First drive: face-lifted Audi A3 and S3

  • We test face-lifted A3
  • Petrol engines more efficient
  • New diesel and seven-speed gearbox
Face-lifted Audi S3 - now in Sportback form
Face-lifted Audi S3 - now in Sportback form
No, our picture editor hasn’t made a mistake; this is Audi’s face-lifted A3.

Still, you can be forgiven any doubts, because the visual changes are of the ‘they paid someone how much for that?’ variety.

Even current owners may struggle to spot the more shapely front end, tweaked bumpers and new lights, while the interior refreshment amounts to little more than some extra splashes of aluminium trim and a slightly clearer centre console layout.

While the designers bunked off early, though, the engineers have put in plenty of late nights.

Models with quattro four-wheel drive get a revised system that distributes power faster to where it’s needed, and that power comes from updated engines.

Audi has dropped the 3.2-litre V6, but the four remaining petrols are now cleaner and use less fuel.

We’d avoid the gutless 1.6, but the turbocharged 1.4, 1.8 and 2.0-litre are all fine choices.

The 2.0-litre diesel, which is available with 138bhp or 168bhp, has taken a bigger step forward, because it now features common-rail fuel injection.

This boosts flexibility, refinement and economy, and drops the 138bhp unit down to the 18% company car tax band.

A rattly 1.9-litre diesel that’s available in standard and greener ‘e’ form completes the revised A3 line-up.

Audi’s S tronic dual-clutch gearbox remains an option, but, although the diesels and 2.0-litre petrol stick with the familiar six-speed unit, the 1.4, 1.6 and 1.8 get a new seven-speed version.

In addition, the flagship S3 performance model is now available as a five-door Sportback as well as a three-door.

Prices for the 1.6 and 2.0 petrol have actually fallen, but other models cost between £75 and £335 more.

The A3 essentially remains what it always was, then: a classy, but expensive, small family hatch.

• You can buy the revised A3 and S3 now, with prices ranging from £14,995 to £27,720.

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