Audi A3 1.6 TDI: first drive

  • 'Green' A3 starts at £18,315
  • New 1.6-litre diesel engine replaces 1.9
  • 68.9mpg and £20 per year road tax

Economy is the name of the game with Audi's latest A3 derivative yet the range itself has always sat in the upper end of the market: it's almost a contradiction - a premium car with low running costs.

So is that an uncomfortable marriage?

Not really. The decision to replace the outgoing 1.9-litre diesel engine with a 1.6-litre unit with lower emissions and better fuel economy has proved most welcome.

It's rather noisy though and the long-geared five-speed gearbox does give you the feeling that you're working the engine very hard even when you're driving normally.

Yes, it is a bit rough and ready but it's still a very easy car to drive. It's nice inside too: the cabin is a paragon of sensible design where everything is accessible and of high quality.

The TDI also features a stop/start system that turns the engine off when the car is stationary. This has helped to cut 5g/km of CO2 emissions plus there's an ‘energy recuperation' system that recycles energy lost during braking, relieving strain on the alternator and saving 3% more fuel.

Starting at £18,315, the Audi is £185 more expensive than its direct rival the VW Golf BlueMotion - which also uses a 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine. The Golf claims 74.3mpg compared with the A3's 68.9mpg.

You'll spend just £20 a year on car tax thanks to its 109g/km emissions. The entry level Golf Bluemtion, however, emits 99g/km which means no road tax charges at all.

So which one should you choose? Residual values will be stronger with the marginally quicker Audi but the Golf will be cheaper to run. It is a close call.

 

Also consider:

BMW 1-series

Great to drive, diesel engines are excellent and 'efficient dynamics' help with economy.

VW Golf

Low-emission BlueMotion model is extremely efficient, great build quality and refinement.

Volvo C30

Great choice of engines, distinctive styling and low emission DRIVe model available.