The Audi A3 range was given a midlife surgical sculpturing at the end of 2016 to bring it much closer to its A4 sedan sibling.
I bring the A4 into the equation simply because the A3, particularly in sedan form, seemed to offer enough refinement and style to make it a more compelling choice compared with the previous-generation A4.
Of course, the new A4 is a considerable step forward in the refinement stakes, but perhaps not as much in the styling department. Nonetheless, it still manages to move the game forward, particularly with its optional Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster, which places it above the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
Until recently, it was also the more superior product to its A3 sibling by virtue of that instrument cluster, aside from the obvious rear passenger and boot size advantage.
Now Audi has made available the option of the same Virtual Cockpit for the A3, once again making it an even more enticing package. We recently spent time with the 2.0 TDI sedan to see if the updates are worthwhile.
Cosmetically, little has changed, save for the new headlight clusters, while the front valance and grille have also received some sculpting.
The pre-facelift model was anything but dated, hence the minute changes.
The cabin continues to be a classy affair with a minimalistic layout. The engine and seven-speed dual-clutch transmission offer swift, silky changes while the motor is thrifty (we achieved 5.2l/100km) but relatively punchy when asked to gallop.
Then there is the ride quality which, with the 17-inch tyres on our test car, was exemplary, soaking up bumps and ruts with aplomb. Drive it more enthusiastically and it responds with neutral handling and limpet-like grip, thanks in part to the sport suspension which is fitted standard to the model range.
The A3 sedan also impresses with its easy-going refined package, which is a class act among its rivals, particularly the Mercedes CLA, which pales in comparison. BMW does not have a direct competitor to the A3 sedan as the 2 Series is only available in two-door form, which makes me think a
2 Series Gran Coupe would not be a bad idea.
The segment is important, though, as it manages to bring first-time younger buyers into these premium brands, but pricing has, over the years, become rather steep when compared to the vehicles a class above them. While the 2.0 TDI is great, it does come with a rather hefty price tag of R499 000 as standard, which does not include leather seats but fabric ones instead.
Also, it is only R50 000 cheaper than its A4 TDI equivalent, which is not that much over a five-year finance period.
To put it in another perspective, a standard BMW 318i automatic will set you back R488 100. As such, I am of the view that the smaller 1.0 TSI S tronic, at R429 900 presents better value.
The debate rages on as to whether one should buy an A3 over an A4 and, with the two models now almost overlapping, it does blur a line that was once so defined.
Chatting to a mate of mine who owns a previous-model A4, he says he would strongly consider the A3 sedan.
I am of the view that the middle models in the A3 sedan range don’t seem to offer good value for money, particularly once you start ticking those boxes. The TDI we had on test in particular could easily get you into a medium, well-specified SUV such as the Volkswagen Tiguan 1.4TSI Comfortline automatic at R457 680, which you can specify with the optional R-Line package, bringing the total to R474,680.
I like the A3 sedan, I really do, but at R499 000 for the TDI model before extras it’s a rather hard sell. – Lerato Matebese
Fast Facts: Audi A3 Sedan 2.0 TDI S-Tronic
Engine: 1968cc four-cylinder turbodiesel
Power: 105kW at 3500rpm
Torque: 340Nm from 1750rpm
Transmission: seven-speed S-Tronic
0-100km/h: 8.4-seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 220km/h (claimed)
Fuel: 4.5l/100km (claimed combined)
CO2: 117g/km (claimed)
Price: From R499 000