2009 Audi A3

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Short Take Road Test: 2009 Audi A3 2.0T Quattro

By Mark Gillies of Car and Driver

If you're not an Audi fanboy (or -girl), you might have missed that Audi introduced an all-wheel-drive version of its A3 2.0T hatchback for the 2009 model year. Previously, the 2.0T had been available only with front-wheel drive.

To go with the Quattro system, Audi also fitted the svelte hatch with its excellent double-clutch automated-manual gearbox and made a number of previously optional features standard. Among them were Sirius satellite radio, a leather steering wheel, an auxiliary audio input, and leather seating.

Under the hood sits the VW Group's familiar direct-injection 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder making 200 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. Despite scaling in at a relatively hefty 3588 pounds — a couple hundred pounds heavier than a BMW 328i sedan — the A3 went from 0 to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds and through the quarter-mile at 93 mph in 14.9 seconds. On the road, it feels lively rather than startling, and the engine is refined albeit aurally unexciting. We really like the S tronic dual-clutch tranny, which works equally well as a super-smooth automatic or as a quick and slick clutchless manual, actuated via steering-wheel-mounted paddles or the stubby shift lever.

Quattro Ups the Fun
With Quattro all-wheel drive, the hatch is a more playful companion on back roads than is the front-drive version, which understeers resolutely when you're driving hard. The all-wheel-drive system is surprisingly neutral and, when combined with the sharp, well-weighted steering, makes the A3 fun to toss around.

A new feature for 2009 is the magnetorheological damping system that's available on the TT as well as the R8. In this application, it's bundled with 18-inch wheels and tires and sport seats as a $2550 option. It's pretty successful, because it combines excellent body control with a supple ride, although the sport setting — actuated by a button on the center console — is too firm for most Michigan roads. Gas mileage is acceptable but not outstanding; we got 22 mpg over our test period, compared with EPA estimated mileage of 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. Comparatively, a Mini Cooper S with an automatic has more impressive numbers at 23/32 mpg.

Five Doors Make It More Useful
The A3 is a full five-seater, although it's not very capacious inside. The EPA interior volume rating of 88.9 cubic feet is slightly smaller than a Honda Civic's. Rear-seat passengers have enough head- and legroom, but the middle rider is going to be pretty unhappy with his or her shoulder room on a long journey. At least the A3 has plenty of cargo space and can swallow 20 cubic feet of junk with the rear seats up and a healthy 55 with the seats folded.

The A3 has the full complement of safety equipment you'd expect of an upscale German car. It has anti-lock brakes, stability control, and an array of airbags that includes full-length side curtain bags. The A3 is rated as a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Audi claims the car's main competitors are the Mini Cooper S, the Volvo C30 and S40, and the BMW 1-series. We think the company is seriously deluded about the C30 and Mini, which undercut the Audi's $31,325 sticker by many thousands of dollars. You'd probably have to dip a Mini Cooper hatchback in gold to get it to the $41,700 of our A3 tester, which was loaded with the magnetic sport suspension, S-line appearance package, navigation system, Cold Weather package, xenon lights, and so-called open-sky roof. This full-length sunroof is an $1100 irrelevance to anyone but the bean counters at Audi's home base in Ingolstadt, Germany.

The nearest competition is, in many ways, the 1-series, even though the A3 is a five-door hatchback and the BMW is a two-door coupe. The Audi has the edge on accommodations and style, whereas the BMW beats it for driving pleasure. But both are expensive, especially when one considers that the larger Infiniti G37S sedan costs about $40,000 fully loaded. No matter how sweet the Audi looks, no matter how great its interior, it does seem very expensive compared with the likes of the G37.

Performance Data
C/D TEST RESULTS:

Zero to 60 mph: 6.3 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 17.7 sec
Street start, 5-60 mph: 7.3 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 14.9 sec @ 93 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 130 mph
Braking, 70-0 mph: 174 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad 0.86 g

FUEL ECONOMY:
EPA city/highway driving: 21/28 mpg
C/D observed: 22 mpg

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BB04 - 7/22/2014 4:53:40 AM