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Mini Comparative Review (Two A3s)

Discussion in 'New A3/S3 (8V Chassis)' started by RossR, Apr 28, 2014.

  1. RossR
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    RossR Active Member

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    [Apr 28, 2014]
    OK. Cutting a long story short I had an A3 saloon for a few hours recently as a courtesy car and took the opportunity to compare it to my Sportback. There where many differences in specification, but I'm only going to talk about three.

    Hill Hold Assist

    Even Audi seem unable to name these consistently, but the courtesy car only had the standard (UK) system which will hold the foot brake for 3 seconds. Mine has the optional system that basically functions like a fully automatic handbrake.

    This is one of those features that you only really miss when it's taken away. I'm sure I could get used to having the standard system and I'd be OK with it. It's a fairly cheap option though so I'd spec it again.

    Saloon vs Sportback

    The Saloon wasn't available when I ordered and I needed good access to the rear for my 1 year old. So I had no difficulty in choosing the Sportback. The saloon feels identical when sat in the drivers seat. Both have limited sideways visibility compared to the 3 door. Aesthetics are obviously a personal preference. I think the saloon can look stunning in the right colour, but this one in white wasn't doing it for me. At least it stands out as being a rare sight, although it could be mistaken for a more common A4. The rear doors seemed slightly smaller than my Sportback, but that wouldn't be a deal breaker. The biggest difference is the boot. On paper it might have more litres, but it didn't seem quite as wide and the space isn't as accessible. Load it up with a few bags and then a pushchair, and you've got to take the pushchair out to get to the bags (or vice versa). The car's also longer (obviously) so wouldn't fit nose to tail on the drive with my wife's car.

    S Tronic vs Manual

    This was the most interesting difference to me. I seriously considered an S Tronic when I was specing my car. I asked the dealer "Do you have any demo cars with S Tronic?" - "Ummmmm..... only the R8". As fun as that would have been, I didn't think it would help me choose. In the end I didn't want to risk ordering without a test drive. The courtesy car was a far better comparison as it was even the same engine (1.4 COD 140ps). Most of my concerns have now been dismissed, so next time I'll probably go for the auto, although I'm not 100% decided.

    I'll start with a description of the different modes. Feel free to skip this paragraph if you know this stuff (or you could check I've not made any errors). There are 4 modes for the gearbox - E(conomy), D(rive), S(port) and M(anual). The gear selector mostly moves vertically, but can move sideways from the "D/S" position into a manual position. When in Manual you can change gear by using the paddles, the stick (like a sequential box) or the kick-down switch. You'll also still get automatic shifts at the red line or to prevent stalling. When in any of the automatic modes you can use the paddles to change gear and it will then go into manual mode for a few seconds (30 if I remember correctly). Eco mode will try to use the most efficient gear at all times (bar kick-down). Sport mode will give maximum performance (i.e. only shift up on red line). Drive mode is supposed to have a selection of different shift programs that it chooses between based on driving style. The Drive Select system dictates which of the auto modes the box uses, but you can also toggle between one of the others by pulling the stick towards you. Usually this is between D and S, but if you're in Eco mode it is between E and D.

    Now onto my impressions:

    D mode is impressively smooth with changes. It's fine for pootling about and most daily driving. I started my test drive by going round the housing estate and taking it easy. At one point I looked down to see I was in 4th. I hadn't noticed a single change since pulling away.

    S mode does what it says on the tin. Great for effortless acceleration. The needle hits the red line and jumps instantly down to start rising again. You do notice the changes, but they are very quick and the rev matching is spookily good. It will hold high revs though, so isn't suitable to use all the time.

    I didn't try E mode much, but it seemed to do what Id' expect.

    I didn't have long enough to really get the hang of it in Manual. I could see it giving you the best of both worlds, but I suspect I'd use D most of the time and flick it into S for those spirited moments. The paddles don't feel like they're controlling 140 housepower. They are fairly small and in use feel like clicking on a (well made) computer mouse. Combined with the automatic rev matching it makes for a somewhat detached experience. As a piece of engineering it's awesome, and it gets results - but it does lack a bit of fun. I was also slightly disappointed that the DIS doesn't have a full screen gear change indicator option like it does on the manual. This is my most used setting on the DIS. It's big enough that I can see the colour (Green, Yellow or Red) without taking my eyes off the road. On the S Tronic there is just the line at the bottom of the display with an up or down arrow for a recommended change.

    I've struggled a bit with start/stop on my manual. I have to wait a second or two after the engine starts before trying to pull away. If I don't then I find it difficult to get the revs right and often stall. As a result I often prevent it from stopping by holding my foot on the clutch. The S Tronic changed this completely. Sure it's slightly slower to pull away, but you're talking a fraction of a second. I would be confident sitting at the front of a queue at the lights with the engine stopped.

    One concern I had was slow speed manoeuvring. I still think a manual can offer better control in this respect, but the S Tronic is good enough.

