2010 Audi A3 2.0 TDI Road Test Review

By:Trevor Hofmann
2010-04-23 17:49:37
When an automaker discontinues a model they normally do so for good reason.  Certainly there's the odd circumstance where a
2010 Audi A3 2.0 TDI S line
Audi's great looking entry-level 5-door is a blast to drive while getting fabulous fuel economy. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)
plant is closing down and a given model is let go due to having no home to produce it, but more often than not cars get axed because they're not selling well.  Audi's compact A3, mind you, is not one of those cars, but rather it's one of Audi's best sellers and certain to be part of its lineup for years to come.  Nevertheless, not all trims in the A3 lineup have been successful.  There was wailing and gnashing of teeth by enthusiasts when the V6-powered 3.2 quattro was dropped from the line, but those same enthusiasts should be thrilled by the addition of the A3 2.0 TDI. 

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. 
2010 Audi A3 2.0 TDI S line
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)
Of course, in order to pull the enthusiast's chain, performance must be part of the equation, and with the A3 2.0 TDI, especially in S line trim as my example was outfitted, the ideal balance of both is realized. 

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
2010 Audi A3 2.0 TDI S line
Great fun in the corners! (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)
practical, but simply not as "special" inside or out, whereas Volvo's C30 is, well, a Volvo, but while not carrying quite the same cachet it delivers the second best cabin in the segment.  Acura's CSX is a Honda Civic in drag, and if you include it in the premium segment you'll also have to include Mazda's 3, while the Mini is brilliant, but falls into the smaller B-segment.  Audi's thought process appears to be, you don't have to live with less, even if you're going small to save the planet, save at the pump, and save at initial purchase.  I like that philosophy. 

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
2010 Audi A3 2.0 TDI S line
The clean-diesel four offers a great of performance and economy. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)
car I would likely buy if I were in the market for a new vehicle right now.  I'm big on fuel-economy and large on performance, while I've got kids and gear and therefore need the added space a hatchback-cum-wagon offers.  It fits my lifestyle to a T, and while a crossover such as the A5 might do likewise, the A3 doesn't lose much in cargo capacity while I like the smaller exterior dimensions, lower centre of gravity and handling benefits these attributes provide. 

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
2010 Audi A3 2.0 TDI S line
A driver-oriented cockpit, Audi does a beautiful job with its interiors. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)
and an exchange of exterior colours, Sphere Blue Metallic for Lava Grey Pearl Effect, denote changes from last year. 

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,
2010 Audi A3 2.0 TDI S line
Seats that live up to sport premium status. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)
electro-hydraulically controlled, dual-clutch, direct-shift gearbox known in VW-speak as DSG and Audi lingo as S tronic. If you want quattro all-wheel drive you'll have to take the S tronic transmission, but believe me it's no sacrifice.  The TDI only comes in front-wheel drive and can only be had with the six-speed S tronic.  Trim lines include base, Premium and my test example's S line.

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
2010 Audi A3 2.0 TDI S line
More than most in this class offer. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)
input and satellite radio pre-wiring, while the A3 TDI gets a similar list.  On the unusual side A3 buyers get standard heated leather seats and heated washer nozzles.  The Premium package adds rain- and speed-sensitive windshield wipers, auto-dimming exterior and interior mirrors, Bluetooth connectivity, a panoramic sunroof, a power driver's seat, a multi-function four-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel, plus interior lighting package.  My tester featured this latter package, and it was a real dream to live with because of it. 

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
2010 Audi A3 2.0 TDI S line
S tronic transmission helps with fuel economy while improving performance. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)
is measured on a different scale, with fuel economy being the key differentiator. 

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,
2010 Audi A3 2.0 TDI S line
Let the sunshine in! (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)
they didn't mention its fuel economy either.  What gives, Audi?  Fortunately they were smart enough to include a link to David Booth's article on the car and in that review the rating of 6.7 L/100 km in the city and 4.6 on the highway was shown.  The number is impressive and one of if not the highlight of this model, so Audi, take a hint from David and me… put it front and centre on your site!  Geesh!  Someone must have failed their marketing 101 class.  Another positive for the TDI, the 2.0T needs premium unleaded while the 2.0 TDI simply uses diesel. 

The A3 comes standard with all the safety features you might expect in a premium-class car,
2010 Audi A3 2.0 TDI S line
Rear seat accommodation is good for two, capable of three. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)
such as disc brakes all-round with ABS and the usual electronic extras, plus standard traction and stability control, the latter what I consider to be the most important safety advancement ever created.  It gets all the usual airbags too, with the added bonus of optional rear side-impact bags. 

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,
2010 Audi A3 2.0 TDI S line
Split-folding rear seatbacks offer great versatility. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)
and then there's that sensational fuel economy I mentioned previously, resulting in a stellar 986.8 km (613.2 mile) range capability compared to the class average of 693.3 km (430.8 miles).  Yes, almost 1,000 km per 55-litre tank! 

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. 

(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)]]>

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