa Romeo Milano Verde. It's a bit of hair shirt car, but so much fun you can forgive those aspects most of the time. However, I'm up to 255,000 miles and although the car still runs fine, it's missing some refinements. The problem has been that there isn't much out there of similar size with nice materials, good driving dynamics, a strong V6, and still capable of carrying a set of race tires to the track. The Sportback is within a couple of mm of the Alfa in most dimensions, so it's a natural exchange. <p>Also, I'm short, and many cars either have long heavy doors that are a pain to use over and over (move the seat up almost all the way and then leverage the door 15 to 25 times while ducking around the usual highly raked A pillar) and require you swing them open all of the way to climb out when the seat is forward - not always possible in tight quarters. The A3 is perfect for shrimps like me! The steering wheel is still far enough away for good leverage when the seat is moved up; the shift lever far enough forward that my elbow doesn't hit the seat bolster when engaging 2nd and 4th; so the vertically challenged can rejoice! :-D This may not be a big deal to most of you, but it's really rare to find a nice car that actually fits well (instead of forcing myself to adapt and never feeling comfortable or tweaking my back). My 6 ft sales buddy fits just fine too.<p>The ride firmer than expected even in the base version. Not a bad thing of course. The Open Sky sunroof makes the car very airy, but adds too much weight up high for cornering fiends like me - the base version felt better in curves (dealer had DSG w/premium package and sunroof, and a stripper 6 spd model). I could really feel the taller center of gravity on the sunroof equipped car.<p>ESP is much less intrusive than previous cars. I could go into a long curvy on-ramp and slowly feed in more and more power, with minimal understeer, and tires howling faintly before ESP would kick in very subtly. It would kill fun in sharp turns though. However, when you switch it off and lift the throttle in the turn to tuck in the nose and push out the tail, the car responded just fine if not quite as keenly as my car - Pirellis not as sticky as the Toyos. Don't think I'd miss QTR if I didn't need it for the extra torque of the V6 and going to Tahoe. Just want the sounds of the VR6:-)<p>The 2.0T is utterly lag free and sounds much better than the 1.8T ever did. It pulls hard from just off idle, all the way to redline with no flat spots and little vibration. There is a nice growl under throttle, but it's virtually silent at stoplights.<p>Clutch takeup not so high as most Audis, but not Honda short either. The shifter had reasonably short throws and snicked into gear with just enough effort to tell you the next cog is engaged. The DSG system is smoother than in the TT I drove a while ago. I don't know if it's the engine or just software changes, but the shifts are indetectable except by ear. The only downside I noticed was reduced compression braking due no doubt to the lower compression ratio used on a turbo 2.0T engine. Steering medium-light but not much feedback. Of course you can dial away some steering boost with VAG COM. Chassis feedback is good for a dual purpose car like this.<p>Plastic steering wheel in the base version is not so nice. Plastics look OK, but in some cases feel harder or more brittle than other Audis and more like most other cars. Bins in the bottoms of the front doors are not rubber lined like most VAG products, so expect things to rattle in them, and cleaning them to be more tricky. The climate control knob actuation feels a bit clicky/brittle. Metallic looking trim is still made from metal. I liked the cloth seats better than leather, but the sport package (sport seats and suspension) come only in leather. The texture is unique and grippy. Back seat area very comfy and spacious given size.<p>Competition is probably the small Volvos and the MazdaSpeed 3 when it comes. The Mini is smaller overall. Back seat room in the 1 series is much smaller. The Subarus (Impreza wagon) might compete, but the fit and finish isn't even close. The BMW 318 and Mercedes C230 are more expensive by a long shot and don't offer awd. Nothing much else out there in North America in a premium small wagon.<br>

zwei Biere bitte
04-21-2005, 05:54 PM
Thanks for the review. I'm actually looking forward to see how a compact luxury hatch will do here in the land of SUVs. I like the A3's looks, although your plastics description didn't sound too good compared with some of Audi's other interiors.

04-21-2005, 10:16 PM
I'm quite surprised that a glass sunroof can be so heavy to influence a car's handling. <br>Would be nice to have an alternative to glass as carbon-fiber to metal :P <IMG NAME="icon" SRC="http://www.germancarfans.com/images/forums/werd.gif" BORDER="0"> <p>and yeah cheap looking plastic is not something we'd expect from an Audi. I'm also interested in how this car sells and if it's a good idea to bring it to the US...but I do hope so. Tomorrow I'm going to the dealer to check it out. <br>Nice review <IMG NAME="icon" SRC="http://images.zeroforum.com/smile/emthup.gif" BORDER="0">

04-22-2005, 10:44 AM
<TABLE WIDTH="90%" CELLSPACING=0 CELLPADDING=0 ALIGN=CENTER><TR><TD><i>Quote, originally posted by <b>Comrade</b> &raquo;</i></TD></TR><TR><TD CLASS="quote">I'm quite surprised that a glass sunroof can be so heavy to influence a car's handling. </TD></TR></TABLE><p>The A3 uses a system called Open Sky, which is actually a double sunroof with the front one articulated like a regular sunroof. Since it's a large hole to cut into the roof and lots of structural rigidity gets lost, they have to reinforce the roof in other ways. So not only do you have the weight of the glass and frame, but also the additional bracing. Most sunroofs add anywhere from 35lbs (simple small metal moonroof) to up to 160lbs! Of course this is mounted at the highest point in the car so the center of gravity is affected. Since the cars I drove did not have the sport suspension, there was some body roll. Not epic like in the Alfa <IMG NAME="icon" SRC="http://images.zeroforum.com/smile/emwink.gif" BORDER="0"> but when you made some quick transitions as if you were autocrossing, you could feel the car lean over further and longer. If you didn't drive a sunroof equipped and non-sunroof car back to back, you probably wouldn't notice.<p>The plastics would be right at home in a lower level BMW, but they just aren't Audi quality. For the most part they look fine, it's just the tactile aspect that isn't up to the usual standard. Not everything feels like that of course, just a few parts.

zwei Biere bitte
04-22-2005, 01:25 PM
Verdegrrl, do you know what the MPG figures are for the 2.0 DSG A3? I'm just curious because I couldn't find the numbers on the EPA site. The A4 gets 32 MPG on the highway with the 2.0t, so how much does the A3 get? Thanks.

04-22-2005, 07:47 PM
<br>Just out of curiosity, any guess on when the A3 3.2L will be available in the US?

zwei Biere bitte
04-23-2005, 05:37 PM
I think the 3.2 (With Quattro) will become avalible this fall if I'm not mistaken.

04-23-2005, 09:23 PM
<TABLE WIDTH="90%" CELLSPACING=0 CELLPADDING=0 ALIGN=CENTER><TR><TD><i>Quote, originally posted by <b>zwei Biere bitte</b> &raquo;</i></TD></TR><TR><TD CLASS="quote">I think the 3.2 (With Quattro) will become avalible this fall if I'm not mistaken. </TD></TR></TABLE><p>ya I think you're right, from what I gather, most sources say approximately 6 months after the 2.0t is released in April/May

04-24-2005, 06:48 PM
Economy ratings are 25/31 for the DSG and 24/32 for the manual. Curb weight is around 3200 to 3300lbs.<p>The V6 should come late this Fall. DSG only to start, with manual following at some point later. Pricing to start around $30K.