The entry level petrol is a 102bhp 1.6-litre unit with a 0-62 time of 11.5 seconds and a top speed of 116mph. As Audi A3 performance goes it's acceptable, but struggles with a full load so it's not ideal if you regularly intend carrying passengers and luggage. There's a 1.6 FSI engine (this was replaced in early 2008 by a 1.4 TFSI engine) that offers more power and torque, with improved fuel economy and lower emissions.
Both the 1.6 FSI and 2.0 FSI units offer a decent blend of performance and economy - as long as you don't have a heavy right foot. For more performance there's also a 2.0 TFSI unit, shared with the 2005 Volkswagen Golf GTI which has a 0-62mph time of 7.1 seconds, or the 3.2-litre V6 engine with 250bhp and a 0-62mph time of 6.5 seconds. In early 2007 a 1.8 TFSI engine was added which, thanks to 160bhp, gives the Sportback a 0-62mph time of 8.0 seconds while managing to return 39mpg.
For performance and economy, go for a diesel. The 2.0 TDI is the best with lots of pulling power - it was originally launched with 140bhp but an even quicker 170bhp version was added in 2006. The 1.9-litre unit is less refined, but punchy and economical nonetheless. An eco-friendly version of the 1.9TDI (badged 'e') was introduced towards the end of 2007.
Thanks to engine tweaks and aerodynamic changes it emits just 119g/km of CO2 and will average 63mpg.
Thanks to fluid steering and a taut chassis the A3 Sportback is safe and composed, rather than thrilling. It feels pretty much identical to the three-door A3 and is just as easy to drive around town and a doddle to park. Thanks to high levels of refinement and good noise insulation it is comfortable on the motorway, although some of the smaller engines (the 1.6 for instance) can get a little noisy.
The ride is excellent though and it's supple over all surfaces while on more demanding roads the Sportback shows superb grip. Quattro models are especially surefooted and offer superb traction, particularly out of slow corners.