The all-new 2006 A3 is a brand new model from Audi with many desirable features to compete in an expanding class of compact cars. This segment represents the largest share of the Canadian Automotive market and the battle for customer’s dollars gets more heated every year. This year in addition to the Audi A3, Mercedes has introduced the B class, these are luxury competitors in a market accustomed to buying cars costing as little as half as much as these European contenders.
The A3 is based on the new Volkswagen Golf platform, which has not made it to North America as yet. The wheelbase measures 101.4 inches with the overall length measuring 168.7 inches and width 77.1 inches. The compact Audi is offered in a 5-door hatchback and has the sleek styling Audi is famous for. Audi makes some of the most attractive wagons in the business.
At present the A3 is only offered in a front wheel drive format and it is powered by a wonderful 2.0 litre, turbocharged engine with FSI direct fuel injection. This motor is good for a potent 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet all the way from a lowly 1,800 rpm thru to 5,000 rpm. The 2.0L engine with the 6 speed manual gearbox, made this car a thrill to drive, acceleration was brisk, braking confidence inspiring and handling was what you would expect from an Audi, Teutonic and tenacious. Audi claims a top speed of just over 200 Km/hr and we were able to realize 0-100 km/hr times of about 7 seconds, these are serious numbers from an entry level platform. A similar vehicle equipped with the DSG automatic clutch transmission reportedly yields slightly quicker times in this acceleration test.
A Quattro version of the A3 is scheduled for the market early in the 2006 calendar year. It will be powered by 250 horsepower, 3.2 litre V6, mated to Audi’s sweet 6 speed DSG transmission. The V6 motor is the same 3.2 litre power plant used in the A4 and A6 models.
Fuel economy was surprising decent, given that during the test drive the car was driven with a heavy right foot. Fuel consumption figures varied between 8-9.5 litres per 100 kilometres in a combined city and highway cycle.
In terms of standard equipment, the A3 provided reasonable justification for its up-market price tag. The base models comes standard with Electronic Stability Control, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake distribution, side curtain airbags, power mirrors, cruise control, rear wiper, power locks, manually-adjustable cloth seats, 60/40 folding rear seat, automatic dual-zone climate control system, power windows with one touch up and down, 17-inch alloy wheels, and a CD player with ten speakers. Most optional equipment is included in either a Premium or Sport package. Our tester was trimmed out with the optional sport package with leather sport seats, sporting suspension, spoiler, alloy wheels, multifunction sport steering wheel, aluminum trim and built in fogs lights, for an additional $2600.
The vehicle we had was fitted with the dual panorama sunroofs. The front roof can be opened, while the rear roof is a fixed glass panel. There are rollaway screens to cover these panels when needed. There was a noticeable amount of wind noise here but not to the level where it can become annoying on long drives.
Inside the cabin, you are greeted by a no nonsense ergonomic treat for drivers. What was most surprising was that Audi finally started paying heed to North American buyers, nestled comfortably between the drivers and passenger seats was the most practical cup holder I have seen on an Audi. Earlier models featured technological marvels that folded out of the dashboard or popped up from consoles, all of which wouldn’t keep any liquid container from spilling its contents on the surfaces below or beside it. This refined feature is a welcome improvement over previous designs and it actually keeps your cup and its contents in place.
The interior room was also surprising. The room in the rear seats impressed me for my two children, who still require car seats. I took a spin back there also and found it adequate for my 6 foot frame. To compare, it seemed roomier than the A4 sedan, even though the A4 is a few inches longer in overall length than this hatchback.
The utility of the hatchback is well known and Audi has blended that functionality in to a handsome and sporty looking package.
The main sticking point in the North American market is the perceived compact car/compact price relationship that many buyers cannot separate. The A3 starts at $32,950 for the base model. Options can easily add another $10,000, even without the $4,000 Navigational system. The new generation of buyers growing up with European and Asian pocket rockets may see this vehicle in its intended light, as an efficient sports oriented hatchback, that is worthy of their consideration when they are ready for their next new ride.