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Published on Thu, Apr 7, 2011

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

Agile, audacious and affordable

By John-Fredrik Wright My time with the A3 didn´t really get off to the best of starts. I was changing from a rather large vehicle into the smaller, but still not overly small A3, when I hit my head while getting in the first time. This was of course not the car’s fault, I have only myself to blame, but I must say: the A3 can hurt your head. Settling into the A3, however, was much more pleasing. What you see seated in the front seats is a typical Audi interior. German, but still stylish. You will also be fooled into thinking that this is a much bigger car than it really is. The front seats are comfortable and the interior makes the car look rather spacious. It isn’t until you turn around and realize that the back seat is right there, that you remember that this is a rather compact car. The back seat is not super-small, but this is not a car you buy if you plan on hauling around four adults for any extended drives. Sure, around town everyone will be perfectly happy, but I’m pretty sure you will only find one friend who will go with you on a road-trip in an A3.


The good news is that that is exactly what this car is supposed to do. No, not make you filter out only one friend for a trip, but rather move you (and a friend, if you must) from point A to point B with grace and style. This somewhat compact car is not so compact at all if you are alone in it (which a majority of drivers are a majority of the time), so you get to cruise in a vehicle with the comfort of a full size sedan, but with the gas-mileage and zippyness of a compact car. Zippyness does not refer to Zippy the Pinhead (Bill Griffith), but to the handling of the car. Much like a go-cart, the short wheelbase and overall compactness of the A3 make every turn great fun. Even with only the two front wheels powering the car forward, (the Audi is often known for their Quattro four wheel drive system), the A3 feels very stuck to the asphalt. There needs to be a lot of torque going to the front tires before they start to loose grip in a turn. To really maximize the feeling of go-cartness, the A3 can be bought with a manual transmission. The six gears available, accompanied by the stiff feel of the sport suspension (part of the Titanium Sport Package) make for fun drives on twisty roads.


The Titanium Sport Package also has another notable feature; it includes the 18-inch Titanium-optic wheels and high performance tires. This, in writing, does not say much, but in my mind these are some of the best-looking rims ´round. The wavy DRL (daytime running light), now probably the most telltale sign that you are looking at an Audi, is, as always, a great compliment to the car. The front of the A3 does not look all too sporty, but with these illuminators, it’s as if it is a different car. The interior of the A3, as previously stated, makes this car look bigger from the front seat than it does from the back seat (and maybe even from the outside). The look and feel of the interior does not disappoint either. The way to adjust how much air is allowed to blow out of a specific vent is pretty interesting; you namely twist the entire ‘metal’ casing of said vent. Another somewhat quirky feature are the dials, or knobs, used to increase or decrease the interior temperature. They don’t turn in a warm-to-cold rotation; instead they are turned to the right or left in one click for one degree warmer/colder, and then moved back to the starting position. For multiple degree changes, the driver must click the knob the corresponding times. This, for those who are accustomed to just continuing the rotation of the knob until wished for temperature is shown, might be a little irritating. For me, it seems like a new way of approaching the whole functionality, for better or for worse.


Before the inevitable summation and grading of the Audi A3, there are a few things noteworthy. The 12V socket in the trunk area will most likely come in handy at some point, as will the heated front seats (didn’t really have a use for them at this time). There was unfortunately no place to hook up a music player through USB, which led to me having to purchase a short 3.5to3.5mm cable to go from my MP3 Player to the AUX input. Thankfully, the sound system is at a high enough level that I can see past the non-existent USB compatibility. A quick search of the Audi website, however, it is revealed that the USB Interface for MP3 Players is available on some models; hooray, future drives are saved! So, for the stylish single or couple (if there are kids in the picture, they better be small) who want to enjoy their ride on comfy seats and with great handling, the A3 is perfect. The (somewhat) low roof of the back seat will never become a problem, as the back seat will mostly be the spot for purses and computer bags, not for the tall-man-of-the-year model. As an added bonus, the 30 highway MPG will keep all drivers smiling. Arriving in a fashionable A3 is never wrong.

A3 2.0 TFSI on the left; A3 TDI on the right

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2011 Audi A3 2.0 TFSI FWD MT6 Price: $27,270 (base) $32,645 (and as tested) EPA fuel economy rating: 21 (city) 30 (highway) Engine size and type: 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with FSI direct injection


Horsepower: 200 hp @ 5100-6000 RPM Torque: 207 lb-ft. @ 1800-5000 RPM Transmission type: Six-speed manual transmission Drive configuration: Front wheel drive Steering (type): Vehicle speed-sensitive electromechanical power assist rack and pinion Suspension (front and rear): McPherson strut front Four link rear (tested with optional Titanium Sport Package which includes the “Sport Suspension”) Brakes and tires: Dual-circuit brake system with diagonal split, Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Electronic Brake pressure Distribution (EBD) and Electronic Stability Control (ESC); brake booster with dual-rate function 225/40 Dimensions Length: 168.9 in. Width: 78.5 in. Height: 56 in. Curb weight: 3219 lbs.


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