"The A3 Sportback is a fantastic family hatch that exudes quality and doesn’t cost the earth to run."
The Audi A3 Sportback is a five-door version of the A3 hatchback. There's a bit more to it than that, however, as the Sportback is longer than the three-door, which helps free up a lot more rear legroom and a tiny bit more boot space. It's designed to rival the BMW 1 Series, the new Mercedes A-Class and the Volvo V40, and it actually trumps all of them for practicality. On top of that, it has the best interior in this class, featuring impeccable build quality and a very stylish design. From behind the wheel it's grown-up, comfortable and relaxing. Simply put, the Audi A3 Sportback is one of the best all-round models on sale.
The A3 Sportback engine range goes from a 104bhp, 1.2-litre turbo up to a 181bhp, 2.0-litre diesel. A 1.6-litre TDI offers acceleration from 0-62mph in 10.9 seconds and fuel economy of 74.3mpg, making it our pick of the range. All of the engines are smooth and quiet, and are extremely relaxing over long distances. If you want hot-hatch acceleration, then the 181bhp 2.0-litre diesel is for you, generating a big shove in the back when you floor the accelerator. The A3 isn’t loads of fun to drive, but it certainly handles well. It's made from lightweight aluminium, so feels nimble and the tyres provide masses of grip.
The standard three-door A3 can feel a little bit firm when you’re travelling over bumpy roads, but the Sportback feels far more supple. That could be down to the longer wheelbase, which helps to flatten out bumps. Be careful which suspension you choose, however, because it can make the car more uncomfortable. For the sportiest but least comfortable set-up, go for S-line suspension, and for the most comfortable just keep the standard springs. The A3 Sportback's cabin is fantastic, with amazing build quality, comfortable seats and loads of room to stretch out.
Audi's build quality is fast becoming legendary and the A3 Sportback feels just as bulletproof as every other Audi. The chassis and engines are relatively new but have been stress tested over millions of miles before making it to the roads. The standard A3 scored five stars in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, with a similar result expected for this car and there's a host of safety gadgets to keep you out of trouble, too, including a ‘Pre Sense’ system that detects when the car is skidding and automatically closes the windows and tensions the seat belts.
Audi has actually increased the distance between the front and rear axles in the A3 Sportback, which allowed the company to extend the interior, too. The result is more legroom than the three-door and plenty of space to comfortably carry four six-foot adults. The boot has increased from 350 litres in the three-door to 380 litres here - which is more spacious than a BMW 1 Series, a Volvo V40 and the new Mercedes A-Class. There's a clever false floor fitted, too, which allows you to hide away expensive items.
Value for money
All Audi A3 Sportback models get alloy wheels, air-con, electric windows at the front and back, and an ultra-thin seven-inch screen that rises out of the dashboard. The Sportback does cost more than a VW Golf five-door, but the difference is only a couple of hundred pounds and the A3 feels like more of a quality product.
For quite a big car, the A3 Sportback has remarkably low running costs. The 1.6-litre TDI is most efficient, claiming to return 74.3mpg and emit a tax-free 99g/km of CO2. All of the diesels have similarly low figures, though, and even the petrols are impressively frugal. The 1.4-litre TFSI COD (Cylinder On Demand) has a particularly good balance of speed and efficiency, because it can shut down two cylinders of the engine when they’re not needed. Unfortunately, it's not on sale until May 2013.