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Back to Listers Audi
By Jonathan Crouch
Added 8th April, 2016
, updated 13th July, 2018
With its third generation A3, Audi has subtly developed a winning formula. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Audi knows better than most manufacturers that there's never a one-size-fits-all solution to modern motoring, hence the range of options offered by its various Q-series models. This one could well be all the car you actually need if you're searching for a compact premium used crossover. Don't think of it as a shrunken version of its Q5 compact SUV stablemate. It isn't really any kind of SUV, instead offering a smarter, more up-market take on the current trend towards lifestyle-orientated Qashqai-class five-seat Crossovers. Sensible, stylish, fashionable cars that are striking such a sweet spot in the current market.
As with almost any model of this kind, this one can easily manage the school run, an extended shopping trip, a weekend away or the annual family ski trip to Chamonix. The difference here though, lies in the quality, the depth of engineering and the sheer feel-good factor that you'll get by having this car on your driveway.
Compromises necessary to create its relatively affordable price tag have been cleverly chosen and detract little from the extremely polished end result. One that in this improved first generation guise delivers on its promises of greater efficiency and extra technology. It's a little sharper to drive too, though could still be more responsive in that respect. Ultimately though, this Audi's priorities lie in other areas. Yes, you can certainly buy something slightly bigger and SUV-ish for this kind of money. But after trying a Q3, you probably won't want to.
The go-faster TTS version of Audi's third generation TT has been subtly improved. Jonathan Crouch reports
SUVs don't need to be big to be desirable. Audi aims to prove the point with this MK2 model Q3. Jonathan Crouch reports.
If the three-door A1 offers all the essence of Audi in smaller form - and it does - then what of this A1 Sportback? In this post-2015-era first generation form, it's certainly small, but usefully versatile, a little urban jewel, trendy if you want it to be, restrained and low key if you don't. It can come power-packed or frugally-focused. It can break hi-tech boundaries. Or be found in a form that won't break the bank. Inevitably though, to experience much of what this car has to offer, you've to spend more than you might ever have expected to on a car of this size. So is it worth it? Well that's a question which for us is easier to answer with this A1 in Sportback guise. It's a beautifully balanced design that from first glance, seems immediately more comfortable with a premium price tag.
In fact, we'd go as far as to say that it's a car that makes more sense the more you spend on it - providing you know what you're buying. That's key to the whole different mind set you need in approaching the purchase of this A1. After all, on paper, you could get much of the same technology in a cheaper Volkswagen Polo. Or indeed an even less expensive ŠKODA Fabia. Fortunately though for Audi, cars of this kind aren't solely bought on paper. No, you'll be considering this, the most expensive supermini on the used market, because you've been just that little bit seduced by Audi's branding and image. Nothing wrong with that of course. A Casio tells the time just as well as a Rolex but sometimes, let's be honest, we just want nice things.
Particularly if long term running cost savings are likely to repay the premium paid up-front. This car does, after all, deliver best-in-class figures for Benefit-in-Kind taxation, overall running costs and residual value, helped by the fact that thanks to the engine revisions made to this post-2015-era car, its economy and CO2 emission figures are right up with the supermini segment leaders from this era. So it seems that small can be beautiful, to head as well as heart. Five does indeed go into one. Audi fans would never have doubted it.
This improved MK3 model A3 - now offered in five-door Sportback form only - shows Audi at its slick, intelligent best. Its styling might still be low key and the engineering eminently sensible, but there's now a polish to this vehicle that escapes virtually all of its rivals. Efficiency and economy are excellent by class standards, especially when it comes to a much improved range of petrol engines. And some of the high-tech options available are extremely tempting.
Forget all the numbers that surround this latest A3. What Audi continues to do better than anybody else is tap directly into the often deeply illogical subconscious of the buyer. It sows seeds of desirability that are hard to bat away with simple financial rectitude. The A3 is an artfully laid trap that most of us can't wait to blunder into.
Is that wrong? Is it cynical? Not really. The A3 serves a need and serves it very well. The latest model is, by any reasonable measure, a smart, admirable and technically brilliant thing. The intelligent people who will buy it will nevertheless have the self-awareness to ask themselves whether they have been beguiled by brand awareness, even if only just a little. Those with typical Audi owner self confidence probably won't mind either way.
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