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The A3 gets a facelift and a delicious new 3-pot engine

S Muralidhar | Updated on January 20, 2018

Upgrades all round The new Audi A3 features a number of new toys inside the cabin and a n incredibly refined engine under the hood

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Test_drive

The Audi A3 gets a facelift for its year 2017 model and it will be India-bound soon. We just hope Audi will also bring in a couple of its new engines



The days of the big, burly, polluting engine are long gone. Huge HEMIs, V10s and even V8s are on their way out. But the age of luxury motoring is far from over. Instead of the guzzlers, optimally sized luxury cars with small engines, rational performance and low emissions has become the new reality.

We test drove a perfect example of this trend earlier this week in the new 2017 Audi A3. Being part of the international test drive programme, we got our hands onto multiple trim variants of the 2017 model year A3, but the one that really surprised us with its refinement and breadth of capabilities was the new A3 1.0 TFSI. It features an in-line three-cylinder 999cc petrol engine with direct injection, exhaust turbocharger and intercooler.

The engine delivers a healthy 115hp of power and 200Nm of torque, and is capable of a top speed of 211 kmph (sedan). This is efficient, responsible and rational performance for a luxury car that is actually only about as heavy as the average sedan in the entry class. But, by the traditional expectations from a luxury sedan (even though it is a compact), this is about as irrational as it gets. What is a three-pot, sub-one-litre engine doing in an Audi? More on that later, but first here are more details about the new Audi A3.

Design

Make no mistake the 2017 A3 is a facelift, and not a full model change. But, there are a lot of additions to the cabin that are likely to make the new A3 much more attractive than the current model.

The new 2017 A3 is dimensionally nearly identical to the current model – 4.24 metres long and a 2.6-metre wheelbase. Audi characteristic LED tubes in the headlights remain, but the headlamps themselves now feature new jagged edges. Xenons are standard, LEDs are optional and there is also the option of choosing Matrix LEDs as well – a first in the compact luxury sedan segment. The front, octagonal single frame grille is now sharper and wider. Air intakes in the front fender also get new design. Lineage lines around the new A3 are now sharper and more prominent, like the deep cut waistline that runs from the edge of the headlamps to the tail-lights. At the rear, tail-lamps also get a tweaked design in combination with the signature LEDs (in our test mule). These changes, along with the newly styled diffuser, add to the sense of width in the new model.

Cabin

There are more changes that have been made to the interior of the new model that take the feel of premiumness and luxury a step higher for a car in the compact luxury segment. The A3 made so much sense in the Indian context because of its manageable size and because it had equipment that made it almost as good as the A4. If the new A3 were to make it here with the same level of equipment and features as the European spec we drove, the A4 will have some serious competition, as would the others in the entry luxury sedan space.

There are a lot of new options, but the patterned aluminium inserts, suede leather panels on the door and the attention to detail that one could see on some of the other smaller elements elevated the quality of the cabin significantly. But, the most distinctive new addition to the new A3’s cabin is the Audi Virtual Cockpit. This is essentially a 12.3-inch diagonal TFT screen that replaces the conventional instrument cluster behind the steering wheel. This offers a lot of flexibility, enabling the new A3 display at – the toggle of a steering-mounted button – to show the regular circular instruments dials with the smaller background area being used for additional information. Press the view button and scroll between options and you can view the dials smaller with the larger area used for displaying animated maps, infotainment features or additional real-time information. The navigation system and the display of live maps on this instrument cluster screen is very impressive and works as good as a heads-up display.

The Audi MMI system with its dashboard display and the rotary scroll are additional elements. It has its own list of options to choose from including the B&O music system and the MMI interface has been reworked in the new A3. The system also integrates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for smartphone connectivity.

Performance

The most surprising and impressive new engine that we tried out during the test drive was the new 1.0 TFSI paired with the 7-speed S-Tronic transmission. The engine’s behaviour defies its size and type in terms of refinement. We are used to noisy, ‘vibey’ three-cylinder engines. Though you do expect an Audi mill to be more refined, this one really turned up trumps with almost imperceptible vibration levels at the steering and footwell, and almost zero noise in the cabin during idling. Accelerate past the 2,500rpm and there is evidence of an engine in the bonnet. But its on-road performance is not exactly without some size limitations creeping in. The power at the top-end thins off quickly with peak power being delivered between 5,000-5,500 rpm. Torque delivery has a wider band and starts fairly low at 2,000rpm. You have to work the engine a bit, but it doesn’t feel as strained during hard acceleration as some of the other three-cylinders we have driven.

Audi is likely to retain the current engines – the 1.8-litre TFSI petrol and the 2-litre TDI diesel engines for the India-spec new A3. That is currently being mentioned as the most likely combination. The other engines that are available in the European-spec A3 include the 2.0 TFSI, the 2.0 TDI and both their Quattro versions, the 1.6 TDI and the e-tron 1.4 TFSI. At the top, the S3 2.0 TFSI delivers 310PS of power and 400Nm of torque.

Bottomline

The new A3’s driving dynamics haven’t changed very much. The car's kerb weight is now lower thanks to the extensive light-weighting. Its handling and driveability is excellent in urban conditions and while there seems to be no dearth of stability on the highway, we did feel a bit of its lightness at higher speeds on the autobahn. We fervently hope that the new one-litre petrol will make its to India. The luxury car landscape is changing even in India and there will be more and more buyers who will also want to drive their cars themselves at least during the weekend.

It doesn’t hurt to know that this engine can also deliver a mileage of more than 20 kmpl (European cycle).

Published on May 26, 2016

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