|Audi's great looking entry-level 5-door is a blast to drive while getting fabulous fuel economy. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)|
A 2.0-litre diesel supplanting a 3.2-litre V6? Welcome to the second decade of this century, ladies and gentlemen, an era when emissions and fuel-economy issues rule the roost after decades of performance stats dominating the minds and hearts of auto enthusiasts.
|A hatchback, sport wagon, 5-door? Whatever you want to call it, the A3 is a fully-functional, sporty little car with top-tier premium refinement. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)|
The A3, no matter the drivetrain, is the poster child of compact luxury. Compared to its rivals, Audi's smallest North American offering delivers an extremely high level of premium refinement, with higher quality plastics, better switchgear, top-tier features and beautiful metal accents, everywhere. Don't get me wrong, I love BMW's little 1 Series, but there's too much cheap plastic inside, and Mercedes' B is better and extremely safe and
|Great fun in the corners! (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)|
My week with the A3 2.0 TDI S line was one I won't soon forget. Actually, I came away thinking that it would be the
|The clean-diesel four offers a great of performance and economy. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)|
For 2010, other than the addition of this 2.0 TDI model and discontinuation of the 3.2 quattro, only the availability of the S line sport package on 2.0T Premium models
|A driver-oriented cockpit, Audi does a beautiful job with its interiors. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)|
As an overview, the A3 comes in one body style in North America, a five-door hatchback. In reality, however, it's shaped more like a sport wagon, and being that wagons are getting hotter these days, its sales are bound to grow beyond their already strong numbers. Lesser models get Audi's snappy little 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, dubbed 2.0T, while the rich kid on the block is the aforementioned TDI, a 2.0-litre direct-injection turbocharged diesel. The 2.0T gets front-wheel drive and makes use of a six-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed,
|Seats that live up to sport premium status. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)|
The 2.0T cars get all of the usual luxury features standard, such as power remote locks, power windows, dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, heated and powered exterior mirrors, variable intermittent wipers, 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 225/45R17 all-season rubber, fog lamps, plus CD/MP3 stereo with auxiliary
|More than most in this class offer. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)|
Even better, my car had a sport suspension, S-line exterior trim, and three-spoke steering wheel, which made it a blast in the curves. Truly, I couldn't get enough, and the TDI powertrain feels plenty good off the line, but I'm not going to pretend it was as grin inducing as the outgoing 3.2 or even the 2.0T. Just to put things into perspective, the old V6 made 250-horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque, whereas the new TDI might fall short on horsepower, at 140, but delivers an identical torque rating. The horsepower of the V6 would be something you'd notice in the higher rev ranges, but the real kicker of the diesel is that full torque is available at a mere 1,750 rpm with a wide band to follow. Interestingly the gasoline-powered 2.0T makes max torque of 207 lb-ft at only 1,700 rpm, and its output is rated at 200 horsepower. So what about acceleration? While the TDI feels strong off the line, and it is initially, the numbers speak for themselves at 9.1 seconds to 100km/h compared to 6.9 by the 2.0T. The old 3.2 hit 100 km/h in a mere 5.9 seconds. Both current engines are fabulous, so you'll have to decide what you want from a performance perspective, although with the TDI performance
|S tronic transmission helps with fuel economy while improving performance. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)|
The 2.0T with the base six-speed manual isn't bad for the compact luxury class at 10.4 L/100km in the city and 6.7 on the highway, as is the same front-wheel drive machine with the autobox at 9.4 L/100km and 6.9 respectively; the 2.0 AWD achieves a slightly less attractive 9.6 L/100km city and 7.5 highway. What about the TDI? Strangely, Audi doesn't even list the fuel economy of this model on its Canadian web site, or it's hidden so well that it's near impossible to find. It gets worse. In their press release about winning Green Car of the Year, an impressive feat,
|Let the sunshine in! (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)|
The A3 comes standard with all the safety features you might expect in a premium-class car,
|Rear seat accommodation is good for two, capable of three. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)|
The warranty is average for a premium car at four-years or 80,000 km bumper-to-bumper, while general reliability of the non-TDI (not enough time to collect data on the TDI) is passable. Consumer Reports doesn't have much good to say about pre-2008 cars (again not enough data for newer models), whereas J.D. Power and Associates gives it a rather mediocre score of 5.0. On the positive, the A3 scores extremely well in crash tests,
|Split-folding rear seatbacks offer great versatility. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)|
Speaking of volumes, the A3 can manage 370 litres (19.5 cu. ft.) of cargo space behind the rear seats, ample for most peoples' needs, while the back seatbacks fold 60/40 if additional space is needed for longer items.
At the end of the day, or more accurately the end of the week for my test run, the 2010 Audi A3 2.0 TDI was an ideal travel companion. As a luxury commuter it hardly could get better, and when it came time to fill it up before returning the keys, it was a pleasantly joyous occasion costing only $30 for a regular week's driving. Yeah, I suppose I'm in love. So see ya later, 3.2 quattro. You can have your 5.9-second run to 100. This is a new era, and I'll take 4.6 L/100km… for a "performance car" 4.6 sounds a lot better than 5.9 anyway.
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