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.