Launched: Audi A3 Sportback 

The sophisticated choice

Good news. If you’re in the market for a premium hatchback, your extremely tasty choices have just been supplemented with a rejuvenated version of an old favourite – the Audi A3 Sportback. Ingolstadt’s regular 3-door A3 arrived late last year, the Sportback 5-door version took a little longer to gestate.

It was about time. BMW’s crisp new 1-Series did what it could before Merc’s hotly anticipated A-Class pitched up and recent A3 sales reflect that. Developed on the VW Group’s accomplished MQB platform of Golf 7 fame, the cool Bavarian and fashionable Benz may now have a fight on their hands.

Visually, an A3 will be the sensible, sober, sophisticated choice. Its clean lines and mean lights have an air of elegant simplicity about them; which would also apply to the interior. The updated MMI interface is based on Audi’s MIB (Modularer Infotainment Baukasten) platform which transcends models more easily.

The Sportback has a 35mm longer wheelbase to accommodate those rear doors and extra space at the back. Boot space increases by 30L and the rear overhang is also a bit larger. Through the use of aluminium and other weight-saving materials, the new Sportback sheds an average of about 80kg over preceding models.

What else can I tell you about the new A3 Sportback? Hmm, let’s see. Imagine sounds of rustling paper if you will. Oh yes, just like the 3-door A3, it is available in S, SE or Quattro trim with escalating specifications. Engines are also identical with 1.2, 1.4 and 1.8 turbo-petrols as well as a 1.6 turbo-diesel.

The 1.6 TDi produces 77kW (105hp) or 250Nm, achieving 0-100km/h in 10.9 seconds and a top speed of 195km/h. Average CO2 output is just 99g/km and fuel consumption 3.8L/100km. The 1.4 TFSi musters up 90kW (122hp) and 200Nm, 0-100 in 9.5 seconds, 203km/h, 123g CO2/km and 5.3L/100km.

Its bigger 1.8 TFSi brother promises 132kW (180hp) or 250Nm, 100km/h in 7.3 seconds, 232km/h, 130g CO2/km and 5.6L/100km. All petrol are available with a 6-speed manual gearbox, the diesel and 1.8 Quattro only with a 7-speed S-Tronic automatic gearbox which is an option for all but the 1.2 TFSi model.

It gets even more confusing as some trims are not available with certain engines and a few A3 Sportbacks will only be available later in the year. I suggest you visit your nearest dealer to place an order. What I can tell you from first-hand experience is that the A3 SB is every bit as sublime to drive as you’d expect.

We sampled almost every model on the launch and the Audi hatchback didn’t put a foot wrong. Build quality is superb, the ride is exemplary and the driving experiences were impressive. The diesel is obviously less sporty than its edgy 1.8 Quattro sibling but I had the most fun in the ordinary, manual 1.4 TFSi.

Standard features on all models include power everything, remote central locking, air-con, MMI interface with retractable LCD screen, adjustable multi-function steering wheel, auto lights and wipers, extensive trip computer and Bluetooth. Posher versions get leather, more bling, sporty accoutrements and bigger wheels.

Options include full LED headlights, a more compact version of the superb Bang & Olufsen sound system available in bigger Audis, MMI satnav and infotainment upgrades, radar-guided cruise control with collision detection and mitigation as well as an automatic parking system.

Prices range from N$283,000 (1.2 TFSi) to N$370,000 (1.8 TFSi Quattro S-Tronic) and Audi’s 5-year/100,000km Freeway Plan is included. The 206kW S3 Sportback is expected to arrive in South Africa in August 2013.

Prices [April 2013]:

1.2T FSI manual S: N$283,000*
1.4T FSI manual S: N$290,500
1.4T FSI S tronic S: N$307,500
1.6 TDI S tronic S: N$319,500
1.8T FSI manual SE: N$322,000*
1.8T FSI S tronic SE: N$339,000
1.8T FSI quattro® S tronic: N$370,000*

* Available in August 2013

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