ROAD TEST: Alan Candy behind the wheel of the Audi A3 2.0 TDI

Sorry to disappoint all you petrolheads, but here’s a diesel that really does the business. Why would you plump for petrol when this oil burner is so good?

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 14th November 2012, 3:33 pm

Sorry to disappoint all you petrolheads, but here’s a diesel that really does the business. Why would you plump for petrol when this oil burner is so good?

The 2.0 TDI SE’s prodigious low-down pulling power – 236lb ft at just 1,750rpm – gives the engine great flexibility and with a slick, wristy six-speed manual gearbox, there’s plenty of fun to be had, too.

On paper, the latest third generation A3 is mightily impressive. The dash to 62mph is achieved in a rapid 8.6 seconds and there’s a meaty 134mph top speed.

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Balance that against official figures showing 68.9mpg, CO2 emissions of just 106 g/km and it all makes perfect sense.

On the road, that translates to a lot of driving pleasure in an understated and very classy three-door hatchback that is one of the smartest on the market. The free-running, smooth TDI comes into its own on long journeys and cruises with a calm assurance. It also responds and feels like a petrol engine – close your eyes (not when you’re driving!) and it’s not too big a leap of the imagination.

The new A3 feels light and athletic and that’s no illusion – up to 80kg in weight has been shed compared with the previous model, thanks to aluminium components and specially formed steels.

Put the A3 through its paces around some testing tight bends and sweeping curves and its abilities shine through, with effortless but involving, precise steering and superb balance. Progress is always graceful.

Audis have always been known for their understated elegance, and the A3 is no exception, inside and out.

The three-door version looks tough and muscular without any unnecessary frills – there’s the familiar giant shield front grille headed by the iconic conjoined four rings and a sharp detail line that runs from the wickedly slanted headlamps to the boot.

A raked front screen and high beltline adds to the intimate feel of the car.

Inside, Audi keep it simple while attention to detail is everything you hope it will be.

All black dash and doors are very classy and soft-touch plastics have that feelgood factor.

Further tactile touches are on the silver grip around the circular vents and neat toggle adjustment and there’s a lovely little pop-out stud to dim the panel lights, tucked away like a hidden jewel under the offside dash area.

All the driver’s info and entertainment needs are tidied away via a ‘joystick’ knob on the centre console, which effectively and easily allows you to scroll through the various options. If I can work it, anyone can.

The only question mark remains over the true fuel consumption figure – Audi quotes 68.9mpg but I returned a possibly more realistic 55mpg, according to the vehicle’s own computer info.

Beautifully crafted, highly satisfying to drive and boasting classy, timeless looks, the new A3 leads the way ecologically and in terms of desirably, it’s up there with the best.