Ride and handling
Keener drivers need not apply; the choice for you in this segment is BMW’s 1 Series, which is clearly more involving and fun than a Golf-derived hatchback whose prime duty will be covering lots of miles in fuss-free calm. The Sportback is by no means an Audi from the bad old school of Ingolstadt, as – in the main – it rides pretty well and has accurate, consistent steering that isn’t totally bereft of feel. But if you’re expecting it to light up a drive home down your favourite back roads, you’ll be disappointed.
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Its strengths lie in tidy, cross-country pace and truly grown-up motorway manners. There’s a lot of mechanical grip to play with in the Sportback, with even the front-driven models resisting understeer admirably, and this characteristic is only enhanced by the addition of the Haldex-derived quattro four-wheel drive system. If you utilise the road holding and the impressive levels of body control the A3 can muster up, you’ll realise that the Sportback is travelling quicker than you’d give it credit for along a winding road.
It’s also a serene cruiser capable of fooling you into thinking you’re driving a far larger Audi than an A3 when you’re on the motorway. It limits wind and road noise almost to the point of silence, while none of the drivetrains are rowdy. Larger wheels and sportier suspension (we’re thinking here of the no-cost option S line set-up that’s a further 10mm lower than the standard 15mm drop) can upset the composure on really terrible surfaces but no variation of Sportback should ever be outright uncomfortable; its high level of refinement is another method the A3 employs to make it feel expensive and premium. For the vast majority of buyers, this will be the reason they’ll opt for the Sportback in the first place.