Audi A3 Sportback 1.0 TFSI 2017 Review | Road Test
Audi A3 Sportback 1.0 TFSI 2017 Review | Road Test

Audi A3 Sportback 1.0 TFSI 2017 Review | Road Test


Richard Berry investigates the entry point of Audi's Australian A3 range in the shape of the new Sportback 1.0 TFSI.  His road test and review includes specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

The A3 Sportback isn't really a hatch, nor is it a wagon, it's something in-between – a hagon? Whatever it is, it's the best-selling type of Audi in Australia and one of the most affordable models.

At the end of 2016 Audi made the A3 Sportback even more affordable when it launched a variant with a new engine – a 1.0-litre three cylinder. Yes, that's tiny. A lot of motorbikes have bigger engines.

Audi isn't the only prestige brand now putting little engines into cars – Mini's five door hatch and BMW's 118i both have three-cylinders.

We road tested the new Audi A3 Sportback 1.0 TFSI and submitted it to everything from trips to the supermarket and day-care drop-offs to country road flings. So does less engine make it less capable? Why does it come with clothing in a tiny drawer under the back seat? Oh, and if you're an Olympic swimmer you'll love the front seats.

Design

The A3 Sportback 1.0 TFSI isn't the best looking A3 – that title goes to the Sedan which apart from looking like a shrunken version of the A4, A6 and A8, seems to carry off the shape better than any of them.

At 4322mm long, 1966mm from wing mirror to wing mirror and 1404mm tall the Sportback is 147mm shorter, 6mm narrower and 12mm taller than the sedan. Those dimensions are super close to those of BMW 1 Series hatch which is 4329mm long.

Visually, you can pick the current A3 Sportback from the previous version by a couple of very minor styling tweaks. The grille is now wider, its corners meet at sharper points, and it's flanked by restyled, more angular headlights.

You can pick a 1.0 TFSI from the rest of the A3 range by its smaller alloy wheels, and it doesn't get the high-gloss exterior package the others have as standard.

Inside there are cloth seats, while the higher variants have leather upholstery.

This may be a more affordable Audi but it maintains a prestigious look which extends into a cabin filled with dark coloured, high-quality materials.

Practicality

The Sportback is less attractive than the Sedan but it's far more practical. For starters I can sit in the back seat behind my driving position without my face pushed up against the roof like it is the A3 Sedan. Legroom still isn't great, but my knees just manage to clear the front seatback.

At 380 litres the A3 Sportback's boot capacity is 45 litres less than the sedan's, but those numbers can be deceiving. You can fit larger items into the Sportback simply because its hatch opening is bigger than the sedan's boot. For example, the CarsGuide pram won't fit in the sedan's boot, but it will in the Sportback's. That could be a deal breaker for a small family.

Being able to fold the rear seats down opens up 1220 litres – that's about 50 litres more than the luggage capacity of a Mazda CX-3 with its rear row down.

Storage elsewhere in the cabin isn't too bad, although there are no cupholders in the back. There are two cupholders up front and all doors have bottle holders – smaller ones in the rear doors.

Those back doors are small, so if you're tall or not as nimble as you were back in the 1960s getting out could be an effort.

You won't have this issue in the front – this car really is built around the driver and their co-pilot with plenty of head, leg, and shoulder room in the cockpit.

Here's a treat for you. Built into the back bench seat is a small pop-out drawer, and in it is a high-vis vest. Anybody who has worn a hi-vis vest will attest to the authority it brings.

Price and features

The A3 1.0 TFSI Sportback lists for $35,900, making it the most affordable of all A3s and $4000 less than the (four cylinder) Sportback 1.4 TFSI sitting on the rung above it.

The standard features list includes a 7.0-inch display and media unit with sat nav, rear view camera, radio, CD and DVD player, eight-speaker sound system, and Bluetooth connectivity. You'll also get parking sensors, cruise control, stop-start system and auto Xenon headlights and wipers, plus air conditioning, a leather steering wheel and 16-inch alloy wheels.

That list may appear a bit light-on, but if you take a look at the standard features in the more expensive variants you'll see it isn't missing out on a great deal. If you want adaptive cruise you need to option it, same with electric seats, auto parking, LED headlights and heated seats – but then you'll have to option them with the others, too.

So, as far as value-for-money goes, the 1.0 TFSI is the best of the A3s. But, it's not good value compared with a Mazda3, which is loaded with standard features.

The A3 Sportback 1.0TFSI is a prestige car, the Mazda3 isn't. The BMW 118i Sportline is a much better comparison, and at $39,900 is just a grand more, and features a similar amount of kit.

There are two no cost optional paint colours – Brilliant Black and Ibis White as worn by our car.

Engine and transmission

That little engine is a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol unit which makes 85kW/206Nm. To put that in perspective a Toyota Corolla is a similar weight and size, has a four-cylinder engine without a turbo and makes 103kW/173Nm.

The A3 Sportback 1.0 TFSI has a seven-speed dual clutch which sends drive to the front wheels only. A conventional manual gearbox is not available.

Fuel consumption

The 1.0-litre engine is the most fuel efficient in the A3 line-up with Audi reckoning you'll use petrol at an average rate of 4.8L/100km during combined driving. In the real world I recorded 5.8L/100km after a mix of highways, city commuting, country roads and suburban streets.

Driving

First, the engine. It sounds good. Didn't expect that, did you? Neither did I. Blasting through the bush in the dead of night the three-cylinder lets out an awesome little growl. In terms of oomph, it could do with more, but I only became aware of this when I was on hill climb sections. But doing the shopping, picking up the little guy from day-care and commuting I forgot it was a 1.0-litre three-cylinder pushing me about – there's no real noticeable lack of grunt under these types of conditions.

Starting from rest on a steep hill with hard acceleration can cause the front wheels to struggle for grip even in dry conditions, but traction control steps in quickly.

The tyres on our test vehicle were 205/55 R16 Goodyear EfficientGrip Performance. This is a low-rolling resistance tyre, which is great for fuel efficiency. They also proved very quiet and added more cushioning to what is a comfortable ride.

The A3 Sportback 1.0 TFSI feels well balanced and stable. With MacPherson strut suspension up front and a torsion bar in the rear the 1.0 TFSI's handling, while good, isn't as great as it would be if it was fully independent, as in the higher end A3 Sportbacks.

The seven speed dual clutch gearbox is smooth and intuitive, but it's also desperate to shift to a higher gear to keep fuel usage down. In ‘normal driving mode' on a flat road it had stepped up to sixth gear by 53km/h. Sport mode will hold the gears for longer.

Those standard front seats aren't built for somebody with my shaped body. The seat area is too narrow, while the back is too wide. An Olympic swimmer would fit perfectly.

Still the A3 Sportback 1.0TFSI is comfortable, quiet inside and easy to drive.

Safety

The A3 Sportback 1.0 TFSI has been given the maximum five star ANCAP rating and this newest version of the car arrived in late 2016 with even more advanced safety equipment such as auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian protection. An Assistance Package can be optioned for $1500 to add further hi-tech safety gear such as adaptive cruise control, auto high beam, as well as blind spot and rear cross traffic warning.

The reversing camera's picture quality is excellent even at night, although the display screen is feeling dated and small.

For baby and child seats there are two ISOFIX mounts and two top tether anchor points in the back row.

Under the boot floor is a space saver spare wheel - an important safety feature in Australia.

Ownership

The A3 Sportback 1.0 TFSI is covered by Audi's three year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 15,000km or annually and a $1700 three year/45,000km servicing package is available.


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