    Unfortunately it didn't have ACC so I couldn't try that out with the automatic transmission. From what I've seen of the two systems separately though I'm sure it would be a superb combination.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2014
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  3. veeeight
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    veeeight Well-Known Member

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    [Apr 28, 2014]
    Thanks for the write up, a nice read.

    One thing I'll add about the operations of the paddles in momentary manual mode:

    As you say, if you momentarily take control with the paddles, if you leave it to its own devices, it will change back into Auto, BUT - only if you're accelerating. If you downshift with the paddles (eg: because you want engine braking down a hill), it will remain indefinitely in the chosen manual gear, until you accelerate, then after approx 6 seconds, it will revert back to D.

    The other way to get the box back into D is to press and hold the "+" paddle for 1 second, this will immediately cause the box to go back into D.

    I appreciate you only had a few hours to play !
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  4. RossR
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    RossR Active Member

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    [Apr 28, 2014]
    Thanks for the clarification veeeight. I suspected it was more complicated than just a fixed time.
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  5. Daveotto
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    Daveotto Well-Known Member

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    [Apr 28, 2014]
    Good review, I would have test driven the R8 just for the sake of it as only ever driven a manual version
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  6. Stephen C
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    Stephen C Active Member

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    [Apr 28, 2014]
    I can't be the only one thinking this would be a review comparing a MINI to an A3!
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  7. RossR
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    RossR Active Member

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    [Apr 28, 2014]
    Oops! Hadn't thought of that. Hopefully the revised title will help.
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  8. RossR
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    RossR Active Member

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    [Apr 28, 2014]
    I doubt they would have let me to be honest. I've never driven anything like an R8. Fastest I've driven had about 175bhp which coincidentally was an (awful) automatic.
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  9. cuke2u
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    cuke2u Well-Known Member

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    [Apr 28, 2014]
    A good review but with reference to the rear doors, I can't see why they would be smaller. The wheelbase is the same and I doubt very much if the 'B' pillar position is different. Perhaps what you were noticing was that the saloon has a swooping roofline, 31mm lower, compared to the sportback, that gives it a more 'interesting' look, thus you have to duck a little bit more? I have had a 6' 1" rugby player in the rear of mine and he said there was enough room...
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  10. sftdi
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    sftdi Member

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    [Apr 28, 2014]
    Thanks for the post. As someone who knows very little about s-tronic, I found it very interesting...
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  11. RossR
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    RossR Active Member

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    [Apr 28, 2014]
    Yes, I think the only difference is in height. The width is very similar. It's not as bad as the CLA from what I gather either.
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  12. Daveotto
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    Daveotto Well-Known Member

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    [Apr 28, 2014]
    LOl...I will attemtpt do that in a couple of months having just bought my wife a new Mini (they have just brought out a new version). To be fair I was pretty impressed on the test drive and the build quality was pretty impressive from someithng in the BMW family and not far off 8V A3 standards (trying to keep this post sort of on topic!!!)
    #11
  13. Joetidman
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    Joetidman Well-Known Member

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    [Apr 28, 2014]
    Good review. Most of what you say is fair enough. I must admit, I have no struggle with the boot on my saloon with kids stuff etc, but then coming from a Scirocco maybe I had different expectations. I think its all about how you package stuff into it. I find my wife's SUV, whilst having more space overall, as a hatch means its mostly 'vertical' space, so lots of stacking of stuff on top of one another, whereas saloons are 'horizontal' space where its about sliding stuff along. I admit though, not expecting to be able to get a fridge in mine ;)
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  14. RossR
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    RossR Active Member

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    [Apr 28, 2014]
    A fair point Joetidman. I've certainly had more practice filling hatchbacks. A few months ago I got the following into my Sportback:

    Me, my wife and daughter
    A (portable) fridge
    A torch, blanket and other emergency bits.
    A pushchair including rain cover and cosy toes
    A high chair
    A baby carrier
    A bottle steriliser, bottles, formula, bibs, plastic bowls, spoons, etc.
    Food and drink for all of us
    Changing mat, nappies for a week, nappy cream, wipes, etc.
    Anti-bacterial wipes
    Baby monitor
    Two tablets
    Towels
    Clothes for a week including warm hats and coats, slippers, dressing gowns, change of shoes for the wife
    Bedding for the little one
    Toiletries and medical supplies.
    Baby medical supplies (thermometer, paracetamol, teething gel, toothpaste, toothbrush)
    Hair dryer and straighteners
    A baby walker.
    A framed photo.
    An inflatable baby bath and bath toys.
    A large plastic bowl.
    And of course a cuddly toy (and many other toys).

