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A Year With A Sportback (Long)

Discussion in 'A3/S3/Sportback (8P Chassis)' started by benw123, Nov 11, 2005.

  1. benw123
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    benw123 Moderator

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    [Nov 11, 2005]
    It's now been a little over a year with our Sportback, so I thought I'd share some thoughts with prospective buyers and existing owners. We've covered a modest 10,000 miles in our Ebony Pearlescent Black example - the UK average - and in that time, the ownership experience has been totally, 100% without fault.

    We chose SE spec because the Sport model we test drove felt unnecessarily harsh with stiffened suspension and 17s (much worse than my Focus ST170 at the time) and also because the SE had some extras that we felt were more important to us, such as cruise control, auto wipers & lighting and centre arm-rest. From the options list, we added xenon lights after being impressed with them on my Focus, pearlescent paint, extra rear mats and the Symphony II 6CD stereo.

    Right from the moment it first sat on the driveway, I was amazed at the paint quality and overall finish of the car. As other Audi owners have testified, every other car's interior feels cheap and nasty next to the German. All the instruments and switches have a nice, expensive feel to them and the whole car exudes a feeling of strength that you will not find elsewhere in this class segment. The bodyshell has real presence, too; assisted greatly by the love-it-or-hate-it single frame grill (SFG). I'm a fan - it's what drew me to look at the car in the first place - and it's certainly a head-turner as well. Safety and security are top notch also.

    On the road, the SE trim (with 16" wheels) means quieter motorway driving and much more supple suspension. It's comfortable; the seats are supportive and it's easy to find a good driving position. This is especially important to us because I share the driving between myself and my fiancée, and we're forever rearranging the driver's seat and mirrors. Long distances are easily dispatched.

    I like the small details, too. Things like when you gently press the indicator stalk up or down, you get three flashes of the indicator - absolutely perfect for lane changing or perhaps exiting a roundabout. The puddle lighting under the doors is also a neat touch (comes with the lighting pack), and the combination of cruise control and an arm-rest is a real boon - all cars should have this. I honestly believe it makes me drive more sedately!

    The 2.0TDI has won a lot of praise in the press for its performance and excellent economy mix in all the VAG cars it has appeared in, even though it is unrefined next to the competition. I would agree. When moving my car from my parent's driveway so my Dad's Focus TDCi could get out, I was almost embarrassed to hear our car - costing twice as much - sounding like a tractor, while the Ford ticked over smoothly and quietly. Touch the throttle too soon from cold in the A3 and sometimes the engine even knocks. Should this happen in a £20k-plus car?

    One of the biggest assets of diesel is the so-called "real world" driveability, and the unit is quite flexible in any gear. Floor it from 30mph in third gear and it really does fly, if at the expense of lots of smoke to following drivers. In inclement weather, the same gear will induce wheelspin under full throttle, highlighting the torque-rich experience. Using all six gears it's easy to set about at a fair old lick and make some good progress though.

    However, reach some twisties and it's not so good. The Sportback is simply not a thrilling car to drive. It is good in that the controls feel light, most notably the steering and gearshift, but any owner believing the Audi hype that this might be a real experience behind the wheel is deluded. Surprisingly, those 16" comfort-orientated wheels and tyres actually mean the car digs deep into the road, even when cornering hard in places where my old ST170 could be somewhat skittish with its 17s and stiffer suspension. The Sportback's cornering ability in this respect is good; but there's so little feel through the steering wheel you're not always sure where the front wheels are. Understeer sets in quite early and this is where the poor steering works against you, as you can't make quick directional changes, not aided any further by the electronic power assistance. In most conditions, the car can tuck in nicely but when pushing too hard, it's like you've asked too much of it.

    In summary then, you're looking at a car which is exceptionally easy to live with day to day, and extremely reliable, if not as practical as Audi claims (why doesn't the rear seat fold completely flat?). Yet it lacks excitement and fails to engage the driver for all its quality. If you have a second car, maybe performance-orientated, then the Sportback would make a terrific, more sober addition to your household for most of your travelling needs. But if the thrill of driving is all that's important to you, and the A3 can be your only vehicle like me, shop elsewhere ...
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  3. cosmicblue
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    cosmicblue Member

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    [Nov 11, 2005]
    Thanks, good review.

