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Racing Teatray

Audi A3 saloon

Just returned from 5 days in northern Italy for a friend's wedding and a visit to Expo, where we managed to get a free upgrade from Avis on our rented car, which meant our Fiat 500 pumpkin turned, if not into a princess, then at least into a rather smart black Audi A3 saloon.

Having only briefly test-driven the S3 and not been overly impressed, it was actually quite interesting to get a few days' exposure to the basic car.

First things first, in "Ambition" spec, with some rather smart 18" alloys and xenons (which were typically excellent), it was definitely a smart-looking piece of kit. My wife (who prefers three box designs to  hatchbacks), liked it a lot, as did one of her cousins who is currently car-hunting and was very taken with it. That said, two Italian friends commented that it looked a bit like "one of those Brazilian market-only saloon versions of hatchbacks"…

Inside, I still think it looks too Spartan design-wise and there's a vastly annoying mismatch between the curved moulding of the door cards and the dash where the two meet, which makes it look like the door cards were designed for a bigger car with a bigger dash. But the fit and finish is impeccable, and it all feels high quality to the touch. So you do find yourself warming to it over time. Generally speaking the driving position is good and I had no comfort issues. The MMI system is not as intuitive as the BMW iDrive system though, and I don't think that's merely a question of familiarity. My 3yr old nephew jumped in it at one point and, as small children are wont to do these days, immediately set to work fiddling with the MMI system, the upshot of which (that I only discovered the following day when rushing to the airport) was that he somehow set a vastly annoying alert to sound if I went over 140kph and I couldn't for the life of me work out how to kill it. In my BMW, the same system utters a discrete ping when you exceed the set limit and then stays silent. The Audi goes on bonging loudly and insistently until you drop your speed. However, I do like the fact that the screen can be retracted into the dash when not in use.

There's more than adequate space too – two biggish blokes fitted in the back without complaint, and the boot swallowed all our copious quantity of luggage with ease – only the comparatively small opening (due to the shortish rear deck) is slightly awkward. Split folding rear seats as well I noticed, which is always useful.

Engine-wise, it was a 1.6TDi with around 5000kms on the clock, so more or less run-in. This was dieselly without being unpleasantly tractor-ish and it covered 500kms on about half a tank of fuel (38 euros' worth). Performance was nothing remarkable but equally perfectly adequate and it cruised happily at over the ton without feeling at all strained. Typical turbo-diesel in that there's enough mid-range punch for decent overtaking without actually ever feeling quick in normal driving. Also typical TDi in the sense that it's quite easy to stall when coming from a big petrol. You'd want the 2.0 TDi version though, if it was your car. Or a petrol-engined version…

Equally, handling-wise, it's all quite tidy. You could definitely hustle it down the road with a good degree of fluidity and it never felt unsettled or loose. The gear-change was nice and positive, and more natural-feeling than the one in my car. It was an easy car to get used to and drive.

So now, with the benefit of longer exposure, I could see how an S3 saloon could be a very nice/easy car to own. If I had one, it would have to be a manual since I really didn't like the DSG gearbox or the silly braaps it makes on upchanges, and nothing really gets away from the 4 cylindery-ness of it all. However, I must say that the basic car gets most things right.



Michael

Pretty car.
BeN

I quite like the current generation A3 to be honest. I think it's one of the more underrated cars available right now.
Big Blue

Yes, these are nice a nice size too.
Twelfth Monkey

Handsome thing, I think.  I suspect it's not far off the size of the B7 A4.

'Ambition' spec?  What a stomach-turning name.
Nice Guy Eddie

I tried getting my missus into one of these but she wasn't a fan of the interior weirdly. I think she just dislikes Audis to be fair.
PhilD

Big Blue wrote:
Yes, these are nice a nice size too.


Indeed. closer to A4 B6/B7 than the B8 is.
Martin

A neighbor has a red S Line and I think it's one of the best looking cars in the Audi range.  The interior is very plain and a bit basic looking though and doesn't fit with the smart exterior.
simonp

They're only around 10" shorter than the B8, I think...
Racing Teatray

Twelfth Monkey wrote:
Handsome thing, I think.  I suspect it's not far off the size of the B7 A4.

'Ambition' spec?  What a stomach-turning name.


The key said "Amition" but I'm reasonably certain that was a typo.
Bob Sacamano

Re: Audi A3 saloon

Racing Teatray wrote:
That said, two Italian friends commented that it looked a bit like "one of those Brazilian market-only saloon versions of hatchbacks"…



]


^ This. I've seen a few on the road and it doesn't impress. It's like a 5'9" man wearing a 6'4" man's suit.
Chris M Wanted a V-10

I like the wheels
Roadsterstu

Re: Audi A3 saloon

Bob Sacamano wrote:
Racing Teatray wrote:
That said, two Italian friends commented that it looked a bit like "one of those Brazilian market-only saloon versions of hatchbacks"…



]


^ This. I've seen a few on the road and it doesn't impress. It's like a 5'9" man wearing a 6'4" man's suit.


I was going to suggest the opposite after seeing those photos. I think it looks rather smart. Perhaps it's the colour that helps.
Blarno

Ambition.

PhilD

Re: Audi A3 saloon

Roadsterstu wrote:
Bob Sacamano wrote:
Racing Teatray wrote:
That said, two Italian friends commented that it looked a bit like "one of those Brazilian market-only saloon versions of hatchbacks"…



]


^ This. I've seen a few on the road and it doesn't impress. It's like a 5'9" man wearing a 6'4" man's suit.


I was going to suggest the opposite after seeing those photos. I think it looks rather smart. Perhaps it's the colour that helps.


Yeah me too. They have done a very good job of adding a "boot" without increasing the wheelbase and have largely avoided the dreaded 'Brazilian look'
simonp

Mine comes up as an Ambition when I log into the myAudi web thing. Sounds like someone at Audi UK didn't like the Euro model names and had them changed!
JohnC

I've seen a few of these about and I think the proportions work very well. I think it looks a bit better than the A4.
Twelfth Monkey

I think some saloonifications work very well, and this is one - it looks far better than the hatch - colour does it favours too, I suspect.

Funnily enough, the original 1-series (in 2-door 'saloon' form) looked even further removed from the dumpy hatch upon which it was based and though it pains me to say it, a neighbour's 'M5 blue' variant looked pretty tidy.

It's strange how much changing something from the b-pillar back can transform the whole car.
Racing Teatray

That's because we are used to seeing hatchbacks with "cab forward" proportions that demand a large front overhang whereas both generations of 1-series buck that trend by having properly dimensioned bonnets and short overhangs that work well with a longer rear deck.
Twelfth Monkey

With the 1 it was more than that, for me.  Even the astigmatic headlights seemed to work.
Alf McQueef

I quite like these as well, for the reasons mentioned - quite classic proportions, a good size, and avoiding that "everything looking like an MPV" short bonnet/big screen look.

On the latter, I sometimes poop myself when Mrs ALF parks the C Max front-on, all my cars have had quite long bonnets, some (like the Caterham) epically so. Given you cannot see the front of many modern cars when driving, I'm often expecting an expensive-sounding "crunch".
PG

The A3 saloon is a good looking thing (grille aside).

To me, lower end Audis have always had quite austere interiors, but the simplicity and beautiful build quality offset that to make them excellent. I've not sat in a recent smaller Audi to see if that stil the case, but press comments seems to imply that the material quality is not quite what it once was.

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