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Friday 25 July 2014

Audi's new hot hatch is simply 3-mendous fun

SO THIS is the all-new Audi A3. But it doesn't look all that different from the last one, I hear you scream. Yep, you're right.

In fact, it's not a million miles away from the MKII or indeed the original, launched back in 1996. Audi are obviously taking the old "if it's not broken, then don't fix it" approach to their biggest selling model in Ireland.

Fair enough, but what exactly is new about the latest, third generation offering?

Well for starters the wheelbase is slightly longer while the overhangs are shorter but the most significant change is the weight.

Shaving almost 90kgs off the body with the use of lighter steel and aluminium (equivalent of an average adult or one porky teenager) means better fuel consumption and a lower CO2 count.

To quantify this, the 2.0 litre TDI diesel now has emissions of just 108g/km while the smaller 1.6 litre oil burner has a cough of just 99g/km -- which is almost Hybrid country.

PREMIUM

Inside no expense had been spared either and the cabin can only be described as the best in the compact executive segment with leather and suede at every touch and premium, soft touch plastics with a bulletproof feel.

Standard kit is quite generous too with snazzy 17 inch alloys, air con, Bluetooth and music interface -- all controlled by a retractable 6 inch touch screen colour monitor.

Opt for the Sport trim and you'll get 3 spoke multi-function leather steering wheel, cruise control, rear park assist and Audi Drive Assist -- which re-calibrates the gearbox, suspension and steering to several different settings, Comfort, Dynamic, Auto and Efficiency.

But it's under the bonnet where the magic happens. The power is boosted to a gutsy 150bhp in the 2.0 litre TDI and boy, can you feel the oomph.

Drop the hammer and the torque is especially evident between 1,750 and 3,000rpm. She hits 0-100kph in just 8.6 seconds and can go all the way to 216kph should you wish.

Now I don't know whether its the MacPherson strut front and four-link independent rear suspension linked to an electronically-assisted steering but the drive dynamic is pretty astounding and for the first time ever can be called a worthy adversary of the mighty Ford Focus.

Still the A3 is €5,000 more expensive but the good news is that it sits on what the VW group call the MQB platform which basically means it'll share pretty much the same components with the seventh generation Golf which is priced at a smidgen under €20k.

The only downside is the restrictions a family will encounter with a three-door and the cramped rear leg and headroom which is exacerbated with a six-footer in the driving seat.

It also has one of those finicky collapsible spare wheels which is nothing short of a bloody nightmare.

A tad expensive at €25,900, but the quality cabin will make you feel like a million dollars.

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