Having launched its entry-level SUV, the Q3S, last year at a price of INR 24.99 lakhs (ex-Showroom), Audi India has just launched its entry-level model, the A3 Sedan at aggressive prices.
The A3 Sedan indirectly takes the fight to the Mercedes A Class and BMW 1 Series, as it doesn’t have a direct rival as such, for now. Things will soon change however, with Mercedes having announced the launch of the CLA within six months time. For now, this is what the A3 promises -
The ‘seen one, seen them all’ problem traditionally associated with all Audis works in favor of the A3 Sedan. The A3 can be mistaken for the larger A4 when viewed at certain angles, especially the rear three quarter and side ones. The headlights borrow design inspiration from the A6, and the traditional Audi Bulgarian Beard is seen prominently on the front fascia.
At this point, it must be mentioned that not all variants of the A3 Sedan will get Xenon lights, LED daytime running lights or even LED taillights for that matter. The base variant will have to make do with halogen headlights and taillights, much like the Q3S. For those seeking more style, Audi will offer its S-Line bodykit as an optional extra which sees the inclusion of side skirts, foglights and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Starting with the A3 Sedan, Audi India will change its branding nomenclature. No more will it call cars ‘2.0 TDI’ or ‘1.8 TFSI’, instead the bootlid will read numerals like ’35 TDI’ and ’40 TFSI’. There is a very good explanation for this.
In the numbers game, the A3 Sedan measures 4,456 x 1796 x 1,416 (L x W x H in mm) and has a wheelbase of 2,637 mm. The diesel variant of the car weighs 1,315 kg.
The dashboard of the A3 may look a bit plain, but it has the essentials covered, and a bit more. Once the ignition is turned on, a 7-inch display rises from the dash, and it is certain to put a smile on anyone inside the car. The next nifty feature is the AC vent which is shaped like a jet turbine. Controlling the flow of air can be done by twisting the silver outer ring, which we must say feels of high quality to operate.
Owners are not going to complain about the gadgets on offer, or the build quality and execution of the cabin. What may come as a slight downer is the space, or rather the lack of it. While occupants at the front have no problems getting comfy, the same cannot be said about the rear bench.
Firstly, seating three people will prove to be a squeeze as the center tunnel is pretty high. Next, if the front seats are adjusted for six-footers, then rear seat occupants need to be content with just-about-adequate legroom. However, compared to its hatchback rivals, the A3 Sedan is the more comfortable car of the lot.
Overall, the interior of the car scores extremely well on quality and equipment, and averagely in terms of space and comfort.
The A3 Sedan diesel is available in four trim lines. The base variant misses out on Xenon lights, LED taillights and LED daytime running lights.
The high end trim gets 17-inch alloy wheels (optional), S-Line bodykit (optional), Xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights and LED taillights, foglights, dual-zone climate control, 7-inch MMI display with touchpad, parking sensors, rear view camera and navigation, leather upholstery, sunroof, electrically adjustable front seats and 20 GB in-built storage. Safety features come in the form of ABS, EBD, ESP and 7 airbags.
Engine and Gearbox:
The A3 diesel seen here is powered by the familiar 2.0-liter four-cylinder TDI engine seen in many Volkswagens, Skodas and Audis. The motor puts out 144 bhp between 3,500-4,000 rpm and 320 Nm of torque between 1,750-3,000 rpm. A 6-speed dual-clutch transmission sends the power to the front wheels, and accelerates the car from 0-100 km/h in 8.6 seconds and onto a top-speed of 224 km/h. Audi claims an ARAI rated efficiency of 20.38 km/l.
As the numbers suggest, the A3 diesel is a pretty powerful car, on paper and on the move. Driving at low speeds, gentle prods on the throttle quickly build up pace, and the A3 Sedan darts forward with agility. In fact, more than the engine, the relatively light 1.3 tonne weight of the car helps it in moving around effortlessly.
Out on the highway, maintaining high triple digit speeds is effortless in the car, with the speedometer easily inching to 200 km/h without much hesitation. Even at those speeds the car feels extremely pliant and stable.
We should also mention at this point that the diesel engine in the A3 is a very refined unit. Even at higher rpms, the engine seldom sounds like its running on diesel to occupants. We also found that the motor is free-revving, and urges you to take it to its 5,000 rpm redline.
The 6-speed S-Tronic works very well and is pretty quick in up and downshifting gears. Though paddle shifts are not offered, the cogs can be controlled via the tip-tronic function. However, the gearbox is best left in its automatic mode or sports mode (where gear changes occur at the rev limiter).
Ride and Handling:
Audi’s steering setup is usually on the lighter side, and this robs away some of the driving pleasure. However, on the A3, the steering is surprisingly well weighted and taut, and doesn’t feel disconnected to the car. Riding on the VW Group’s new MQB platform, the A3’s chassis feels stiff and well balanced. Twisty roads near Udaipur were taken with a lot of speed, and the car did not disappoint in terms of driving pleasure.
Ride quality at low and medium speeds is comfortable. The McPherson struts at the front and the four-link rear suspension do a neat job in filtering potholes. At higher speeds, the suspension feels relatively stiffer, but only just. The upside to the stiff high-speed ride of the A3 is that plenty of fun can be had with the car around a corner.
Brakes and Safety:
The A3 gets disc brakes all around, with the front ones being ventilated while the rear are solid discs. Features such as ABS, EBD, ESP and seven airbags are offered on the car. On the safety front, the car is pretty well covered there.
The brakes themselves are extremely powerful in bringing the car to a stop, and the grip levels from the 205/55 R16 tires are more than adequate for our road conditions.
Audi India claims the A3 Sedan 35 TDI will do 20.38 km/l. We found the car to be very frugal in our drive, as it returned 10.1 km/l even when driven with full throttle. In city driving conditions, the A3 Sedan did 12.65 km/l.
The A3 Sedan is priced from INR 22.95 lakhs, ex-Showroom, New Delhi.
The A3 Sedan is an all around package from the German carmaker. In fact, the A3 can be thought of as a smaller A4, for it offers the same strengths of its larger sibling but in a smaller package.
Compared to luxury hatchbacks like the A Class and 1 Series, the A3 Sedan offers a bit more real estate and the added prestige of a sedan body style. The Audi may not look as ‘cool’ as the A Class, but it makes up for it by being more practical.
However, where Audi has really hit the nail is in the pricing. Starting from INR 22.95 lakhs, the A3 Sedan is cheaper to own than a 1 Series (the base 118d costs INR 25.6 lakhs), and even less expensive than the A Class (which comes to INR 26.94 lakhs in Delhi).
For the first time then, we have an entry-level luxury car which can actually be termed "value for money"!