The new Audi A3 Sportback is the latest addition to the premium end of the small family car class.
It costs 620 more than the three-door A3, which is the current class leader. However, as well as the convenience of two extra doors, the Sportback brings more interior space and a bigger boot. This is mainly thanks to a 35mm increase in the wheelbase over the three-door car.
What's the 2013 Audi A3 Sportback like to drive?
Audi has used aluminium and high-strength steel in the A3's construction, so the latest Sportback is much lighter than its predecessor.
This is a tactic that many manufacturers are now adopting to improve fuel consumption and cut CO2 emissions, and, in the A3's case, it also makes the car extremely agile.
Sportback feels slightly softer than the three-door A3
Overall, the Sportback feels a tad softer than the three-door A3, but the suspension settings are all but identical, so it's likely the extra suppleness comes from the Sportback's longer wheelbase.
Despite the extra suppleness, we'd still be wary of sportier suspension options. If you stick with the softer springs and shock absorbers fitted to SE specification cars, and don't go overboard with your choice of wheel size, the Sportback delivers a fine blend of comfort and control.
Around town the ride is superbly damped and exceptionally quiet, and when you do pick up a bit more speed it allows the suspension to flow and settle into a fluid, easy rhythm.
Scythe through a series of tight bends and the Sportback feels slightly more nose-heavy than the three-door version, but it still positively encourages enthusiastic changes of direction thanks to its smoothly weighted steering and strong grip.
However, if you push a little too hard, the front end of the car will start to drift wide, but it's entirely predictable when it does, making it easy to rein in by moderating your right foot pressure.
We've already tried the 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel in the three-door A3, and if anyone is making a smoother, quieter four-cylinder diesel engine then we haven't driven it.
This time around we tested the most powerful diesel engine in the range; the 181bhp 2.0-litre. It's not quite as smooth or as quiet as its less powerful sibling, and there's a more defined surge when the turbo comes in. However, it's still an absolute peach of an engine, pulling high gears effortlessly and gaining speed that borders on hot hatch pace.
Audi claims that with this engine the Sportback will hit 62mph in 7.4 seconds, and return average economy of 65.7mpg.
What's the 2013 Audi A3 Sportback like inside?
Slide behind the wheel of the Sportback and you can't help but be impressed by the simple elegance and sheer depth of quality that runs throughout the cabin. Quality features include the four round aluminium air vents that can be adjusted simply by pulling on the central mounted hubs.
Audi's Multi Media Interface lets you control most infotainment functions via a central control dial and a small collection of buttons. From here, everything is displayed at eye-level on a slim centrally mounted screen that disappears into the dash when the car is switched off.
The new Sportback's extended wheelbase provides plenty of interior space for four, while the boot capacity is 380 litres with the seats up a 10-litre increase on the three-door A3.
A two-position floor lets you store valuables out of sight, and with the 60/40 split rear seatbacks folded down theres a 1220-litre loadspace.
Standard equipment generally mirrors the three-door car, so all Sportbacks come with air-conditioning, a multi-function steering wheel, iPod connectivity and voice-activated Bluetooth. The Sportback adds rear electric windows and child locks for the rear doors.
Should I buy one?
The big test for the A3 Sportback is still to come when it faces the new Volkswagen Golf.
We already know that the Sportback isn't quite as well equipped. However, a 148bhp 2.0 TDI SE-spec Sportback will cost you just 110 more than the equivalent Golf, and the Audi has a much classier cabin.
However, for now, we can only heap unreserved praise on the A3 Sportback. It's an outstanding car that you can buy or lease with total confidence.
Read the Audi A3 review for parents at Mumsnet Cars
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