For The engine is actually quieter and marginally smoother than the 2.0-litre diesel. Running costs are low and SE trim comes with most of what you need.
Against The basic rear suspension in this version means it feels a little less responsive in bends and less planted under firm braking than models with the more sophisticated rear end.
Although this is the entry-level diesel car, it’s certainly doesn’t feel like a budget-special. Fuel returns are exceptionally low, you get all kit you need while the desirable badge and gorgeous cabin make it even more appealing.
Petrol buyers can choose between 1.4- and 1.8-litre turbo engines, but the 1.4 is our favourite. It keeps the price reasonable and is gutsy enough to let you enjoy the A3’s agile handling.
There are also two diesel engines: a 148bhp 2.0-litre and a 103bhp 1.6. The smaller of the two emits just 99g/km of CO2, so it attracts temptingly low company car tax bills.
Both diesels are smooth and flexible, but if you can stretch to it we’d recommend the 2.0 for its punchier power delivery.
There are three trims, each with a different suspension setting: SE, lower Sport and lower-still S line. For us, the SE’s suspension provides the best balance of comfort and control, and the good news is that you can specify it at no extra cost with every trim level.
SE trim undoubtedly offers the best value for money, too, but you might want to add one of two optional extras, such as automatic light and wipers and climate control.
A brilliant version of a brilliant car. In fact, this version is our favourite A3 Sportback.