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It’s the end of May, the fields are in bloom and the sun hesitantly rises over Munich as we land. Audi had the new A3 in all its forms, sedan, cabrio and sportback parked right outside the terminal and the route mapped through a small town and the Autobahn connecting it in the GPS. It’s a facelift and we were in Europe so I just had to go for the Cabrio’s keys first and save the more popular sedan for later. Good decision, because hours later when it was time to switch to the sedan, it began to pour.
What is it?
The new Audi A3 sedan and cabrio that will be launched in India in the last quarter of the year. It has got a host of new exterior updates, the most impressive of which are the optional pair of Matrix LED headlamps. It looks a lot smarter than before, gives the A3 more premium over the pre-facelift model and also gets dynamic turn indicators that swipe in the direction you turn in. The light design has changed too to a jagged edge design similar to the new A4, and along with it, Audi’s new trapezoidal grille gives the A3 its new face. The bumpers have been reworked as well with larger air dams and a layered design that gives more prominence to the grille.
Will it turn heads?
Maybe not the sedan in Germany but the Cabrio does look charming. In the sea of German cars with more exotics than I’ve ever seen before in a day, a yellow S3 Cabrio does turn a few heads in the smaller towns around Munich. Nevertheless, the sedan looks sharp too, gets a new set of alloy wheels, a revised taillamp cluster with new LED taillamps. The rear bumper also gets reworked and now comes with a new diffuser. The revised bumpers make the cars marginally smaller.
What else is new?
Audi’s virtual cockpit makes it to the A3 and that makes the entry level luxury sedan a lot more desirable. It makes a CLA look dated from the inside and the digital display doesn’t just look futuristic, it is very functional too. You get to split screens and customise all your information right in front, which is helpful especially in Europe where you are highly dependent on navigation and speed limit signs. The virtual cockpit makes your job so much easier. Besides that, the A3 gets a new flat bottomed steering wheel and new air vents. Like recent Volvos, the A3 also gets a frameless rear view mirror.
Well for India, there are two. The diesel remains untouched, it is the regular 141bhp runabout mated to the same 6-speed dual clutch gearbox. Audi also plans to introduce the higher 181bhp output A3 in the future but there is no indication if this car will come to India or not. The petrol 1.8 TFSI will make way for the 2.0-litre TFSI. It now makes 188bhp and 320Nm of power and torque respectively and the delivery is linear and smooth to its 6500rpm redline. The 7-speed dual clutch gearbox is just fantastic, always in the right gear and drops three cogs at an instant when it’s time to pick up the pace. We also got a chance to drive the S3 Cabriolet and sedan, both using the same 2.0-litre TFSI engine but fettled to make 306bhp and 400Nm. 0-100kmph comes in a brisk 4.6 seconds and top speed is marginally north of 250kmph as we experienced on some unrestricted stretches of the Autobahn. Sadly, there are no plans to get the S3 to India as of now, but Audi must consider that. It’s got a lot more character than any of the A3s and is genuinely fun to drive.
Besides the fact that the S3s can stretch their legs and the 2.0 TDIs feel underpowered for German highways, there is little we can say on the buttered smooth roads of Germany. The mechanicals haven’t changed so expect the A3 to be as nimble and nippy as before, and with supple ride to get over our cracked roads.
Easy on the pocket?
Prices should go up marginally now that it will feature the virtual cockpit and the optional matrix LED headlamps so expect the sedan range to cost between Rs 27-36 lakh. As for the Cabriolet, it feels a bit overpriced in comparison to the Mini Cooper S Convertible so prices post the update shouldn’t change much. It is around the Rs 47 lakh mark right now.
The CLA is its main competitor but even the Mercedes A Class, BMW 1 series and Volvo V40 fall in the same price bracket for the A3 sedan. As for the Cabrio, the Cooper S Convertible is a strong competitor, the reason why Audi needs to get the S3 Cabrio here.
evo India rating
It’s an extensive cosmetic update, the new 2.0-litre petrol is stronger than before, the virtual cockpit makes the interior look a lot more premium and with the S3, the car displays a lot of character, from the quick shifts to the engaging drive and the purring exhaust note.