Audi A3 Sportback: world's worst armrest?

Rare case of bad design

At some point in the 1990s it became more common to see a centre armrest doubling as a storage area in vehicles that weren't people carriers.

The storage varied. Some deep centre console cubbies could hide all manner of items, while others - like in the A3 Sportback - are about big enough for a mobile phone, sunglasses, and not a great deal else.

Unfortunately, it's never as useful as it looks in the A3. When in place it interferes with pulling up the handbrake, and when retracted, it catches my elbow when I change gear.

The A3 is not alone in this kind of unwitting obstruction. One of the A3's rivals, the Alfa Romeo 147 - introduced in 2001 - has a similarly frustrating piece of kit between the front seats.

Even now, a front centre armrest is something Audi expects customers to pay for on some A3 models. In the standard A3 (SE and S Line models have an armrest fitted free of charge) buyers have to pay £100 for the privilege of hitting their elbow when changing gear.

On models where is it part of the standard equipment list, it's a shame there is no way to delete it. It probably isn't a deal-breaker, but it's one of the little annoying things that has come to my attention in the early stages of running the A3.

Current mileage: 38421

Average mpg: 50.8