WITH record sales last year in the UK and around the world German premium car maker Audi is set to consolidate on this impressive record with the launch in Britain of the A3 Sportback which has already won a top motoring accolade.
Sportback is Audispeak for five door and while there is a £620 premium over the three door A3 I expect the five door model to make a big impression in this sector of the premium market despite stiff competition from the likes of the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A Class.
I much prefer five door cars because of their greater practicality for both the driver and passengers and the new Sportback which starts at £19,825 will certainly provide a boost to those booming sales figures for Audi - the A3 Sportback has just been voted Car of the Year by a top motoring magazine.
Sometimes the styling of a three door car looks better than the five door model but that is not so with the A3 Sportback which has well balanced styling with plenty of street appeal and looks just as good with three or five doors.
Compared to the previous model the new A3 Sportback has a longer wheelbase, shorter overhangs and lower seat position with a sharper and more dynamic design that is particularly obvious up front.
Another interesting feature is that the luggage compartment is larger than in the previous model and it is also larger than the load area on the three door A3 and this can extended to 1,220 litres with the rear seats folded down.
There is a completely redesigned high quality interior with a driver oriented wraparound dashboard that includes the impressive instruments which have always been an Audi strongpoint.
Audi has provided some interesting options and one piece of kit that will impress some owners will enable them to dictate text messages by voice and send them without having to pick up a mobile phone and the screen also receives emails and a voice synthesizer reads them out!
The new Sportback which starts at £19,180 rising to £25,030 has three specification levels and initially there are three engines with a diesel and two petrol units and there are six speed manual transmissions and a seven speed automatic.
I drove the £22,705 2.0 TDI Sport on the Press launch through the Cotswolds which is powered by a 2.0-litre 150bhp diesel engine with the manual transmission and this has a top speed of 134mph, a zero to 62mph time of 8.7 seconds a combined mpg of 67.3 and CO2 emissions of 108g/km.
The fast and winding country roads enabled me to make the most of the car’s steering and handling capabilities and the suspension showed just how good it is when I had to divert onto some very badly surfaced lanes.
More A3 Sportback models are to be introduced including a four wheel drive quattro which will help to ensure that the third generation of the highly successful A3 five door will enable Audi to record more record sales figures this year.
My Verdict: A very impressive five door A3.
Model: New Audi A3 Sportback.
Engines: Two petrol and a diesel.
Transmissions: Six speed manual and seven speed automatic.
Trim levels: Three.
Price: From £19,825 on the road.