The entry-level petrol motor is a punchy 148bhp 1.4 turbo that can also shut down two of its four cylinders to save fuel when you’re cruising along. It’s an excellent choice and is our favourite petrol engine. That said, we haven’t driven the 2.0 TFSI with 187bhp yet, but while not doubting it’ll be pretty quick, the extra running costs will certainly limit its appeal.
The diesel options are more likely to attract company car users, though, and it’s a strong line-up. The entry-level 108bhp 1.6-litre engine isn’t as gutsy as the bigger units, but it seldom feels underpowered and has a smooth power delivery. The 148bhp 2.0-litre is strong across the rev range, and we think it’s an absolute belter. So much so in fact, that while we’d agree the pricier 181bhp version does have a more defined surge as the turbo kicks in, the 148bhp diesel is so effective it makes this an unnecessary extravagance considering its added cost.
The standard gearbox is a six-speed manual that has a precise shift action, and Audi’s S tronic automatic transmission is available on all engines. It offers super-fast shifts, but the ’box doesn’t always react quickly enough to your commands when you try to use it in manual mode.
Another feature is Audi’s four-wheel drive system, called Quattro, that gets you off the line quickly in slippery conditions. It’s available in the 2.0 TFSI 190 petrol, both 2.0 TDI diesels, and is standard in the S3 performance model.
Speaking of which, the S3 comes with a 306bhp turbocharged petrol engine, and combined with that four-wheel drive system, it’s the real McCoy when it comes to high-performance saloons.