Is this the entry luxury car you’ve been waiting for?

BL25_AUDI1

Simple elegance The design of the dashboard and the centre stack follow ‘minimalist’ principles, - a number of knobs and controls havebeen eliminated, and the jukebox has been moved inside the glove box. S MURALIDHAR

BL25_AUDI4

BL25_AUDI5

BL25_AUDI6

BL25_auto_Audi_A3_sedan_NET.jpg

Audi doesn’t skimp on features for the A3. Hope the price will be equally attractive.



Luxury car brands have seen a bit of a divergent trend amongst their cars on either end of the size spectrum. Thanks largely to the seemingly insatiable appetite of buyers in China, brands like Audi have had to develop long wheelbase versions of their flagship sedans, which have already seen an organic increase in length over the years.

But, they have also had to develop small luxury sedans to capture the rising demand amongst aspiring younger buyers with lighter wallets. These compact luxury sedans are also wooing buyers in Europe and the US, where either the economic slowdown or a similar population of new, young buyers are the drivers of demand.

The Indian market may not be as big as China’s for luxury cars, but apparently the trends are becoming quite similar. And this is the reason why BMW brought in the X1 and the 1 Series hatch, and Mercedes Benz launched the A and B Class. It is also the reason why Audi is launching the A3 sedan, Mercedes will be launching the CLA and the reason why Jaguar is due to launch the XE – its small sedan – next year.

Audi has chosen to bring in the sedan version of the A3, unlike the other two German brands that have first brought in the hatch versions of their respective small cars.

Compared to its competitors, Audi has also chosen to take a different positioning path with the new A3 sedan, shunning the prospect of cut-throat pricing by offering a stripped down version. Instead it has packed the car with features and built into its cabin unique character that is going to make it a challenge to price it much below Rs 30 lakh. Not surprisingly, Audi is assembling the A3 sedan locally to keep the price tag competitive.

Design

The A3 sedan has its set of unique bits that help make its exterior design stand out from the rest of the Audi family cars. But, there is no mistaking it to be from any other family and the smaller size gives it away as being one of the ‘A’ siblings.

The narrow headlamps with bi-xenon projectors also feature a different take on Audi’s signature LED daytime running lights. The new angled upper corners of the bonnet and the large air-intakes in the front bumper give the A3 sedan more character. To make the A3 look stockier, Audi designers have also increased the windscreen size to give the A-pillar a thin outer profile and have simultaneously thickened the C-pillar at the rear.

The side profile is classic Audi with the prominent Tornado line and 17-inch forged aluminium alloys. What you see here in the pictures is the S-Line trim, but the regular trim is equally striking. The integrated rear lip spoiler and the narrow profile tail-lamps with LED tubes makes the rear of the A3 sedan more distinctive. The stubby boot is the only indicator that the A3 was originally constructed as a hatch.

Cabin

Despite large swathes of uninterrupted plastic, the A3 sedan’s cabin feels plush and special. A combination of factors contribute to the appeal with the high quality of the materials used being one of them. The design of the dashboard and the centre stack also follow ‘minimalist’ principles and a number of knobs and controls have been eliminated. The music system for one doesn’t exist on the dash, there is just a small circular volume knob and fast-forward and rewind buttons on the centre console. Instead, a 20GB jukebox with 2 SD card slots is placed in the glove box. There is the Audi Music interface and the MMI display that allows you to control other audio functions. The A3 doesn’t have the B&O speakers, but the standard Audi sound system is no weakling either.

There is a bit of drama too in the A3 sedan with the 7-inch MMI retractable display popping out when you start the car. Then there is the dual airconditioning system with the turbine shaped aircon vents featuring spot diffuser function and the chrome ring surrounding the vents acting as a rotary controller. The car also features 3D optic inlays in aluminium and a new LED interior lighting package, just in case there isn’t enough light already pouring in from the panoramic sunroof.

The leather seats are comfy, though they do feel a tad bit compact given the limitations of the dimensions of the car, compared to its bigger siblings. Both the front seats are electrically adjustable.

Performance

So, how does the A3 feel on the road, we went to Udaipur to test the car on city roads and the highway leading up to Mount Abu. The test mule was the diesel version of the India-spec A3 sedan.

For the Indian market Audi is offering the A3 with two engine options. The 35TDI S tronic is powered by the 2-litre turbocharged diesel engine and the 40TFSI S tronic is powered by the 1.8-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged, stratified direct injection engine. The A3 signals the start of the new naming convention for Audi where the ‘dynamic factor’ number represents the power ranking for the car. So, the higher the number, the more powerful the variant and this is in contrast to the earlier size of the engine nomenclature.

The diesel A3 is expected to far outsell the petrol, no wonder Audi wants to focus heavily on the model. On the road, the 1,968cc engine starts out with the typical diesel noise as we power up. But, noise levels quickly drop after the engine settles into a mid-range clip while cruising or constant acceleration.

The engine’s peak power of 143 HP is delivered from 3,500 rpm and it is easy to see why the A3 diesel has such strong mid-range grunt. There is just a shade of turbolag that can be felt, but with 320 NM of torque from a low 1,750 rpm, there will be nothing to complain about for most buyers in the segment. Top speed is 224 kmph and the 0-100 kmph run clocks in at 8.6 seconds.

The engine has been paired with the 6-speed, dual-clutch S tronic transmission, which is predictably quick. Steering paddles are missing, but manual inputs are still possible when the stick is shifted into sports mode. Start-stop function is standard across models.

The A3 sedan’s ride is surprising pliant. Soaking up most of the bad patches which city roads threw up, the suspension manages to isolate the cabin. The handling, though, manages to remain unaffected. The A3 stays stuck to the tarmac and the steering weighs up nicely at higher speeds.

Verdict

The A3 has the right set of features and blend of character to make it the perfect entry luxury sedan – at least until more competitors arrive on our shores. Priced right, it has the potential to bite deep into the sales of its competitors. But, that could also include Audi’s A4, after all, in comparison the A3 doesn’t seem like a step down.

Published on July 24, 2014
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor