A few years ago Audi started a big clean diesel push in the United States market when they brought the Q7 TDI over. The Q7 TDI was one of the most fuel efficient seven-seat SUVs on the market, but man was it ugly. Thankfully, the diesel Q7 was just the first step for the German company in its diesel push. Welcome to the Audi A3 Sportback TDI.
The A3 is the entry-level model for Audi here in the U.S. Previous models have been sold with a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder or a 3.2-liter V6 engine that were petrol powered. Now, Audi has added a new motor to the lineup, a diesel motor. We had a chance to take the diesel hatch out on the streets of Wisconsin for a few hours.
The A3 is in the same market as its brother, the Volkswagen Golf and the BMW 1-Series. It comes in front and all-wheel drive modes with a transverse-mounted engine. Unlike our European brethren, we only get the five-door model.
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The A3 gets a 101.5-inch wheelbase, the same as the Golf and the Jetta, but it’s also nine inches wider and two inches closer to the ground. The Audi also looks more aggressive than the Golf does.
Inside of the A3, it feels like an Audi, albeit a bit cheaper. The model we drove didn’t have any of the toys that Audi offers, so it was pretty barren. Either way, the controls are well laid out and it feels like a quality product. The backseat offers plenty of room and the seats are really supportive. Sadly, headroom has suffered a bit due to the lowered roofline.
Under the hood is the VW diesel motor that is in the Golf. The Audi TDI motor is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 140 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. The motor is very good and pulls very strong on the roads.
The reason to buy a diesel is for the fuel economy and the A3 doesn’t disappoint. Through a mix of different driving styles, we managed 34 miles per gallon. On the back roads and under normal driving it should be easy to get around 40 or 50 mpg.
The car comes with a six-speed manual transmission, or an optional six-speed dual-clutch S-Tronic that was fitted in our test car. The Audi can get steering wheel mounted paddles as an option, where as the VW doesn’t. The transmission was good, but a bit slow at times. The redline is low so you might have to shift a bit more, but on the highway those massive amounts of torque means that you won’t have to on the highway.
On the roads, the A3’s front-wheel drive chassis held the road very well. Like the Jetta, the A3 is a truly brilliant machine. There is a touch of understeer, but that is expected out of a front-wheel drive car with a heavy diesel motor under the hood.
The Audi A3 TDI comes with standard electronic stability control that only comes on when you need it. Even when it does come on, the ESC is hardly even there. The gearbox shifts smoothly and effortlessly and the strong torque from the motor helps you avoid constant downshifting.
As a city driver, the A3 is quiet and very refined. It’s only when you turn the key and idle do you ever here the barnyard diesel noise. Some might say that it can be too harsh, but welcome to the world of diesel. Around the town, the diesel is hardly noticeable and it’s easy to pull away from the lights with a vengeance.
Prices for the A3 start at $29,950 and that is a truly large price tag. While the car is very good, we don’t see people shelling out $30,000, plus options, on an entry-level diesel. The Jetta TDI will sell better, that much is clear, but for those who want a bit more, the A3 is wonderful.
We hope the A3 brings a new look to the American market. Before gas prices went up we were only too happy to buy pointless SUVs that get five miles per gallon. Yet, now when gas is a bit more money and we all are a little more environmentally conscious, these wagons could be our savior. Not to mention that we can now get 40 mpg in a few of these cars, what’s not to love?