It's no secret that Australians love a good drive. That's only made better by the fact we have some cracking roads right in our backyard.
The Audi A3 2.0 TFSI Sport long-termer we've had for the last few months has proven to be a capable urban runabout and a tech-laden commuter, to the point where it basically drives itself in heavy traffic.
However, given the level of semi-automation and creature comforts on offer, is that an attempt to hide some sort of drawback in the department of long-distance abilities and driver engagement? That's what we're here to find out.
I've spent a lot of time behind the wheel of little 'Aldo', be it to and from work in peak-hour traffic or on longer hauls on the highway to and from my grandparents' farm in Kilmore, about one hour north of Melbourne.
The Audi has certainly impressed across all conditions – with some minor drawbacks. We really love the punchy 2.0-litre turbo, which really comes into its own at higher speeds.
Getting up to triple figures is a cinch, and the quick-shifting seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic is seamless on the move, also settling into its highest ratio at 100-110km/h with the engine ticking over at around 1800rpm.
There's a real feeling of sure-footedness and solidarity on the freeway, too. Audi reckons the A3 2.0 TFSI can hit a top speed of 250km/h, and while you'll never get close to that in heavily-policed Australia, you can tell the A3 has been engineered to sit at very high speeds on the derestricted Autobahns in its home of Germany.
Our main gripe so far is the level of perceived road and tyre noise transmitted to the cabin, particularly over coarser sections of highway. It can be quite echoey and detracts a bit from that premium ambience afforded by the upmarket interior and big-car driving experience as mentioned above.
In saying that, cranking up the standard eight-speaker sound system can negate that somewhat.
Beyond the odd road trip to see relatives, I also had the opportunity to take Aldo for a more spirited run, including a stint up and down Lake Mountain in Victoria's east, during a drive day with the RenaultSport Victoria owner's club.
While I didn't have a French hot hatch, the guys and girls who proudly owned a set of Renault Sport Clios and Meganes welcomed me along to one of their regular drives, and the Audi again impressed with its abilities.
Keeping up with the group of hot hatches was no trouble at all – the 2.0-litre engine shares its base architecture with the one used in the Volkswagen Golf GTI, after all – and the A3 handled the twisty mountain roads with poise and athleticism.
Audis generally get a bad wrap for their somewhat numb steering feel, and the A3 does little to change that, though there's a quickness and directness to the tiller that makes it fun to drive during a spirited punt on a winding back road.
Despite the limited feedback, the A3 felt very balanced through consistent bends, and exhibited limited body roll even with the standard suspension tune we have here. There's also good amounts of grip despite the wet conditions we experienced on the drive day, along with its chubby tyres.
We reckon both aspects would improve further by opting for the Style Package which adds lowered sports suspension and larger wheels with lower profile tyres.
For added enjoyment, flicking the shifter into manual mode and using the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters adds another layer of driver engagement, thanks to quick shifts regardless of whether you're going up or down the ratios.
You can also engage a 'Sport' mode to sharpen things up even more, namely the steering weight and throttle response.
The 2.0-litre engine also sounds pretty good when you're giving it a boot, with a note reminiscent of the related Golf GTI. That's also without a sporty exhaust nor synthesised engine noise played through the speakers.
Does the A3 2.0 TFSI live up to its 'Sport' branding? We reckon it does, mostly.
Audi A3 2.0 TFSI Sport Limited Edition
- Kilometres since previous update: 2972km
- Fuel consumption (indicated): 7.1L/100km
- Fuel cost since previous update: $201.34