It’s a bit of a mouthful, the 2020 Audi A3 40 TFSI Sedan S line plus – certainly at parties when someone asks you ‘what do you drive?’.
In short, it’s Audi’s new way of cramming more features into its popular A3 range of sedans and hatches, up to $11,000 worth, depending on the model. It’s also a realignment of the model range, with S line plus replacing the previous range of non-S line, non-plus A3s. Only the entry-level 30 TFSI (hatch) and 35 TFSI (sedan and hatch) remain as price leaders, the rest receiving the S line plus treatment and a pricing tickle-up. There is value, though.
Here we have the A3 40 TFSI S line plus in sedan form, which lists at $50,900 plus on-road costs. That’s $2500 up on the no-longer-available plain old 40 TFSI ($48,400). That increase brings with it a few extra goodies, however, worth the price of admission alone.
Externally, the S line exterior package adds some styling flourishes that lend the A3 a sporting air. As do the snazzy 18-inch alloys in five-double-spoke design finished in contrast grey and partly polished, while LED headlights and tail-lights add some modernity to the A3’s illumination. There are also auto-folding mirrors; a nice touch for inner-city dwellers where wing mirrors are easy victims.
Inside, the S line plus adds electrically adjustable and heated front seats with lumbar support, Audi’s Virtual Cockpit driver display, keyless entry with push-button start, MMI Navigation plus, and wireless phone charging.
That’s not a bad haul of goodies for a relatively skimpy $2500 impost over the outgoing model, even if the full circa-$11K swag is reserved exclusively for AWD quattro variants – a panoramic sunroof, 18-inch ‘Audi Sport’ alloys, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and DAB radio.
Despite the extra equipment the S line plus brings, our test car did come with a handful of options to round out the package. The rather striking Cosmos Blue metallic paint adds $1190, while the Assistance Package (a must-have in our eyes) brings adaptive cruise control, active lane assist including side assist, city-speed autonomous emergency braking, high-beam assist, hill hold, emergency assist and traffic jam assist, all for a relatively affordable $1500. Finally, park assist asks for another $500 – bringing the as-tested price of our little A3 to $54,090 plus on-road costs.
That circa-$54K price makes the A3 S line plus a niche offering in an even more niche segment – its only natural rival on price and prestige is the Mercedes-Benz’s A200 sedan that starts at $49,400. But, whereas the Audi gets a perky 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, the Merc is motivated by a smaller, less powerful and ultimately slower 1.3-litre turbo four-pot. If this were a twin test, it’d be a point to the Audi, but it’s not, so it’s included here simply for some relativity.
That 2.0-litre four-banger propelling the A3 is good for 140kW (at 6000rpm) and 320Nm (between 1500–4200rpm), and when married to Audi’s excellent S tronic seven-speed dual-clutch auto, can complete the dash to triple figures in 6.8 seconds. And it feels it, too, the A3 eager and urgent when the question is asked. It’s a surprising sprightliness, too, belying its somewhat staid façade.
Toggling through drive modes – Efficiency, Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and the configurable Individual – alters throttle response, gearbox calibration and steering weight depending on what mood you’re in. Dynamic mode also adds a little thrumminess to the engine note, which sounds as eager to please as its delivery in performance. It’s a charming little engine in this application, at once willing and engaging.
The seven-speed DCT is a cracker, too, as Audi’s dual-clutch ’box long has been, with slick intuitive shifts whether around town, out on the highway, or in ‘Sport’ mode, accessed by flicking the gear selector to the left. That sees the A3 hold on to revs a little longer in auto mode, or you can self-shift via the gear selector (no paddle-shifters here). Leave it in auto is our tip and let the S tronic do its thing. It’s probably better than you.
The ride is perfectly acceptable, certainly around town where bigger hits such as speed humps and potholes do little to fluster occupants. It’s not soft or floaty, either, if anything erring on the side of firm, but not to a level where you’re questioning the A3’s suspension set-up. There’s decent feel through the wheel, too, especially when having a little play on some twisties, which is hard not to do with that engaging little 2.0-litre singing away.
Audi claims the A3 in this trim sips 6.0L/100km of premium unleaded on the combined cycle. The good news is we came close to matching that claim, seeing an indicated 6.2L/100km after a week of urban running with some longer highway runs thrown in. That blew out to 9.3 over a couple of days of pure city driving (against Audi’s 7.6L claim), but overall not a shabby return.
There’s nothing shabby inside the A3 S line plus either, if you can get past the Rock Grey leather interior (spoiler alert, I couldn’t) that polarises with its sheer, well, drabness. That said, the front seats are comfortable and supportive, but do err on the side of firm. Lumbar support is a boon and manual thigh-support extenders a nice touch.
The overall presentation of the cabin, though, is up to Audi’s high, if a little austere, standards. Whereas rivals (we’re lookin’ at you Mercedes-Benz) impress with bling galore, Audi has always taken a more conservative approach. This is no bad thing, as certainly the fit and finish, as well as the use of materials, are befitting of a premium car.
The 7.0-inch screen anchoring the A3’s infotainment – MMI Navigation plus in this instance – is on the small side. And it pops out of the dashtop, a chintzy integration, in our opinion. And it isn’t a touchscreen. Instead, a rotary dialler and an array of buttons on the centre console control all functions, which is fine. But, it becomes somewhat counterintuitive when using smartphone mirroring as your primary source. It’s a small gripe.
Audi’s Virtual Cockpit continues to impress with its functionality, and its inclusion in this package is certainly commendable. With configurability coming out of the wazoo, Virtual Cockpit has your driver display needs covered. Personally, I like large dials at each side with a smaller display nestled between for other functions, such as navigation. Be aware, though, if you’re hooked up to smartphone mirroring and using Google Maps, for instance, that won’t be mirrored onto Virtual Cockpit.
Sliding into the second row brings some surprises. Firstly, there’s a surprising amount of room for what is a small car. You’d need to be nudging six-feet before any kind of claustrophobia kicks in, with decent toe, knee, leg and head room. A shame, though, that back seat passengers aren’t afforded some more amenities. Like cupholders. Or an armrest. There are air vents (although no separate climate controls) and a single 12V outlet. The bottle holders in the door are on the small side, too.
Audi quotes 425L of boot space with the back row in use, but doesn’t supply a figure for when those seats are stowed away in 60:40 split-fold fashion. There are some niceties in the boot, however, like a cargo net to keep your goodies in place, as well as a sprinkling of hooks and tie-down points. There’s a space-saver spare under the floor.
Audi continues to mirror its premium rivals by offering a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty that is, frankly, a bit crap in an age where five-year surety is increasingly the standard. Servicing is required every 12 months or 15,000km, and can be pre-purchased for either three years ($1540) or five ($2060).
Audi may have crammed its slightly long-in-the-tooth (this third-gen first surfaced in 2012, with some facelifts and updates along the way) A3 range with extra features designed to get you to sign on the dotted line. And with a long wait until the new-generation A3 drops in either late 2020 or early 2021, the addition of the S line plus packaging might just be enough to keep the A3 sedan fresh on the showroom floor.
Certainly, the 40 TFSI variant here makes a decent fist of combining sporty characteristics with enough premium-ness inside and out to justify its price.