Text: Brent Co / Photos: Kelvin Christian Go | posted September 28, 2015 12:36
The premium compact car done right
What makes a World Car of the Year? Is it the way a car was designed? Perhaps. Is it the engineering? Of course. Is it the performance, the fuel economy and the features? Certainly.
Or could it be all of the above?
Audi completely overhauled the A3 for its third-generation adding a four-door sedan variant to a model that's been either a 3-door hatchback and 5-door hatchback. The result was the A3 Sedan that debuted at the 2013 New York International Auto Show. The following year, a jury of 48 journalists from 22 countries awarded it the 2014 World Car of the Year besting out 12 candidates including the likes of the BMW M4 and Mazda 3; which it beat in the finals.
It made its Philippine debut in July 2014 positioned as a serious contender to similarly-sized models like the BMW 1-Series, Mercedes-Benz A Class, and Mercedes-Benz CLA Class. However Audi PH decided to offer the A3 exclusively as a sedan for the local market.
Based on VW Group's MQB platform which underpins models like the Audi TT, Volkswagen Golf, Volkswagen Passat (B8, stretched version) and the new Volkswagen Touran. The Typ 8V A3 has grown significantly larger than its predecessor as it now measures 4456 mm long, 1796 mm wide, and 1416 mm tall with a 2636 mm wheelbase. For reference the previous Type 8P 5-door measured 4285 mm x 1765 mm x 1420 mm with a 258 mm wheelbase versus the 8V 5-door which measures 4310 mm x 1785 mm x 1421 mm.
While the car basically follows the Audi design language across the range, chief designer Dany Garand explained that his team “played between Bauhaus oriented and very emotional surfaces, which produced a very sensual and fluid movement to produce a self-confident design” to reflect the brand. To further accent its styling, the signature LED lighting package is offered as standard locally.
As you set yourself on the driver's seat and prepare to turn the key, you are welcomed by a very driver-centric atmosphere inviting you to fire it up, shift into drive and step on the throttle. The four round air vents make a nice play on the four-rings logo, while the aluminum accents give it the right amount of contrast from the primarily black and dark gray features. The controls are ergonomically placed and easy to use while the MMI with motorized 7-inch display worked flawlessly with good sound quality and mobile connectively working with just a few clicks. For a compact car, rear occupants can look forward to a good amount of legroom and a nice relaxed seating position.
Under the hood is the now 'infamous' VW Group 2.0-liter TDI rated at 150 PS with 320 Nm of torque mated to a six-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox Audi calls S-tronic. Around the city, the A3 TDI had very good throttle response and required very little effort to move around. Thanks to its six-speed dual-clutch gearbox, it shifted flawlessly through its well-appointed ratios giving a good balance of fun and consideration for economy. It does sound quite rough on idle outside, maybe due to our local Euro-2 'dirty diesel', but January 2016 is just around the corner.
Handling was pretty nimble around corners, don't expect it to handle like a performance car though. You'd have to buy the performance-oriented S3 for that purpose. Braking feel is very precise as a German would be. In terms of comfort, it absorbs road imperfections with ease at considerate speeds. Steering feels just right, neither light nor heavy.
Fuel consumption wise, we logged about 15 kilometers to a liter in light weekend urban traffic though this number went down significantly to around 11 kilometers in moderate weekday traffic.
Locally, the Audi A3 is very handsomely priced at Php 2,630,000 when compared to its would-be competitor the Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 at PhP 3,380,000; although the larger not as premium Peugeot 508 2.2 HDi GT does make a strong proposition at a slightly lower pricetag of PhP 2,590,000.
All this being considered, we now have a good idea why the jurors picked this as the 2014 World Car of the Year.