Exterior Design: **
You know this small station wagon thing is out of control when an Audi hatchback is a miniature version of a miniature version of the A6 Avant. With its gaping maw (never shown with a US license plate), the A3 s front end simply overwhelms the rear. Although we understand the need to differentiate the Audi A3 from the cheaper, equally mental VW R32, switching from Bahaus to Analytic Cubism was the wrong answer.
This dog will hunt. Although max power lives in the penthouse, the grunt elevator gets you there in a hurry. In other words, if you thrash it, it will fly.
The brakes are effective enough, but there s far too much pedal travel before you get any serious bite. [NB: Could be a played press car.]
If you like ride comfort — if you even know what the term means — the A3 s suspension is a federal case waiting to happen: cruel and unusual punishment. If you like to drive like a hoonatic, well, you pay s your chiropractor, you takes your scalps.
In stupid driving mode (jinking, sweeping, passing), the A3 inspires tremendous confidence. In rally-style cornering situations, platform-related understeer is a real passion killer. It s still a weapon: benign at the limit, plenty of heads-up tire squeal and Nanny has stepped out for a ciggie.
The world s best gearbox. It s a silky smooth automatic that s ready to kick down and kick ass. It s a hot-to-trot Sport automatic that even blips the throttle as you brake (now that IS clever). It s a paddle shift that shows the supercars how it s done (put THAT in your iDrive and smoke it, Mr. New M5), offering Playstation possibilities. Clutch pedal RIP. Note to Porsche: You WANT me in your cars. You NEED me in your cars.
You can add sat nav, but we re already talking about a $37k hatchback. The stereo kicks.
That s it; I m fed-up with over-complicated luxo-barges. From now on, I m going to give cars four stars for NOT having mouse-driven controllers, heated rear window shades and suchlike; for leaving me alone to drive the damn thing. As long as it has power windows and driver s seat, adequate HVAC and MP3, I m good to go. (If it has a killer app, I ll give it five. The A3 doesn t.)
Surprisingly capacious, even without folding down the rear seats. We love hatchbacks.
[by Robert Farago]