Already the 2014 World Car of the Year, the A3 is Audis most important launch this year. Unlike its German competitors Mercedes-Benz and BMWwhich sell the A-Class and 1 Series luxury hatchbacks in IndiaAudi perhaps believes that the Indian market is not yet ready for luxury hatches and that a compact sedan makes more sense. From the looks of the car, it could be right.
The good thing is, the A3 looks like the A4 from almost all angles and resembles the A6 from the front. So be rest assured that when you drive it around town, it will attract as many eyeballs as bigger Audi cars do. The trademark Audi grille flanked by lean bi-xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lights look smart. The side profile has two character lines that give the A3 a stretched appearance. But it is the rear that makes the A3 stand apart. The way the flat roof merges into the C-pillar and the way the C-pillar blends into the boot is artistic. The rear tail-lamps and the slightly raised rear bumper add to the beauty. In fact, in my view, the rear three-quarter is the best angle to look at the A3.
Step inside and you will find the cabin refined and straightforward. The instrument panel is neat and the centre console is slightly angled towards the driverthe A3, clearly, is a drivers car. What especially attract attention are round air vents in the shape of jet turbines with an inbuilt air-diffuse function. As in most Audi cars, the controls are easy-to-use and self-explanatory. As you insert the key in the ignition slot and activate controls, the 7-inch retractable screen rises smoothly from the centre of the dashboard. Both the front seats are very comfortable, have ample space and can be automatically adjusted in multiple ways. The steering wheel can be manually adjusted. The visibility from the drivers seat is good and the huge glass sunroof ensures ample light in the cabin. But move to the rear area and there is a clear lack of space. People over 6 feet tall may find their head brushing against the roof. But there are rear AC vents for added comfort. The boot space, at 425 litres, is very good for a compact sedan. Further, there are plenty of cubbyholes and cup holders and the front door pads even have space for a large water bottle. We drove the 35TDI diesel and found that the diesel engine sound barely enters the cabin, so well insulated it is.
While the A3 will be powered with both the 1.8-litre TFSI petrol and the 2.0-litre TDI diesel, we drove the latter variant. Kudos to Audi India for selecting the Udaipur-Mount Abu road for the drivethe route comprised of straight long stretches and some sweeping corners for us to really gun the car and test its ride and handling. The TDI engine produces a maximum power of 143 bhp and a juicy torque of 320 Nm, taking the car from 0-100 kmph in a very fast 8.6 seconds, and onwards to a top speed of 224 kmph. And the 6-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission changes gears at the speed of thought. But the best thing is that even with such power delivery, the A3 returns a very impressive ARAI-certified mileage of 20 kmpl. A 50-litre fuel tank ensures you can easily do long inter-state journeys in the A3. As I said, the A3 is a drivers car and the reasons are that the steering is precise, the grip levels are amazing, the body control is perfect and the suspension is tuned well. Further, a high ground clearance ensures that clearing even tall speed-breakers isnt much of a problem.
The Audi A3 has received 5 starswhich is the maximumin the Euro NCAP crash test, so that is reason enough to believe how safe the A3 is. The Indian version gets a total of six airbags for passenger safety. Then there are standard safety features such as ABS and Electronic Stability Control, among others.
Audi will announce the price of the A3 when it launches the car on August 7. The A3 is beautiful to look at, is a delight to drive and offers most luxuries you will ever need in a compact sedan. Now if Audi is able to price it close to R25 lakh, the A3 could well turn out to be Audis most popular model in India. At that price, it can shake not only the A-Class and 1 Series hatchbacks but also the Camry and the Superb to an extent.