AUDI’S A3 has been a huge hit with buyers since being launched 20 years ago.
Even two years into its life in the UK market it was in such demand that the first diesels retailed for list price new, with petrol models almost equalling that performance, even after they had passed through the hands of their first owner and had around a year’s use behind them.
That’s not how the market reacts today. The test car, listed at £29,295 on the road had already seen a drop in retail values to £25,000 on the forecourt, a fall of 14.6 per cent. But the harsh reality trading it in for anyone who decided they didn’t like the car after only a few months at the wheel would be a valuation of £22,750 which is well in excess of a 20 per cent hit.
Fortunately, there can’t be many A3 owners who would find themselves in that situation. It’s a car that quickly captures your heart so you’re unlikely to bin it in double quick time.
One of the reasons behind its success was its ability to allow people to downsize on physical dimensions without compromising on quality and that’s a formula that hasn’t changed. True, the cars feel slightly bigger than they were then and there are now three door, four door, and five door variants as well as a convertible and the Q3 SUV but it’s all down, as they say, to the fact that success breeds success.
However, one thing this car isn’t is big. It may look physically commanding but the reality is that load space is no better than might be found in some of the smaller SUV and MPV models.
What they don’t wear, of course, is the Audi badge and it’s this prominent four interlinked circles symbol on the front that has allowed Audi to hold up in sales terms while VW has withered. The same applies to Skoda when compared with Seat, although both VW and Seat are showing signs of recovery.
What has hurt the VW Group brands, if only in the eyes of the media, is the emissions debacle. But it happened in late 2015 and is probably largely forgotten among those who aspire to VW Group’s products.
Our son-in-law has a diesel A3 that was affected and he’s sent it for its software correction. However, he’s so unimpressed by the loss of performance and resultant fall in fuel economy that he’s considering having it reset to its previous status while our daughter, who has a diesel Golf, may avoid the recall corrections altogether.
In the past we have achieved more than 70mpg from the frugal versions but as this article is about celebrating the A3 we went for something more powerful and luxurious than A3s we have driven in the past.
So it was that a fire engine red A3 Sportback with S-line trim and suspension, powered by the 150PS version of Audi’s 2.0 litre diesel engine driving through the S Tronic automated manual gearbox arrived on our driveway.
We’ve not met many people who enthuse over red cars the way we do. Our current S-Max is a special order metallic red and back in the mists of time we’ve owned a bright red Range Rover and a VW Passat estate of similar hue.
Discreet was the exact opposite of what this Audi managed but it was fun for all that, although keeping it well within the parameters in which speed cameras operate and traffic cops trigger interest was a good idea.
What surprised us initially was that despite the Sportline set-up that makes most Audis ride like a plank this car felt quite compliant, at least in the front. Friends who occupied the rear seats reported it was quite hard to endure but thankfully we weren’t going very far on our trip to see an astonishing group called The Churchfitters – their use of technology was impressive, just like Audi’s.
The bass player has wired-up boots that amplify his foot beats to provide the background rhythm so there’s no need for a drummer! Add to that a bass guitar formed from two Mercedes wheel trims and a double bass made from a motorcycle petrol tank and you might wonder about what could be achieved. The answer is brilliant music perfect for petrolheads!
Just as the Audi’s burbling diesel was music to our ears, the roar from the 40 profile tyres was overwhelming for much of the time. But the car bowled along at an average 46mpg which was at least soothing for the credit card!
Maurice and Annette Hardy
Car: Audi A3 Sportback 2.0 TDI S Tronic Sportline
Does it fit your ego…
0-62mph: 8.3 secs
Top speed: 135mph
Bhp: 149 @ 3500 – 4000 rpm
Torque: 251 lb ft @ 1750 – 3000rpm
…and your wallet…
CO2 emissions: 116 g/km
Best bits: brilliant as any Audi ever was