    I could still see out the back window too!
    2014-02-03 16.24.37.jpg
    Unfortunately I can't find a photo of the boot, but it was completely full.
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  15. cuke2u
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    cuke2u Well-Known Member

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    [Apr 28, 2014]
    I think that hatchbacks are the way to go if you've a family and cart around washing machines. As it is usually only myself, tools of my trade, being an IT Technician not much, and the occasional trip up 't north or Suffolk for two of us I wanted looks not practicality...
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  16. The Challinor
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    The Challinor Well-Known Member

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    [Apr 28, 2014]
    I thought it was a mini vs A1 thread lol
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  17. Joetidman
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    Joetidman Well-Known Member

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    [Apr 28, 2014]
    Hahaha superb effort! That's why my wife has a new sportage, you can get even more in that, especially with a roof box on :)
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  18. warren_S5
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    warren_S5 Moderator Staff Member Moderator VCDS Map User

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    [Apr 28, 2014]
    Very interesting read, many thanks for taking the effort to write it.

    Like you when I first opened the boot of the Quattro cars I was like 'WTF'!, but the rear diff obviously encroaches a fair bit into the space. It's one of the reasons I could never consider a TTS.

    Stop start with STronic is not filling me with confidence as I hate lag, I can see that getting turned off regularly!
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  19. Joetidman
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    Joetidman Well-Known Member

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    [Apr 28, 2014]
    It's not a big deal warren, if you keep your foot on the brake, then when you're a second or so away from needing to pull away release it the car springs into life and is ready for acceleration, no biggy. If you want instant response, sport with everything off ;)
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  20. The Challinor
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    The Challinor Well-Known Member

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    [Apr 28, 2014]
    Why is the S-Tronic more delayed then the manual when using SS
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  21. RossR
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    RossR Active Member

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    [Apr 28, 2014]
    The lag is better than I expected but I'm not going to pretend it's zero. If it bothers you there are a few options for getting round it.
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  22. Pulp84
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    Pulp84 Well-Known Member

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    [Apr 28, 2014]
    Excellent review and some good observations on the S- Tronic and difference in bodystyles.

    Impressed with your car packing skills!
    #21
  23. Flibble
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    Flibble Member

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    [Apr 28, 2014]
    You can restart the engine with a tap on the accelerator which is useful if you know the timing of lights. I tend to restart the engine a little before the lights change so I'm ready to pull away immediately.
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  24. The Challinor
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    The Challinor Well-Known Member

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    [Apr 28, 2014]
    Are we talking a second here, even the manuals have a slight delay
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  25. arad85
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    arad85 Active Member

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    [Apr 29, 2014]
    If that. I press the pedal when amber shows.... I'm ready to go by green. Fundamentally, if stop/start has cut in, you aren't likely to be going anywhere quickly. Also, with the stronic (manual may e the same) you can control whether stop/start activates simply by moderating your brake pressure. I was very skeptical, but really like it now.
    #24
  26. The Challinor
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    The Challinor Well-Known Member

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    [Apr 29, 2014]
    Don't see where the issue is then, my partner has a A1 and SS is brilliant in that, less then 1 second and it's kicked back in.
    #25
  27. JohnnyM100
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    JohnnyM100 Active Member

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    [Apr 29, 2014]
    "More delayed" is only a relative term but on a manual SS restarts upon pressing the clutch to engage gear but on S-Tronic it restarts on accelerator. The apparent 'delay' is only because dipping the clutch to engage gear is an earlier step in the process on a manual.
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  28. The Challinor
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    The Challinor Well-Known Member

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    [Apr 29, 2014]
    Oh right ok, so if you take foot off brake the engine does not start then on a S-Tronic?
    #27
  29. veeeight
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    veeeight Well-Known Member

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    [Apr 29, 2014]
    It does on mine, if you don't engage EPB. :)
    Gently ease up on the footbrake, and the engine will restart, whilst still held on the footbrake with gentle pressure.
    Or if you come to a stop with gentle foot brake pressure, S/S won't kick in until you really press hard.


    See here:
    http://www.audi-sport.net/vb/new-a3-s3-8v-chassis/209960-stop-start-function.html#post2152596
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  30. seniorjj
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    seniorjj Member

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    [Apr 29, 2014]
    Does anyone know if with Adaptive Cruise control on S-Tronic the Start-Stop works when it stops in a jam?
    #29
  31. veeeight
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    veeeight Well-Known Member

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    [Apr 29, 2014]
    Yes it does
    Best thing since unsliced sourdough.
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  32. seniorjj
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    seniorjj Member

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    [Apr 29, 2014]
    Awesome!!! What a great product
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  33. The Challinor
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    The Challinor Well-Known Member

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    [Apr 29, 2014]
    Don't you have to press the CC leaver to activate
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  34. The Challinor
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    The Challinor Well-Known Member

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    [Apr 29, 2014]
    Jeeeeezzz, things have got complicated lol. Just read through that thread, I'll have plenty to learn / try out come November.
    #33
  35. veeeight
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    veeeight Well-Known Member

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    [Apr 29, 2014]
    Only if you come to a complete dead stop, for longer than 3 seconds.
    After that, pull briefly on the CC lever, or tap the accelerator, to re activate ACC


    Tutorial:
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 15, 2014
    #34
  36. The Challinor
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    The Challinor Well-Known Member

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    [Apr 29, 2014]
    Found that the other day trawling trough youtube, sweet...
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 15, 2014
    #35

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