An Audi badge for Skoda money

Written by Hormazd Sorabjee | Updated: Sep 7 2013, 19:10pm hrs
Audi A3Audi has formally stated that it will launch the A3 saloon in India in 2014.
Unlike Mercedes-Benz and BMW, Audi doesnt quite think that luxury hatchbacks are a big enough market, and has decided that a similarly priced saloon makes more sense. Enter the Audi A3 saloon.

The A3 feels like a slightly scaled-down A4. Styling, in true Audi fashion, is understated, clean and unclutteredthe strong shoulder line and nicely flared wheel arches, which house 18-inch wheels, give the A3 saloon a solid and reassuring stance. Sure, it doesnt have loads of visual drama, but theres no doubt this car is a proper luxury saloon.

Audi has chosen to retain its signature LED daytime running lights as standard on all variants of the A3, which makes a massive difference to its appeal. At the rear, the tail-lights are sharply designed, as is the boot.

Audi has given the A3 a wheelbase of 2636mm (an A4s wheelbase, by comparison, is 2808mm), and this does impact space in the rear seat; its not as roomy inside as it looks from the outside. However, the car comes with its engine placed transversely (east-west) as against longitudinally (north-south) and this makes it more space efficient.

Audi claims that the A3 offers the best-in-class space, with more room than the Mercedes CLA, but theres no doubt about it, the interiors do feel cramped. And, for taller people, the rear can feel a little tight, owing to the sloping roof. The front seats are the place you want to be seated. Youre surrounded by top-notch, typically German levels of quality.

We particularly liked the jet-engine-like air-con vents. The buttons have a wonderful feel about them, and the A3s party trick is the high-definition seven-inch monitor that glides out of the dashboard. The cabin design isnt the most exciting though.

The A3 will come to India with a variety of engine options ranging from a 140bhp 1.4-litre TFSI petrol motor to a 2.0 TDI diesel that makes 184bhp. Theres also a 103.5bhp 1.6 TDI, which could account for most of the A3s sales. This motor is said to be extremely fuel efficient. On the move, it doesnt feel underpowered at all, and the A3 cruises at highway speeds with poise.

The A3 saloon is extremely refined on the move. Road, wind and engine noise are kept to a minimum. The steering, like in most Audis, is direct but lacks feel. But straight-line stability is commendable. Audi has tuned the dampers quite well, and sharp bumps are dealt with ease. Ride is good, but not the best.

Audi has formally stated that it will launch the A3 saloon here in 2014, most probably in the second half, and Audi will manufacture it in India to keep costs down.

We expect it to come with a starting price of R25 lakh, which sounds like a steal. What the A3 saloon does is offer the opportunity for the Indian car buyer to get access to an Audi badge for Skoda money.