So it has arrived, and I’ve done about 750 miles in it.
A3 Saloon Sport 2.0 TDI. There are three trim levels available, Sport, Slime and Black (makes no sense to me either.) This is the cheapest Sport version.
It’s attractive enough, a bit bland but certainly better than the hideous outgoing Lexus CT200h. Looks just like all the other 4-door Audis really. Here’s the inside:
It’s unremittingly dark grey. No other colours were available without splashing out a fortune on the leather interior, and even the leather colours were pretty dull. The seats are upholstered in scratchy, cheap-looking nylon cloth and most of the interior is typically German plastic with a heavy Elephant-arse grain. All the mags rave about the A3 interior, I guess it’s like Hi-Fi mags and cables: tell your readers what they want to hear even if it’s bollocks.
The dash is dominated by four plasti-metal rimmed eyeball vents, giving it a retro look (think Mk I Escort!) Beneath the two centre vents is a panel of nine switches, four of which are blanks. In fact, you can see seven obvious switch blanks from the driver’s seat. I haven’t seen that many since my late Dad’s 1982 Hyundai Pony.
But wait, I hear you say: where is the mandatory iPad glued to the dash? This is the A3’s party trick - it slides out when you put the key in (yes, there’s an old-fashioned key…)
The central screen does lots of things: music, navigation, settings, phone, all controlled by the wheel and buttons behind the gear lever. It’s easy to use (even for me, LOL) and lots better than the similar system in the old Lexus. Connecting your smartphone with a wire gives access to selected apps on the central screen, and even without a smartphone there is some connectivity via the Audi infotainment system and its built-in SIM card. This is a 3-month trial, but apparently Audi UK have no way of letting you subscribe after the 3 months expire, so they just renew it for free.
The DAB radio is pretty good, and I opted for the £250 “Audi sound system” which gives you more speakers and bigger amps. The cubby between the seats allows you to plug in USB sticks or drives, and happily the system can read a standard Windows directory structure and play FLAC files. The Lexus couldn’t do either! Biggest gripe with the Audio? The CD player is IN THE GLOVE BOX. So its useless.
Other useless features:
The cup holders. They are so far under the dash, that you can only get a standard travel mug in and out by tipping it to a 45 degree angle.
“Audi Drive Select.” The economy setting robs the engine of all throttle response. The other settings do nothing discernible. Allegedly they change the auto box shift points (mine’s a manual), the electronic suspension settings (not fitted) and the steering weight (far too light at all settings.)
The rear seats. Due to the dropping roofline of the saloon variant, there is only enough headroom for dwarves. Short dwarves.
On the plus side, the boot is usefully big.
So, how does it drive?
Performance from the 150 bhp 2.0 litre turbodiesel is lively, a lot better than the Lexus. It’s the same engine I had in my old Passat, and in a far lighter car. The gear shift is light and easy. Good on the motorway.
Mine has the “dynamic” suspension, which is the most comfortable option available on the saloon. The Slime and Black models have a lowered and stiffened set-up, which even the mags say is “a bit uncomfortable.” So it must be pretty terrible. The set-up on my car is a compromise, with a better ride than the jiggly Lexus, but slightly soggier turn-in and more body roll. Yes, it’s less sporty than a Lexus!
Which brings me to the seats. They have a million adjustments, including (extra-cost option) lumbar support. But I still can’t really get comfortable. The bolsters are too narrow across the shoulders, so my upper back isn’t properly supported. I hate “sports” seats with a passion, but standard seats weren’t available on this model. Bah! The cushion is also too hard, like every German car I’ve ever driven. In fact, the seats are a lot less comfortable than the ones in the Jimny. So: less sporty than a Lexus; less comfortable than a Jimny.
What about value for money? Economy so far is 55 mpg, so reasonable. But the car as specified cost £29k, including metallic paint, some cargo nets, the uprated sound system and lumbar support.
To spec it up to the same standard as the mid-range Lexus, I would have needed to add Alcantara seats, seat heaters, privacy glass, parking sensors, folding mirrors and keyless entry and starting. Which would add another £4k to the cost bringing it to £33k vs the £25k Lexus. Yes, you don’t even get parking sensors. Audi standard equipment is VERY stingy, adding to the overall 1970’s ambience of the thing.
I now understand why Audi drivers are angry all the time.
OK, you can take the piss now …