Can you get the test drive you want? Audi

* 38% of Audi dealers could source the car we wanted * Impressed with willingness to help * We asked to try two Audi A3 Sportbacks with Sport trim...

Can you get the test drive you want? Audi

Audi - Test drive hit rate 38%

Test Drive
Audi A3 Sportback 
1.4 TFSI 122 SE 
List price £20,200
Target Price £19,195 
Audi A3 Sportback 
1.4 TFSI 122 Sport
List price £21,425
Target Price £20,357

Why the test drive?
The Audi A3 Sportback is our reigning Car of the Year, but the trim you choose could mean more than what sort of gadgets you’ll enjoy. The sports suspension on Sport and S line trims gives a very firm ride – even after some recent softening treatment by Audi – while entry-level SE suspension gets comfort spot on.

The good news is that you can deselect the sports suspension at no extra cost, which is exactly what we did when speccing our long term Audi A3 Sportback in Sport trim. Our advice is to try before you buy, but will your dealer oblige?

Our experience
Our Audi mystery shop got off to a flying start with the first three dealers we approached. Swansea Audi, Stirling Audi and Boston Audi all offered drives of both cars we’d requested as soon as we were able to head down to the showroom. Only one dealership, Teesside Audi, failed to get back to us. Most dealers were able to stump up at least one car to test, even if, as in the case of Liverpool Audi, it had a 1.6-litre diesel engine. Sadly, that dealer’s product knowledge left a lot to be desired. We were advised that trim choice was irrelevant to the ride: ‘All [A3s] come with Audi Drive Select, adjustable on either model...’ Not true. Audi Drive Select is available only on SE models as a £220 option. Meanwhile, Eastbourne Audi told us the reviews were wrong; the ride on Sports suspension ‘isn’t too harsh at all’.

That dealer couldn’t give us exactly what we wanted, but we were offered a 2.0-litre diesel A3 in Sport trim, and if we were quick, we could try a used 1.4-litre petrol car in SE trim before it sold. Truro Audi, part of Helston Garages, which has just one Audi outlet on its books, was sympathetic but unable to provide an SE model. ‘The people who [want] an SE model tend to drive the Sport/S line car and if they find that too firm, they pick the softer suspension set-up,’ they said. 

West London Audi (one of 13 Audi dealerships owned by the Sytner Group), promised us a test drive but couldn’t guarantee engine or trim spec. Not quite the response we were hoping for.

How Audi dealers scored
Promptness of response 
Understanding of buyer’s concerns 
Product knowledge 
Willingness to arrange test drive 
Ability to arrange test drive 
Promptness of test drive 
Overall rating 

Our verdict
Three of the eight Audi dealers we contacted could fulfil our test drive request to the letter, and a further two impressed us with their willingness to help, even if they couldn’t get us the specific cars we wanted. The rest didn’t do nearly enough to earn our custom. Not really what you expect from a premium brand.

Audi says…
‘We see test drives as one of the most vital elements in moving towards a purchase with a customer. With 47 model types, more than 700 derivatives and thousands of option combinations, it’s not commercially possible to cover all model permutations. However, every Audi Centre can view listings of all demonstrators in the UK network, enabling one to locate a specific derivative from another. Centres also have access to Audi UK fleets, and can book cars for a small fee. We’ll work to boost uptake of this to make it even easier for customers to test drive the car of their choice.’