Our cars: Audi A3 Sportback - November

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  • Audi A3 Sportback

    Audi A3 Sportback

  • Audi A3 Sportback

    Audi A3 Sportback

  • The A3 is telling us to top up the oil.

    The A3 is telling us to top up the oil.

  • Electronic parking brake won't release unless the accelerator is pressed

    Electronic parking brake won't release unless the accelerator is pressed

  • Audi A3 Sportback

    Audi A3 Sportback

  • Our A3 Sportback comes with the optional widescreen sat-nav system

    Our A3 Sportback comes with the optional widescreen sat-nav system

  • Audi A3 Sportback

    Audi A3 Sportback

  • MMI touch-pad

    MMI touch-pad

  • The A3 Sportback's turbo rattle has been fixed by a £12 part

    The A3 Sportback's turbo rattle has been fixed by a £12 part

  • The A3 Sportback's boot is decent enough with the seats down

    The A3 Sportback's boot is decent enough with the seats down

  • Audi A3 Sportback

    Audi A3 Sportback

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Audi A3 Sportback 1.4 TFSI 122 Sport

Week ending November 28
Mileage 7800
Driven this week 200 miles

My Haymarket colleague Henry Hope-Frost borrowed the A3 last weekend, because he needed to cart his wife and two children around, and the only thing still working in his garage was his motorcycle.

Henry's a keen driver (former Impreza Turbo owner, in fact) but even he was impressed by how well the Audi does the basics. 'Nicely weighted steering,' he noted, 'and the gearbox has a really decent shift'. I'm with him on that score; the Audi's six-speed manual transmission has a precise throw and ratios that seem very well suited to the 1.4-litre turbocharged engine.

Indeed, I tried our long-term Seat Leon SC the other day, and while its 138bhp version of the same engine has a teeny bit more outright poke than the A3's 120bhp unit it comes at the price of flexibility, so it's much more important to keep the revs in the sweet spot.

The A3 has no such issues. I have fond memories of relaxed-but-rapid progress in an old Peugeot 306 turbodiesel that I ran as a company car many years ago; the Audi is the closest that I've come to it since.

By John McIlroy
john.mcilroy@whatcar.com

Week ending November 15
Mileage 7032
Driven this week 197

It's been a quiet week for the A3, because I've been jumping around into other vehicles. However, I always enjoy seeing the contrast between the cabins on rival cars and the A3's. When the Audi was released I was instantly impressed (I distinctly remember a studio shoot somewhere near Ingolstadt where I was introduced to the car ahead of its launch) but doubters called the layout dull and unimaginative.

Nearly a year on, I think the A3 is continuing to prove them wrong. The tactic employed by Audi's engineers of pushing the fascia back as much as possible and cutting down the number of buttons still looks classy - in the same way that an iPhone 4 has aged well.

Contrast that with, for example, the Honda Civic that I tried last night; its 'disco-effect' dashboard and instrument panel looks more contrived and plain awkward by the day. I ran a Civic Type R back in 2007 that featured this fascia and it wasn't great then; it hasn't moved on very much since.

This is an important factor now, but an even more influential one when it comes to the A3's long-term prospects as a secondhand buy. With this neat design and high-quality materials, a two- or three-year-old A3 Sportback could be a stunning purchase in 2015.

By John McIlroy
john.mcilroy@whatcar.com

Week ending November 15
Mileage 7032
Driven this week 197

The Audi A3 undoubtedly has one of the best infotainment systems of any family car but it’s always frustrated me that the iPod dock works only with older Apple devices, and not the latest iPhone 5 models.

To link up my phone, I’ve always had to remember to bring its USB charging lead, and then use that as a link to the car.

Thankfully, I’ve found an easier solution. Apple sells a convertor (for around £25) that fits between the Audi’s iPod adapter and my iPhone 5. The converter is even small enough to fit in my wallet, so I don’t have to remember to bring the USB connector every time I want to charge my phone on the move.

By Will Nightingale
Will.Nightingale@whatcar.com

Read the full Audi A3 Sportback review

Week ending November 8
Mileage 6835
Driven this week 230

It’s been quite a while since I sat behind the steering wheel of our Audi A3 Sportback. Not because I don’t like it - quite the contrary - but because the last time I took it for a schlep down the M3 motorway the windscreen collected a stone chip.

The chip turned into a crack when Autoglass tried to repair it, and John McIlroy had a heck of a time trying to get a replacement screen (see July, below).

Fortunately, John must have forgiven me, because I was handed the key this week, and it was great to be back in our Car of the Year. Highlights for me included the incredibly smooth engine, a slick gearchange and toasty heated seats.

As you’d expect, there’s very little to complain about on a five-star car, but even after a journey of a hundred miles I was having to prod the throttle pedal more than I’d expected when moving off from a standstill - the 1.4 petrol engine feels a little flat until the turbo kicks in. I would have also appreciated a little more feel from the brakes; they’re very effective, but not the easiest to modulate.

The MMI system is reasonably easy to master, although I failed to work out how to lower the screen that pops up out of the dashboard as soon as you start the car. I see colleague Matthew Burrow managed it on a trip to Dorset, but I couldn’t find the ‘off’ switch. Fortunately, I did locate the rheostat, which reduced the glare somewhat for my 90-minute journey home in the dark, but not being able to master in-car technology puts me in a bad mood.

Subsequent enquiries reveal that the screen activation button sits between the central air vents and the climate controls - why it isn’t grouped with the MMI controls seems plain daft to me.

By Rob Keenan

Week ending November 1
Mileage 6605
Driven this week 40 miles

I've been continuing to explore our A3's infotainment system, partly because I've become fed up with the relative sparsity of track data provided through the Bluetooth phone connection, and partly because our upgraded system (the Technology Package) weighs in at nearly £1500, so it felt like time to work out whether it's any good or not.

Quite apart from the fact that the Tech Pack brings a proper wide screen (you get a squarer display without it, which looks cheap with plastic surrounds), it also packs in a 10Gb hard disk for your music. I thought I'd stick a few tracks on there, just to see if the interface is any different.

Oddly, you can't upload tracks from your iPod connection, or USB, or via Bluetooth; the only real option is an SD card, plugged into the one empty slot (the other one is filled with sat-nav data). Once you've done that, though, the system chugs through your MP3 files, strips out any information it can from the 'tags' contained within them, and then gives you a fairly swish album chooser. Any similarity to Apple's 'Cover Flow' feature is purely coincidental, I'm sure.

Still, it's a slicker experience than the one you get through your phone, so I guess I'll be swapping SD cards in and out of my laptop in the weeks to come as I build up a hard disk-based collection.

By John McIlroy

John.Mcilroy@whatcar.com

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