SMALL cars are finding it more difficult to compete unless they have liberal doses of chutzpah.
In Singapore’s unique (not in a good way) auto market, where money is sucked from the consumer on virtually all fronts, the small cars wind up shelling a huge amount of administrative cash — relative to the cost of the car — to line the government’s coffers.
So, you’ve got to have something special — whether it’s performance or design elements — to overcome that hurdle and make it big as a small car.
Audi’s A3 Sedan seems to have set upon a smart plan to deliver a sharply designed car that will have lots of emotional appeal. Its aim is to win over customers at first sight and let the rest of the pieces fall into place.
That said, the customer’s physical approach matters.
If your first sighting of the Audi A3 Sedan is from the rear corner, the lines of the car converging with the sharp ledge on the top of the boot lid and the tapering tail lights make for a pleasant introduction.
The carefully moulded outer shell is a bit ordinary from the side, especially with unremarkable and small wheels, but as you approach the front, the look is sharper, with a lot of pronounced, edgy angles — the large grille, side air dams and shaped headlights.
Hop in and the sharp angles are there in abundance. The angled dashboard on the passenger’s side leading into a recessed 10.1” touchscreen — finally it is not sticking out like a sore thumb — and sweeping into the 12.3” driver’s virtual display.
Minimalism in the design thinking stretches from the passenger’s side to the centre console. From here, the design cues are clearly in the contemporary context. Where there once was a shifter, now there is a little metal wedge. The minimalist design leaves you with fewer buttons to fiddle with and more things to touch and press. It’s getting to be the way with cars these days.
The driver-focused set up is enhanced in this iteration of the *$190K A3 Sedan. That may sound like a hefty pocket whack, and it is, but you’ll be getting some current innovation on board. Some you’ll find on the sporty electric model, e-Tron GT, which is promising to give Audi a bump up the recognition ladder.
Besides the usual leather draped across the furniture, you have the option of doing your bit for the recycling cause by choosing upholstery and carpets made from around 100 PET bottles.
The 1.5-litre engine delivers 110kW in a smooth despatch of power that is more refined than powerful. But play with the paddle shifts and you can hear the engine respond.
The lithium-ion battery under the front passenger seat helps save on the fuel consumption, delivering 100km on 4.8 litres of fuel.
The ride is too refined to be sporty, no matter what driving mode you choose. And for a car that costs a pretty penny it’s missing some key bits and pieces, such as blind spot monitoring.
It does have lane departure warning and park assist — using the 360° proximity sensors and rear-view camera — for those who can’t get it properly into the lot on their own.
Connectivity is vital in today’s society and the A3 Sedan offers the myAudi app along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and up to six profiles can be saved. Must be pretty confusing when a few phones that are hooked up to the system get in at the same time.
For a compact car, the interior doesn’t feel cramped. Even the rear seats offer enough room for two. I wouldn’t want to squeeze three adults back there, though.
As a statement of intent, the A3 does a good job of letting the entry-level market in on what it could enjoy as it works its way up the model ladder.
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