    There were reports that Audi had tweaked the suspension/steering earlier this year (coincided with the 3 door getting the SFG). My 2006 MY car is very agile and handles well - the S-Line suspension is very firm but not unbearably so and seems to mellowing every day (about 700 miles in the last week). The Electrically assisted steering provides lots of feedback now and I'm seriously impressed.

    I wish I'd ordered the interior light pack, just seemed like something else to pay tax on though - i'll probably try and retrofit part of it though.
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  4. imported_TuffLittleUnit
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    imported_TuffLittleUnit Guest

    [Nov 12, 2005]
    Great summary - my experiences over the last 6 months have been very similar.

    I went for the DSG with Sport spec but added the really useful bits from the SE like auto lights/wipers, armrest, cruise and interior light pack. They really were sound investments. I'll admit that I used to be quite a "competitive" (rather than outright aggressive) driver but all these automatic features particularly DSG have helped remove a lot of the stress from driving.

    Overall I'm happy with my choice given that I was deliberately downgrading (from a Volvo S60 D5) but in retrospect I should have made some different choices.

    Positives:
    1) DSG ... personally I stick in D and use S at roundabouts/sliproads which works perfectly for my driving style
    2) interior space - there's a lot of space for a hatch. No noticeable difference in cabin space to the new A4 and the boot is more practical
    3) Auto light/rain sensors - work great for me, only minor moan is that the wipers seem to need "resetting" (off then back to auto) if the ignition has been switched off.
    4) Interior light pack - far more useful than I ever imagined ... and the red ambient lighting is pure class
    5) DIS - maybe I'm a nerd but I find it very useful (driving time, miles left with fuel)
    6) ISOFIX - effortless (and secure) car seat when coupled with Britax DuoPlus ISOFIX. Front passenger airbag can be switched off which I find incredibly useful.
    7) Auto door locking - at first this was incredibly frustrating but now I'm used to it I find it very reassuring.
    8) Climate control - very effective, much better than the units in my last cars (S60 and Celica VVTi).
    9) Light grey interior + Open Sky gives a very roomy feeling. Recommended for family drivers (but see criticisms of Open Sky below)
    10) For me this was a very low cost company car (fleet company must have been getting great discounts). Full loaded it was about £50 per month cheaper than the A4 manual S-line or the BMW 320d and a good £100 cheaper than the A6 2.0Tdi SE (which is what I really wanted but couldn't justify given my limited mileage these days)

    My quibbles with my Sportback would be:
    1) Engine/road noise - a premium hatch really has no excuse for being so noisy
    2) Open Sky - even more noise, this time whistling from overhead (nothing wrong with the seals, it just seems that the grooves catch the wind and because it's glass it doesn't have the sound insulation). Also - the front section only opens to 2/3 of the available space even when fully retracted! In retrospect I should have spent the money on the Misano Red S-line instead
    3) I can't find a way to make front passenger seat fold down in any practical way (seems the only way is to adjust the rake which leaves the seat stuck on the dash at about 30 degrees)
    4) The rear sunscreen - I don't get it, what's the point? Why not fit the auto-dimming mirror as standard instead?
    5) BOSE sound system - hardly premium particularly compared to the Pro-Logic setup in my S60
    6) Pearlescent ebony black paint - no matter how hard I try I can't get it to shine like when it was delivered. Indistinguishable from brilliant black.
    7) Seats - not nearly enough adjustment. In retrospect I should have added the electric seats as these have more adjustment options.

    To wrap up, am I happy with my car? Yes. Would I get another? Probably not although the DSG experience has really changed my needs.
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  5. miketweed
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    miketweed Member

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    [Nov 14, 2005]
    Good review....


    About point 4 on your quibbles - The rear sun screen is for the benefit of rear passengers, not the driver!!!

    Went to Newquay this year and friends in the back raved about it when the sun was behind us.
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  6. imported_TuffLittleUnit
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    imported_TuffLittleUnit Guest

    [Nov 14, 2005]
    [ QUOTE ]
    The rear sun screen is for the benefit of rear passengers, not the driver!!!


    [/ QUOTE ]

    /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/blush.gif /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/blush.gif /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/blush.gif

    Selfish? Me?
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