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NEW PREMIUM AUDI A3 SPORTY SALOON By Brian Foley

NEW PREMIUM AUDI A3 SPORTY SALOON

Irish motorists traditionally favoured the three-box saloon over the hatchback and estate alternatives, and whilst motoring attitudes and choices are constantly changing, the appeal of the saloon car continues to hold sway. In fact, 28% of cars sold in Ireland in 2012 were conventional saloons. Coming in September is a really classy premium saloon in the shape of the new Audi A3 4-door saloon, complete with all the acclaimed quality and advanced engineering of one of Germany's most prestige brands.

Advance orders for the 1.4TSI (petrol) 125bhp variant, at €29,950 (on-the road), start from July 11th - with first deliveries in early September. The 1.6TDI (diesel) 105bhp will be available from January 2014. Three equipment levels are standard or entry-level, SE and S-Line.

The Audi A3 saloon is a particularly smart looking car, with the familiar Audi family in-your-face front grille, compact and yet with generous interior space and comfort, although head room in the rear is not great for tall passengers. The rear seat can be folded to extend the already large boot, and is particularly useful for occasionally carrying long objects or equipment. The A3 saloon is likely to appeal best to motorists with a small family as well as middle-age to retired couples who enjoy their comforts and the pride of ownership that comes automatically with the Audi brand - as well as of course the fine handling and sportiness of the A3 model range.

The emphasis on user friendly extends to short front and rear overhangs for easy parking. Wheelbase is 2.64 metres, overall length a tidy 4.46 metres.

The boot capacity amounts to 425 litres with the seats up – 45 litres more than the A3 Sportback. This capacity can be increased by folding down the split rear seat backs. The boot lid fully swings upward when unlocked.

Audi's ultra-lightweight design is evident in the 1,205kg kerb weight, which applies to the A4 1.4 TFSI Saloon . Audi use many hot-formed steel parts in the passenger compartment for low weight and maximum strength, and the aluminium bonnet and front suspension sub-frame also help to lighten the load. Safety is by no mean compromised by the weight reduction, which gives a high power-to-weight ratio and low CO2 emissions. The low 100kg weight of the 1.4-litre TFSI 140HP engine is also notable for its efficiency-focused Cylinder on Demand technology. At low engine load, the system deactivates two cylinders to minimise mechanical effort and cut fuel consumption. As a result, combined economy tops out at a TDI-rivalling 4.7l/100km, while CO2 is pared back to 109g/km which will sit in VRT band A3. Helped by its healthy 250Nm torque peak, the A3 1.4 TFSI Saloon takes just 8.4 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 100kph, and can reach 217kph where conditions allow.

The diesel choices initially include the latest 2.0-litre TDI producing 150HP and 320 Nm of torque. It powers the A3 Saloon from 0 to 100kph in 8.7 seconds, takes it to a top speed of 220kph and is capable of returning up to 4.1l/100km. This equates to CO2 output of 107g/km which sits the 2.0-litre TDI in VRT band ‘A3’. Just in time for January 2014 delivery, a 1.6-litre TDI producing 105HP and 250Nm of torque will return 3.9l/100km and, with only 99g/km of Co2, it sits in VRT band A2. The same engine, when combined with a six-speed manual transmission, will have the accomplishment of being having the lowest Co2 emissions from any saloon car in Ireland. This, of course, excludes electric and hybrid vehicles.

Standard transmission is either a manual 6-speed or the S tronic dual-clutch gearbox. S tronic shifts without any noticeable break in propulsive power, and is controlled by either the selector lever or paddles on the steering wheel. The ‘D’ setting is programmed for maximum fuel efficiency, and the S mode with its higher shift points for more energetic driving. Where the Audi drive select adaptive vehicle dynamics system is fitted, S tronic offers a free-wheeling function in its efficiency mode which further reduces fuel consumption.

INFOTAINMENT

The A3 Saloon features the new modular infotainment system (MIB). The top system is MMI Navigation plus with an SSD hard drive offering 64 GB of storage, a DVD drive and whole-word voice control. A high-resolution 7-inch-screen shows the map image in detailed 3D graphics. The MMI Navigation plus system interfaces to cell phones and mobile players via Bluetooth. The user terminal has a turn/push control designed as a “touchwheel” with MMI touch – the touchwheel’s top surface is a touch-sensitive pad for inputting letters, symbols and numbers.

Other infotainment components include the Audi phone box for conveniently coupling a cell phone to the car antenna. The Bang & Olufsen sound system has a 705 watt amplifier drives 14 loudspeakers in 5.1 surround sound, and LED light guides illuminate the woofer grilles in the front doors.

Audi connect covers all technologies that network the driver with the car, the Internet, infrastructure and other vehicles.

Audi connect lets passengers conveniently surf and e-mail via an integrated WLAN hotspot. For the driver, it brings customized Internet services from Audi into the car. They range from navigation using images from Google Earth and Google Street View to Audi traffic information online and the smartphone app Audi music stream. News and information services complete the line-up. The online community services Facebook and Twitter are integrated in a vehicle-friendly way; along with a text-to-speech function, a practical text function is provided with prepared text units.

Christian Gussen, managing director of Audi Ireland, commented: “We expect the A3 saloon model will make a significant impact in the Irish market in 2014. We estimate that every second A3 customer will opt for the A3 saloon from its launch date in September, so its arrival will be hugely important to Audi, both on a global scale and to Audi Ireland.”

First drives in the Audi A3 saloon proved most enjoyable, the 1.4 litre petrol being impressively silent with a seemless surge of power through the gears, allied to good fuel economy. Whilst the majority of Irish motorists are hooked on diesel, the 1.4TSI would be ideal formost everyday average motoring, with the diesel models only showing their advantage over very high mileage.

Test driven by Brian Foley