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2010 Audi A3 TDI Review

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2010 Audi A3 TDI Sportback

SEE ALSO: Audi Buyers Guide
SEE ALSO: Audi A3 VS. Volkswagen Sportwagen TDI

Audi A3 TDI The little engine that could!
By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

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I fell in love with the Audi A3 TDI last September while traveling in Europe on a vacation with my wife. Call it as you will, a small station wagon or a 4-door hatchback, but the combination of interior space, compact exterior size, excellent performance and fuel economy in the 40mpg range and this little baby is hard to beat. Don’t let the diesel engine scare you off; it’s responsive and quiet.

The A3 I drove through Portugal and Spain was a 2-door, however Audi only offers the 4-door here in the United States. Upon starting the engine I was just in awe at the trip indicator displaying more than 1000km driving range, that’s 620 miles. I probably was more startled by seeing the 4-digit number, but to the point, that’s an all-day road trip with no fuel stops needed no matter where you are driving.

The 2010 A3 TDI was introduced in the USA last November, is available in all 50 states and was named the 2010 Green Car of the Year. Audi calls it “the most versatile competitor for its size, dimensions, and 5-door flexibility.” “With 42 highway mpg it is the only luxury compact offering with clean diesel.” TDI is expected to be over 40% of all U.S. A3 sales.

It is said that Americans don’t like hatchbacks, however if your think about the minivans, SUVs and crossovers that so many folks have been driving for many, many years now, they are, well, hatchbacks. I’ve expressed my liking for station wagons and that’s how I see the A3. And, Audi offers two larger station wagons, the Avant, in the A4 and A6. A size for everyone.

Priced starting at $29,950, the 140HP engine develops more torque than its gasoline equivalent and quickly scoots to 60mph in 9.1 seconds. The around town fuel economy is rated at 30 city mpg. With a full tank, the driving range is 666 miles at the 42 highway mpg rating, but better can be achieved.

The Audi DNA is very apparent from front to rear and the short overhangs and compact size make the A3 a great car for both suburban and urban living. Ease of maneuvering on crowded city streets is often an issue and the A3 helps you to get around big cities in confidence.

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I really like the roomy interior, with plenty of space for 2 in the front plus the 4-doors make it easy for another couple or children to ride in the 3-person rear bench seat and still having 19.5 cu ft of cargo space in “the way back”. The rear seat folds to open up a very generous 39 cu ft; great for the dog, groceries, or even hauling your bicycle to your favorite “rails-to-trails” route. I see the A3 fitting in very well for active-lifestyle empty nesters and well as Gen-Y folks. Lots of room for two and all their stuff.

In shopping other makes, the corporate cousins Volkswagen Jetta Wagon TDI has the same engine but is larger in outside dimensions and of course offers about 50% more cargo capacity. The trade-off being the better exterior compactness of the A3. Even more compact is the Mini, which still offers versatility with a fold-down rear seat but not the fuel mileage benefit of the TDI.

Coming back to price, the A3 TDI costs about $1200 more than the gasoline engine model. Even with the higher cost of diesel over regular fuel, the fuel consumption is so much better with the TDI that cost can be recovered in the first year of driving and then after that it’s all gravy.

The TDI is only available as a front-drive model and not with Quattro, as either are with the gasoline engine model. However, I don’t see this as a big drawback. I’m a strong proponent of using winter tires in the snowy states that can be purchased mounted on an extra set of rims for less than the $2100 extra cost for Quattro.

As I wrap-up this review, Audi has just claimed a 1-2-3 victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with TDI powered race cars….the same technology in the A3. Reliability, efficiency and sustainability are particularly important topics for car manufacturers today. Variable Turbine Geometry (VTG) turbo-chargers are standard with Audi TDI engines in production vehicles.

Motorsports is very often a test bed for future technology, but it doesn’t often occur that winning race car technology can be bought for the street today.

One final thought: I think we’ll be seeing more luxury compacts like the Audi A3 appearing on the road in lieu of large luxury cars.

Larry Nutson