Our modern cars can be pretty economical. But then there are car makers who have honed this to an absolute art. They have succeeded in linking frugality with refinement, elegance, power and performance. The Nano grey 6 speed Audi A3 we drove recently amply proved the point. Its ultra docile and smooth but powerful engine and refined drive train was indeed nothing less than stunning, and thanks to its state of the art cylinder on demand technology it proved immensely economical. We achieved with no effort an average consumption of 4,3 liters per 100 km on some journeys, and even in dense traffic it was very easy to stay at around and below 5,5 liters per 100 km. Just read further…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
We know the very docile 1,4 liter four cylinder unit already for a long time. It sits snugly for more than a decade now in our New Beetle Cabrio, albeit in a much more sedate version. It is good for 75 healthy horses, but very refined it is.
The COD or cylinder on demand version in the Audi is light years ahead in technology, but the engine has kept the same quite endearing refinement.
It pulls ever so smoothly from low revs, is virtually inaudible below 1500 rpm, and when you drive it more verve it develops quite a sporting, thoroughbred sound. When one holds constant speeds, up to let’s say 100 km/h on flat roads, not much power is needed, and the engine management will in these circumstances shut down two cylinders.
When consulting the car computer on the display, we could track clearly whether the engine was running on two or four cylinders, and we were quite astonished that this was done so frequently and for longer periods. Of course, as we said, we were driving at constant speeds with the cruise control engaged, on a level motorway with relatively heavy traffic.
When the engine is running on two cylinders, one can hear it, and notice also slight engine vibrations, but altogether, this remains very subtle indeed.
One word of praise is fitting for the smoothness of the gearbox and drive train. Despite the fact that we changed up at smaller throttle openings at 1500 rpm or so, and kept engine revs at urban speeds between 1200 and 1400 rpm, not the slightest engine or transmission vibration was felt, and this documents clearly the excellent balance the engineers have built in this drive train.
All this makes up for very relaxed urban driving, and we have to add to this the truly excellent cockpit ergonomics of this Audi. We also enjoyed the clear central display, the very logical and easy commands and modes, i.e. the infotainment, car info, audio or navigation functions. A very cleverly placed switch lets you also flick between the different driving modes, with the switch to shut off the start stop function right next to it. Very practical!
The well placed controls on the steering wheel let you consult the car computer which displays every function and info you would ever want right in front of your eyes. Of course there is the central console with the very ergonomic rotary knob and switches in typical Audi lay-out. Once you are familiar with it, you never want anything else.
Further there is the excellent workmanship and finish of the cockpit, the quality, feel and nice looking patterns of the chosen materials. The seats also strike an ideal balance between comfort and firmness, and hug you ideally both for city trips and long tours. In the two door version we drove they fold back readily and the control lever is well placed and unlocks easily.
The same can be said about the fit and finish of the bodywork, which is also well styled and proportioned. We like very much the more angular design, a harbinger of more elegance to come in future Audi model generations.
The hatchback layout is of course quite practical, with the back seats down there is ample luggage space to suit most needs.
The Audi A3 is a true drivers’ car. The superb chassis sees to that. The suspension adapts to the chosen driver modes, and yes you can enjoy comfort, but also dynamic mode. In both cases, the steering is responsive and accurate, and it is a joy to steer the Audi with spirit over mountain and curvy roads, helped of course by the smooth and precise manual transmission, which awakens the true driver in you. Straight line and above all high speed stability is excellent.
The smoothness and frugality of this state of the art TFSI petrol engine shows what can be done with the present petrol engine technology, and Audi is truly a master in the game. Add to this the perfect, well honed balance of the A3 bodywork and chassis, and you have a car here that scores very high in all respects.
It certainly merits a closer look, and could be a very pleasant and valuable companion for your future environmentally conscious mobility.
Hans Knol ten Bensel