This is the Audi A3 Saloon in the spec that will sell best. We’ve also driven the four-door in 178bhp 1.8 TFSI petrol form, but that will be a marginal seller compared to this 148bhp 2.0 TDI model, which is on sale in the UK now, priced from £24,275.
Engine and performance
More than just an A3 with a boot, each panel of the Saloon is new, while it’s wider than the five-door Sportback and boasts 20mm broader track widths. At its heart is the same MQB chassis architecture as just about every other new VW Group car at the moment.
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There will be three diesel options by spring 2014, and this one sits between a 104bhp 1.6-litre TDI (which emits 99g/km of CO2) and a 181bhp 2-litre TDI (which shares its engine with the VW Golf GTD, and SEAT Leon FR). This 148bhp car will account for the biggest slice of A3 Saloon sales, being forecast to take around 35 per cent of orders.
There are three suspension options (we drove it on its highest-riding and least sporty, which is still pretty firm), while among the optional technology lies self-parking, adaptive cruise control, Google Maps and Streetview-enabled satnav and a 705w, 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system.
What’s it like to drive?
This is certainly a model you buy with your head, not your heart. The basics are good, if you can forgive a typically firm ride, with the new MQB platform used by the VW Golf, SEAT Leon and A3 hatchback providing its usual mix of neat, tidy handling and precise (if feel-free) steering.
The A3 Saloon, like its relations, is a car which is easy to drive at whatever pace you want to set, relenting to understeer when you get too greedy with corner entry speeds but overall, providing a well-judged balance and smooth flow that’s only interrupted when the stiff suspension struggles with a particularly large rut.
The diesel engine, though, is a sensible rather than sporty choice. Its 148bhp peak is delivered between 3500 and 4000rpm while torque is available over a wider band (236lb ft at 1750-3000rpm), but north of 4000rpm the engine doesn’t have a whole lot to give and it is never aurally satisfying. If many of your miles will be away from the motorway – and if you value a more engaging driving experience – the 138bhp 1.4 TFSI petrol engine, whose 109g/km of CO2 emissions and claimed 60.1mpg compare favourably to the 107g/km and 68.9mpg diesel – is a more enjoyable car.
The A3 Saloon is a smart-looking thing but not as swoopy as the Mercedes CLA, though judging by our first impressions of the Merc, their driving experiences are similar. A 168bhp Mercedes CLA220 CDI costs £29,355 with its standard seven-speed automatic gearbox.
Anything else I need to know?
We tried both front-wheel-drive and quattro all-wheel-drive A3 Saloons, and struggled to really tell the difference between them at typical road speeds. Poor weather or faster corners would likely skew the balance towards the latter, but in most driving the standard front-drive chassis should suffice.
Price and release date
The Audi A3 Saloon 2.0 TDI is available now from £24,275.
|Engine||In-line 4-cyl, 1968cc, turbodiesel|
|Max power||148bhp @ 3500-4000rpm|
|Max torque||236lb ft @ 1750-3000rpm|
|0-60||8.7sec (claimed 0-62)|
|Top speed||137mph (claimed)|