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The almost perfect Audi A3


SO WHAT if it looks like every other Audi? The new A3 is very, very hard to fault.

THE NEW Audi A3 annoyed me. It aggravated me so much that I actually lost a few hours of sleep every night for the entire week I spent in its company.

I spent hours tossing and turning, hoping there was some major flaw I could expose. By day four nothing had come up, so I decided the A3 was perfect and called it a night.

I could deduct a few points off the Audi’s scorecard for the dark rings under my eyes, but that would be poor form. Desperate to find something, I turned to the usual list of criticisms motoring hacks refer to when testing an Audi.

Annoyingly, none of them are present on the A3. One could argue that the styling is too generic, but, to me, this argument never made sense in the first place. So every Audi looks only slightly different to the next model? And the problem with that is what? If you were dating Olivia Wilde’s sister, would you want her to look completely different, or almost exactly the same?

The other criticism that haunts Audi is the lack of a USB slot for music. Annoyingly, you can now purchase a cable that takes care of the problem, but once again, I’m afraid I’ve never believed there was a problem in the first place. If you just spent R300 000 on a car, you probably won’t have an issue with spending another R59 on a 2Gb SD card. And besides, if you can afford an A3, you’re likely to have a phone with Bluetooth connectivity, something which is standard fitment across the range anyway.

The engine and gearbox, as you might have guessed by now, are brilliant. The 1.4T FSI manual was a joy to use on a day-to-day basis. The engine never felt lethargic; in fact, it feels as if it has at least 10kW/20Nm more that Audi’s claimed figures of 90kW and 200Nm. This award-winning engine is mated to a slick six-speed manual that helps you get the best out of the engine.

This engine/gearbox combination can give even the most frugal hybrid a run for its money. Audi claims a consumption figure of 5.2 litres/100km and Co2 emissions of between 113 and 120g/km. I was pleasantly surprised at how easily achievable these figures are. On my weekly commute, it’s only too easy to drain a car, but by the time the A3 went back it was still had three quarters of its tank left. For a turbocharged petrol engine, that’s an astounding achievement.

The downsizing theme continues on the inside, which is devoid of any unnecessary buttons. Everything except the air conditioner, traction control, hazard lights and stop/start is controlled via Audi’s MMI operating system and a James Bond-like pop-up LCD screen. The legendary Audi build quality is still prevalent, which leads to the A3 feeling more expensive than it actually is.

Unfortunately for Audi, I finally found the flaw I was looking for near the A3’s four-spoke steering wheel. The space normally reserved for the cruise control stalk was absent. This is something that really should be standard on any car costing more than R150 000.

The Audi A3 may be annoyingly close to perfect, but that just means it’s easy to recommend to anyone shopping around for a premium hatch.

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