After recently driving the Audiâ€™s close relation, the Golf GT TDI with DSG, I was keen to see how the A3 Sportback 2.0 TDI Ambition compared. The two cars share the same basic underpinnings, the same engine, producing the same power (125kW) and the same torque (a gob smacking 350Nm). Both cars tested also shared the 6-speed double clutch transmission, or S tronic in Audi speak.
Letâ€™s start with the subjective first, the carâ€™s looks. To me, the Sportback body shape has a basic and rudimentary silhouette which can look awkward when viewed from the rear quarter. However, far from allowing this to be a negative, Audiâ€™s designers have performed their usual task of delivering the market a well executed design solution and the A3â€™s slightly lower and raked roofline gives the car a sleeker, more dynamic look when compared to the Mk5 Golf. The A3 also has more of an exclusive feel about its looks. This feeling of exclusivity is reinforced in pure sales terms â€” in 2007, Audi sold 1,594 A3s, whereas Volkswagen sold 10,982 Golfs. Figures to the end of April this year follow a similar trend â€” 654 as against 4,503 â€” so you can be assured that an A3 will always be more exclusive than its Volkswagen cousin.
The interior of the A3, while perhaps not as efficient in layout, is a nicer place to be than the Golf. Although, there is not much in it and in real terms personal preference is the order of the day. Both cars impress with their quality of materials and construction, but the A3â€™s interior does have a slight edge, even if the centre arm rest can be a bit cumbersome at times.
As noted in the GT TDI review the smooth shifting double clutch transmission is perfectly suited to the 125kW diesel. If there is a fault, it is moving away from standstill. The car can sometimes take a bit longer than expected to get moving, but once the car is in motion the drivetrain is a delight. That said, I found this A3 to be somewhat rougher than the Golf GT. However, the A3 tested had less than 50km on the odometer and the GT TDI had well over 3,000kms. So, perhaps we can forgive the A3 for being a little tight. The in gear acceleration provided by the torque-rich diesel, as expected, is sublime. My test partner had to forgive me for giggling a bit like a school girl as I kept testing the impressive spread of power from around 80-110km/h. It really is a hoot.
The A3 2.0 TDI is fitted with Sports suspension and it does a pretty good job of finding a balance between sharp performance and a comfortable ride. Audi havenâ€™t nailed either aspect to perfection, mind. The chassis is tuned for a sportier ride than the target audience may prefer, but the car performed admirably on the mixed bag of roads covered. Better than admirably, to be fair. Spirited driving is quite rewarding, especially when you remember the carâ€™s intent and one has to mark the car very hard to find any major fault around town. Perhaps the brakes are a little over-assisted, but, to my mind, I would prefer this over stomping on the brake pedal and feeling as though nothing is happening.
Audiâ€™s A3 Sportback 2.0 TDI Ambition is a lovely car. Taut handling, great build quality and, generally, very pleasant to drive. But, I have saved the A3â€™s achilles heel for last. Its price. Starting at $48,500, plus on road costs, the A3 2.0 TDI is almost $10,000 more than a similarly equipped Golf GT TDI, and Iâ€™m not sure I could justify the extra money were I considering the two cars. If greater exclusivity and the prestige of the Audi badge are points you rate highly, then go right ahead, youâ€™ll be buying a damn good car. But donâ€™t spend that money before first testing the A3 Sportback 2.0 TFSI quattro. At just $3000 more than the diesel (available in 6-speed manual only), you get the surety of Audiâ€™s famous all-wheel drive and the equally impressive 2.0 turbo engine.
Thank you to Audi Centre Canberra for their assistance.
(Note: Audi A3 Sportback 3.2 quattro Ambition pictured)