Friday, 24 May 2013 3:41 PM
Two words that every motorist knows about, no matter what vehicle they drive. For some it will be a wholesome, positive experience while for others, totally unsatisfactory. The latter not necessarily being the car’s fault either, I might add – rather the driver’s sheer incompetence behind the wheel. But enough of the driving instructor’s tales and my Sunday afternoon experiences.
In this day and age when so much is clinical and characterless you could be forgiven for thinking that driving has become little more than another chore that just needs completing rather than being enjoyed and savoured.
So often the whole experience can be a pretty monotonous affair especially with the amount of vehicles on the roads.
It is therefore refreshing to sit inside the Audi A3 TFSi S line, which responds to almost every driver’s whim. There are five different modes ranging from economy to dynamic.
Understandably, the latter is by far the most enjoyable. After all it is the driving experience that lies at the heart of this splendid machine. Equipped with no less than a seven speed S tronic automatic gearbox the driver can use it either as a traditional automatic or if they are feeling that they want more control the stick can be pushed to the left and pushed up or down to go through the gears manually (as you can see in the video at testdrives.biz). If that is still not satisfactory then the paddle shifts either side of the uniquely designed steering wheel will deliver an experience akin to driving a racing car.
When selecting dynamic mode and using the manual option, the A3 is noticeably much more responsive, agile and nimble although there is still a slight delay when the accelerator is kicked. Push it to the floor and it seems to go on and on forever. A very gutsy and exhilarating experience. It’s interesting to note that the paddle shifts can be used in conjunction with the manual option, if required.
Speed and agility are all very well but traditionally such vehicles guzzled fuel like no tomorrow. I am therefore positively astounded that not only will this hot hatch travel from 0 to 60mph in just seven seconds but it will also return a staggering 50mpg (there’s a really reliable engine stop/start function, too). You really can put your foot down without worrying about the fuel gauge plummeting. To put this into perspective it is more efficient than my own diesel Ford Fiesta, which certainly does not provide the driving experience or performance.
The sporty feel throughout the A3 S line is helped by the golf ball topped gearstick and the sports leather covered steering wheel. The driving position is critical and pleasingly I have no complaints; my arms comfortably resting outstretched at the ten to two position on the steering wheel. You would be surprised how often this ideal position is not attained due to an incorrect seat height that can’t be adjusted to perfection and/or a steering wheel that cannot be adjusted for the optimum position.
With a dashboard that leans towards minimalism it is certainly a refreshing take on what can so often be an overpowering cluttered experience. The few switches present relate to such things as heated front seats and the air conditioning. It does take a while to adjust to the position of the volume control for the stereo; to the right of the gearstick.
The owners of a hot hatch like this are likely to be affluent 20 to 30 year olds. Therefore my baby seat and pushchair test is wholly unfair. But a necessity with my family. This three-door model will begrudgingly accept two baby seats in the rear – the front seats barely fold far enough forward to allow for the seats to be easily fitted in the back. The boot is large enough for a pushchair.
A drive to Newbury finally resulted in my little daughters falling asleep. That doesn’t happen in every car I drive.
Overall, it takes much to beat this compact hatch, which is easy to park and supremely quick. It is one of my favourites.
Audi A3 1.8 TFSi S line
New price range: £17,905 – £28,165
Engine: 1.8-litre turbo direct injection
Top speed: 144mph
Fuel tank: 50 litres
By Tim Saunders