Our cars: Audi A3 Sportback hello

* 2013 Car of the Year joins our fleet * 1.4-litre petrol engine in Sport trim * Run by editor John McIlroy...

Our cars: Audi A3 Sportback hello

Strange how things go; only yesterday I was shooting the magazine pictures for the 'goodbye' story on our Range Rover Evoque, and this morning the car that will, in effect, replace our trendy SUV has turned up in our car park. It's an Audi A3 Sportback, our Car of the Year 2013.

I stuck closely to COTY spec for the core mechanical bits which meant plumping for the 1.4-litre 120bhp petrol engine, and a manual gearbox (no 2.0-litre TDI or dual-clutch transmission here, thank you).

However, while our COTY was the SE trim, I opted for Sport spec. It brings a few toys like climate control, a sports steering wheel, funkier seats and 17-inch alloy wheels as standard. However, I didn't want to compromise on ride quality, so I deselected the sports suspension a no-cost option, and one that I'm glad I noticed on the Audi configurator.

The other options do cost money, unfortunately. I like the Audi 'Kinetic' alloy wheels, so I swapped mine over to this design (250). I prefer the wide-screen sat-nav and infotainment system, which meant picking the Technology Pack; it's steep, at 1450, but also brings Audi's iPod interface, a higher-resolution navigation package and Bluetooth. I also chose the Comfort Pack, which adds rear parking sensors, acoustic glass, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror and automatic headlights and wipers, for 605, folding mirrors (150) and heated front seats (260). When I specced our car, I also had to pay 305 for DAB radio although Audi is now rolling this out as standard across the range.

Throw in Misano pearlescent red paint (525) and Audi's delivery and registration fees and you're up to 25,840.

I reckon that's a fair price for one of the most refined, accomplished and smart hatchbacks on the road but will the A3 Sportback live up to this promise in everyday life? It's very, very early days so far; in fact, as I write this, I haven't even had a chance to sit in the car yet. So it's time to close the word processor, wander down to the car park and open the door for the first time. I'll let you know my first impressions next week.

Read the full Audi A3 Sportback review >>

By John McIlroy