Our cars: Audi A3 Sportback - May
Week ending May 31
Driven this week 200 miles
Audi A3 Sportback review
With more than 1000 miles on the clock, the A3 Sportback now feels fully settled into my life - to the point where I'm trying to delve deeper into its line-up of systems. It's almost all positive news, too, because the latest version of Audi's MMI infotainment set-up is slick and responsive - exactly what you need when you're on the move.
I particularly like the way the sat-nav destination can be 'written' using the touch-pad at the top of the MMI's control dial. The handwriting recognition gets a fair test with some of my scrawls, but so far it's proving remarkably adept at picking out postcodes.
The Technology Pack also brings Audi's iPod interface, which is leaving me a bit puzzled. I'm a bit OCD when it comes to things like album art in my MP3s, you see, but while everything is present and correct in the files themselves, not to mention in iTunes and the iPod screen, the A3's systems seem a bit choosy about which covers they show.
They ignore a disturbing amount of them, in fact, displaying a generic 'genre' cover instead. I suspect something in the album image itself is to blame, so I'm going to try to track it down this coming weekend.
The rattle that I mentioned last week hasn't gone away, incidentally. People who should know these things tell me that it's an incorrectly seated washer somewhere in the spring mechanism for the throttle pedal - and that it won't go away of its own accord. I hadn't banked on taking an Audi to a dealer for a fix after barely 1000 miles, but it looks like that's what's on the cards.
By John McIlroy
Week ending May 24
Driven this week 300 miles
After a night in the stewardship of publisher Andrew 'leadfoot' Golby, during which its average fuel economy took a predictable hit, our A3 Sportback has spent much of this week redeeming itself on my daily slog up the M3 motorway.
A concentrated effort on Tuesday brought me to the streets near our Teddington offices with 51.0mpg showing on the individual journey trip - but then the combination of school run traffic and the notorious 281 bus (eight passengers, 23,432 stops) hacked that back to a frustrating 49.6mpg by the time I got to our car park.
Undeterred, I tried again on Wednesday, and a slightly cleaner run through Tedd brought me to work at a trip computer estimate of 51.0mpg. That's only a little bit off the official figure of 53mpg, and I still think it's pretty decent for a 1.4-litre petrol family hatchback, particularly given how sticky traffic can be on the M3. The overall average - climbing again, I'm glad to say, and including a lot of fully laden urban runs - is at 42.4mpg.
In other news, I've noticed the beginnings of a rattle somewhere under the steering column. It's a faint, raspy resonance that seems to cut in at around 2500rpm - and in an environment as refined as the A3's cabin, it stands out to an uncomfortable degree. I'm going to give it a week to see if it's just a phase it's going through - but if it doesn't disappear of its own accord, then an early visit to the dealership is on the cards.
By John McIlroy
Week ending May 10
Audi A3 Sportback
Driven this week 254 miles
What do you do, when your missus manages to damage your car barely 24 hours after you got it? Simple answer: you arrange for it to be repaired, and leave it at that.
Our Audi A3 Sportback suffered its first war wound the other day, when my considerably better half managed to give its nearside front alloy wheel a light scuffing on a kerb stone. She was distraught, I was as sympathetic as I could be, and the damage to the wheel itself wasn't horrific anyway – but there was no denying that a mark was visible.
I didn't want the 'new car' sheen to fade away quite so quickly, so I arranged a repair. Wheelwizard technician Josh and his smart Transit were on site for around an hour before I got the call to go back to the car. Sure enough, the mix of water-based paint, lacquer and a fine hand with the sander had done the job: you wouldn't know the wheel had ever been damaged.
The bill? £96 – not exactly cheap, but a small price to pay to stop my wife from looking guiltily at the A3 every time we go out into the driveway.
Fuel economy has dipped slightly in this second week, as I start to use the engine a little harder. Still, I don't reckon 44.8mpg is particularly bad for a mix of snotty Teddington school run and mostly clogged M3 motorway.
By John McIlroy
Week ending May 3
Audi A3 Sportback
Driven this week 269 miles
Our Audi A3 Sportback has been here precisely a week now, allowing me to put a few days of commuting and a few local shopping trips onto the odometer. Just for the record, the car had precisely 97 miles on the clock when it arrived – and now, six days later, it's up to just under 370.
First impressions are positive but then, I'd expected them to be. I've been a fan of the Audi A3's cabin ever since I first saw the car, under embargo and pain of death, in a German photo studio last spring.
A few reviewers have derided its fascia for being dull, but I think they've missed the point; Audi has stripped back the content from the current levels and produced, in effect, a minimalist dashboard. I love the way there are just a few switches, and how the central climate control dials are about the only thing protruding from the centre console (I regularly tuck the widescreen display away too, just to make the front cabin seem even more airy). It all feels beautifully built, too.
Our A3's 1.4-litre turbocharged engine is the regular unit, not the more expensive version that shuts off cylinders to save fuel, but I've been keeping a close eye on early fuel economy anyway. Having moved over from our Range Rover Evoque, which managed around 30mpg on diesel, I'm delighted to report that the A3 has started life somewhere in around 44mpg on petrol. That's a useful slice off the cost of fuelling my daily commute.
The biggest plus point, though, is the no-cost option to deselect the Sport trim's sports suspension. I know from feedback to last week's opening report that many of you are considering doing the same, and I can only reiterate how pleasant it makes the A3 Sportback's ride, even on 17-inch rims. I have to go over about half a dozen large speed bumps to even get close to my house, and the moment the front wheels hit the first of them last Friday, I knew that I'd made the right choice. It's a no-cost no-brainer, as far as I'm concerned.
By John McIlroy