We’ve just voted the Audi A3 Sportback our 2013 Car of the Year, so it’s safe to say we’re big fans.
However, this is the first time we’ve driven the new 1.6 TDI version on UK roads. The entry-level diesel is sure to be a big hit with company car drivers, because its sub-100g/km CO2 emissions make it the cheapest A3 for company car drivers.
What’s the 2013 Audi A3 1.6 TDI like to drive?
Power comes from the same 103bhp engine that’s also found in the new Seat Leon and VW Golf.
Thankfully, the engine is smoother and quieter in the Audi than it is in either of those cars. There’s still some clatter at tickover, but there’s hardly any vibration through the steering wheel or pedals, and things stay hushed even when you work the engine hard.
For the most part, performance is adequate, too. There’s plenty of pull from just 1500rpm and the Audi has six gears (unlike the equivalent VW Golf, which has only five). Only when you’re in a hurry will you wish for a bit more oomph through the mid-range.
Perhaps the biggest sticking point with this 1.6 TDI version, though, is it rides on a less sophisticated rear suspension set-up than the rest of the A3 range.
This affects the ride quality slightly, because you feel a bit more patter from the rear of the car on less-than-perfect road surfaces.
On the plus side, this version of the A3 is still great fun to drive, with excellent body control, strong grip and meaty steering,
What’s the 2013 Audi A3 1.6 TDI like inside?
You’d expect any Audi to at least trouble the class leaders on interior quality, but the new A3 raises the bar several notches.
The materials have the plushness of those you’d find in an executive saloon, and the assembly is close to flawless. Every switch feels substantial and beautifully damped, which also helps contribute to the money-no-object feel. The A3's cabin really is something to behold.
It's pretty high-tech, too, because the car comes with the latest version of Audi’s MMI (multimedia interface) as standard. This has the central control dial that Audi drivers will be familiar with, but the shortcut buttons have been replaced by raised toggle switches, which are easier to use at a glance.
Finding a comfortable driving position is also easy because there’s loads of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel. Granted, rear space is a little tighter than in a BMW 1 Series or VW Golf, but two six-foot passengers will still fit comfortably. Access isn’t bad, either.
The boot is also one of the biggest in the class at 365 litres (380 litres for the five-door Sportback version), and thanks to an adjustable boot floor, the rear seats fold almost flat when you need even more space.
The SE-trimmed car we tested comes with most of the essential creature comforts as standard; you get alloy wheels, manual air-con and Bluetooth with voice control.
Sport trim adds dual-zone climate control, sports seats and sports suspension (although you can delete this if you want a softer ride).
Should I buy one?
The new A3 1.6 TDI doesn’t disappoint. It’s undoubtedly the best sub-100g/km small family hatch on the market, just pipping the VW Golf 1.6 TDI due to its superior engine installation and smarter interior.
Yes, the Audi is slightly (£310) pricier to buy and doesn’t come with as much standard equipment (the Golf gets adaptive cruise control and automatic light and wipers as standard, which both cost extra on the A3).
However, as a higher-rate taxpayer, the Audi will add just £1 to your monthly company car tax bill, and it actually costs less to lease courtesy of its stronger resale values.
If you can stretch to it, the more powerful 2.0 diesel is worth the extra, but the 1.6 TDI is still an absolute gem.
What Car? says…
BMW 116d ED
Volkswagen Golf 1.6 TDI
Our reviews are based on hard data and thorough testing in the real world.
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