By Guilherme Marques
The new Audi A3 could look a bit more different when compared to its predecessor.
But it could not be any more different once you are past the exterior lines.
I have to confess to something straight away: whenever there is a new Audi, I am always scared of that giant Xerox machine they have at Ingolstadt that has made every recent Audi look like every recent Audi.
And they have used it again on the new A3, because it looks not like a new car, but exactly like the old A3, with some changes to the front lights and the rear end, and it is a bit more ‘girly’ too.
At first this is disappointing because Audi invented the premium compact segment with the first A3 back in 1996 and it could have taken more risks with this latest generation.
The problem with my statement is that I am only talking about the exterior design because, in fact, the new A3 is a revolution and I make it a case to use this word wisely when it comes to cars.
The new Audi A3 is the first to be underpinned by the Volkswagen Group’s most recent platform, called MQB (Modularer Querbaukausten), which in the words of Shakespeare would be something like Modular Transverse Matrix.
Anyway, the important thing is, it will change the way VW – and therefore Audi, Skoda and Seat – build front-engined, front-wheel drive cars from now on, with even better safety levels, cheaper costs and improved efficiency.
The size of the car does not matter because this architecture is based on an interchangeable parts system, where an Audi A1 or a VW Polo and an Audi A4 or a VW Passat can be born from the same basis, rationalising the production process and allowing the VW empire to build several different models in one factory and save up to 30% of the time it takes to build every single car. Repeat after me: wow!
So, VW has come up with a technological tour de force and the world is now looking to catch up, but how does it translate to the actual car we are driving here?
Well, if I had to sum up the new A3 in one word it would be ‘quality’. This car is all about it. You can sense the perfection the engineers were looking for in every little detail, even in the subtle lines of the exterior that start to grow on you after a couple of days.
The shape is right, the proportions are spot on, the profile is just beautiful. On the road it means a very relaxed driving experience, where everything feels right.
The engine was a 1.6 diesel pushing 105 horse power but felt a lot more powerful, the six-speed manual gearbox was plain fantastic and the steering much better than in the big Audis I have driven lately, with a more natural feel. But the best bit of this car was the interior.
The designers have created the best environment I have tested for years on an everyday car, where functionality seems like something genuinely easy to achieve. It isn’t, trust me.
There are less buttons, but every single one there is works perfectly and exudes a level of quality rivals simply cannot match. It is clean, simple, useable, practical. If ever less was more, then this is surely it.
As for the rest of the items that matter, they all get high marks: at €27,700 the price is right, it is comfortable, the boot is big enough, there is a lot of space in the back (if you need more, the 5-door Sportback has just come out), and fuel consumption never rises above 5.7 litres for 100 km – and that is without worrying about it, because for the two hours I said to myself I was going to save the world I averaged 4.6 litres – the least I have ever achieved in any car.
The new Audi A3 is very much new. It is also a quiet revolution that has earned my deepest respect.