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Audi A3 Sportback 1.6 FSI SE

Audi

Review

WITH the launch of the new A3 Sportback, there has been a lot of talk about the top-of-the range 3.2 quattro DSG version and the new turbocharged 2.0 FSI. But for company car drivers looking to take their first steps into executive motoring, the 1.6 FSI SE model is a corker.

More of that later, but why this new Sportback estate/hatch thingy? Well, the old five-door model wasn’t particularly successful and, privately within Audi, some executives always voiced reservations about whether it should have been built at all so late in the life of that version. They were proved right – it was virtually anonymous. The A3 has always been a very good-looking three door car and that’s what buyers wanted.

So the new A3 Sportback is a good solution to that dilemma and it doesn’t come with a ready-made label. It looks like a mini-estate car and could do a passable impression of a small SUV if jacked up.

If you look at it on paper, the Sportback would appear to be the main rival for the 1-series, as it has five doors, but the three-door A3 looks the more athletically-honed. And while the 1-series might have five doors, space in the back and in the boot is very poor – practicality was low down the list of priorities for BMW.

Executives at Audi wonder whether BMW has missed a trick with the 1-series because they think it doesn’t feel like a car that will attract women, and over the past few years, a vast number of customers for the A3 have been the fairer sex.

So the Sportback sits in its own little niche – neither hatch nor estate, but this really shouldn’t be a problem because it is a good-looking, meaty sort of car. The rear window is small and the shape of the rear lights echo those seen on the front and back of the Nuvolari concept.

The koala-nosed grille looks great, just as it does on the A6 and A8 W12, but you’ll find plenty of people who think it is ugly.

Boot volume is pretty good – it has an extra 65mm over the old five-door Audi and 20 litres more capacity than the new three door version, at 1,120 litres. The rear seats don’t go flat though, which isn’t very practical.

On paper, the 1.6 FSI engine would appear to be a bit of a runt for a car of this size and weight – it is nearly 1,300kgs after all – with its 113bhp, but Audi has done a great job of ringing everything out of this engine.

The six-speed box is perfectly spread to keep you in the optimum range for this engine’s performance and it revs happily – more so in fact than the 2.0 FSI unit. The 1.6 model also feels lighter and more nimble than the 2.0 FSI.

It’s 50kgs lighter than the bigger-engined models and the 16 inch wheels on the SE felt less heavy to turn than the 17 inch alloys on the 2.0 FSI Sport.

All this made it feel just as fast, and probably more fun, while putting in an excellent combined figure of 42.8mpg with emissions around the 161g/km mark. And selecting the 1.6 FSI over the 2.0 FSI theoretically gives a driver about £1,400 to spend on options.

It’s nearly a grand more expensive than the equivalent BMW 116i, although both are fairly well-matched for equipment and speed (but the Audi comes with rear electric windows – something of a rarity). The Audi has it licked on emissions and space.

The SE version has a P11d value of £18,297 which would mean an annual tax bill of £1,317 for a 40% taxpayer. The 116i’s higher emissions put it in the 22% BIK tax band, which means that it costs £1,536 in tax for the same driver, and its combined fuel consumption figure is a lower 37.7mpg.

The BMW is better on residual values. It’s in the high 40s percentage-wise on CAP Monitor, while the Audi is 4-5% lower, but both are strong.

What this all means is that for a corporate motorist who previously had the choice of a three door A3 or a Golf, there are now options to suit all tastes. The battle will be hard fought for market share but ultimately, having quality new cars like the Sportback and 1-series in the market can only grow the sector and make it stronger.

Engine (cc): 1,598
Max power (bhp/rpm): 113/5,800
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 115/5,800
Max speed (mph): 122
0-62mph (sec): 10.9
Comb fuel consumption (mpg): 42.8
CO2 emissions (g/km): 161
Fuel tank capacity (l): 55
On sale: September 10
Price (OTR): £17,640

  • More information on the latest Audi product
  • CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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