2015 Audi A3 TDI First Test
Although the A3 TDI is a relatively niche product, Audi certainly isn't treating it that way. The last time we reported on the diesel-powered A3, Audi challenged us and a group of other brave journalists to make the 834-mile trek from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to San Diego, California on a single tank of fuel, a task that required driving at 50 mph on the highway and foregoing air conditioning. We were impressed with the car's performance, and if nothing else, this elaborate PR stunt will never let us forget the A3 TDI as a superb hypermiler. But we were dying to know: How does the car function in the real world?
First, here's where it stands on paper. In October, the diesel variant accounted for 8 percent of total A3 sales. This is well below the average 13 percent diesel take rate for all of Audi's models available with the alternative fuel. Most A3 buyers will likely opt for the 1.8-liter gas engine, which is $2,700 less expensive than the diesel variant and is pretty fuel efficient on its own. To compete for buyers, the TDI will have to provide excellent fuel economy without sacrificing performance.
On the fuel-economy front, the A3 TDI achieves 31/43 mpg city/highway, making it the highest-rated diesel car on the market after the BMW 328d. This car's turbodiesel I-4 engine, paired with a six-speed dual clutch and front-wheel drive, produces 150 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. According to our tests, the green sedan nonchalantly makes its way to 60 mph in 8.2 seconds, compared to 6.8 seconds for the 1.8-liter gas-powered A3 and 5.4 seconds for the more powerful 2.0-liter gas version. But that's only part of the story.
Although the TDI isn't the quickest to 60 mph, an immediate kick in power off the line really helps its case. On the highway, passing other cars is easy since the TDI feels pretty quick and smooth at higher speeds. Precise steering and responsive handling go a long way toward making this model feel athletic next to more powerful cars. The car stays firmly planted around corners, but head to the city, and the drive experience is entirely different. Power delivery is jerky when starting from a stoplight, making us lurch forward in city driving more than we would have liked. This was difficult to get used to during our week with the car.
Refinement is also put in question when you compare this model to the rest of Audi's diesel lineup. If you hop in the A6 TDI or Q5 TDI blindfolded, you might never realize these vehicles are diesel thanks to their quiet nature on the road. Not the A3. Right when you turn on the car, you can definitely hear that diesel engine. Occasionally, you can feel a difference on the road, as well. Large potholes and bumps mar the ride experience from time to time. But we'd say that a lack of insulation and noise problems plague the entire A3 sedan lineup to some degree, so we didn't let this bother us too much.
The Audi A3 lures in buyers for its entry-level price, and this is no different with the TDI version. The Audi A3 TDI starts at $33,495 including destination. We drove the mid-level Premium Plus trim, which includes upgraded 18-inch wheels, heated front seats, push-button start, a really good keyless entry system, and authentic aluminum interior accents for an extra $2,550. By tacking on a few extra options -- the Navigation plus package and a Glacier White exterior -- the total cost of our model came to $39,195. Option out a BMW 328d with the same equipment and you'll pay thousands more.
The A3 offers plenty of features for the money, but a few things were missing. Although we don't expect this from entry-level lux cars, we really longed for a rearview camera. Our model didn't include this basic feature, as it is only standard on the top trim level or available as part of a $1,400 package.
Peeking inside the A3 reveals a streamlined interior without unnecessary buttons and controls fighting for attention on the center stack. All the infotainment controls you need are located on the center console for easy access. This small set of buttons control the 7-inch screen that pops up on the dashboard and retracts when not in use. Navigation uses Google Maps, and the easiest way to input destinations is through a surprisingly accurate handwriting feature that allows drivers to use their fingers to trace letters on an electronic pad. Overall, the system is pretty intuitive. On a comfort level, it has plenty to like, including standard leather and 12-way power adjustable driver seat with lumbar on all trims. We found the seats supportive yet comfortable except on the longest drives.
The Audi A3 TDI might not be the first thought to cross buyers' minds when they search for a luxury car. Should it be? Excellent range and fuel economy are two reasons an average buyer might pursue this car. Those in the market specifically for diesel luxury car probably won't find a better value. If buyers can sacrifice a bit of that luxury drive feel for excellent fuel economy, sufficient performance, and plenty of standard features, it's certainly a reasonable option.
|2015 Audi A3 TDI|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$39,195|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||2.0L/150-hp/236-lb-ft turbodiesel DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|TRANSMISSION||6-speed twin-clutch auto.|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,256 lb (61/39%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||175.4 x 70.0 x 55.7 in|
|0-60 MPH||8.2 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||16.3 sec @ 85.0 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||108 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.88 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.6 sec @ 0.65 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||31/43/36 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||122/88 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.63 lb/mile|