If there’s one thing I never expected, it was that Audi could make their A3 any more understated, cool, clean or chic than it already was. It’s a masterpiece of German engineering, inside and out – comprised of subtly crafted lines the A3 made the minimalist inspired work of Claudio Silvestrin appear nothing more than common impressionism.
However not for the first time, a vehicle manufacturer has made me eat my words because the all new A3 seems to now define minimalism as a concept by bringing to life the very idea that less is more. Just take a look at that body – clean simple lines run its full length, with only the most subtle of creases breaking the sheer sheet metal of its exoskeleton. There’s no fuss, no leary grill, no outrageous spoilers or body appendages; just simple, exquisite design.
The interior takes these design cues even more seriously. The dashboard and centre console have undergone a massive diet, being stripped of anything adding to the ‘clutter’. The remaining buttons and toggles are the bare essentials, while everything else is controlled via Audi’s intuitive multimedia interface system. If you thought the exterior was stunning, let me tell you the interior steals the show like Pippa did on Kate’s wedding day – only with more leather.
Moving on to the topic of drivetrain, my A3 boasted a turbo charged 1.8 litre motor that’s good for 132kW and all sorts of fancy witchcraft like Audi’s valvelift system and intelligent thermal management. At low engine speeds it’ll even generate more torque by switching between two exhaust cam contours. Linked to Audi’s acclaimed, but actually rather unimpressive, S-Tronic automatic gearbox the A3 sprints from 0-100km/h in an impressive 7.2 seconds.
While I find the S-Tronic double clutch gearbox rather ordinary and at times dim-witted, it’s nothing by comparison to how I find the A3 to drive. Audi has for a long time been at the helm of selling understeer to the masses, in both Quattro and front wheel drive formats – and nothing has changed I’m afraid to say. On top of which there isn’t much feel to the steering and at times the ride can be quite uncomfortable, without justifying the discomfort with some meaningful feedback of how much grip you might have.
Yes the average Joe might be perfectly happy with his new A3, completely oblivious to its dynamic downfalls yet completely in love with its look and feel. And who could blame him? It’s truly in a league of its own in those departments. However if you in any way enjoy the task of driving, you’ll be thoroughly disappointed with the A3. So if it were me and a premium hatch back was on my shopping list, there’s only one showroom I’d visit…that of BMW’s.
Price: R 339 000
Engine: 1.8 TFSI 4 cylinder turbo charged petrol
Power (kW): 132
Torque (Nm): 250
Acceleration (0-100km/h): 7.2
Top Speed (km/h): 232
Fuel Consumption (l/100km): 6.6 (claimed)