Three's Company

Story by Raymond Lai Photos by Yang and Raymond Lai
14 Feb 2012

Audi finally introduces a 1.4-litre turbocharged variant of the A3 Sportback as the model reaches near the end of its life. Raymond Lai finds out if there’s still life yet in it.

Introduction, styling

The Audi A3 Sportback was introduced here way back in 2005. Two variants were available back then, a 1.6 and a 2.0 turbo. The 1.6 was rather anemic in performance despite the ‘Sport’ in its Sportback moniker and the more expensive 2.0T was overshadowed by the brilliant but cheaper Volkswagen Golf GTI despite sharing its engine with it. So it isn’t surprising that the A3 Sportback was more often overlooked by those who were looking for a premium compact car back then. Audi agreed and eventually rationalized the A3 range in 2007. Both the 1.6 and the 2.0T were discontinued, with only one engine variant available, the 1.8 TFSI.

The A3 Sportback 1.8 TFSI received better reception from car buyers here thanks to its relatively strong performance and premium image. With Cat B COE prices going skywards though, Audi was in need of a sub-1.6-litre A3 to remain competitive against the likes of the Cat A BMW 1 Series and hence the recent introduction of the A3 Sportback 1.4 TFSI.

Outwardly, the A3 Sportback is a smart looker despite its age. The rear of the car shows design influences from the brand’s attractive Avant models. It’s at the nose where the A3 Sportback shows its age – its single frame grille is not of the latest iteration as found in the updated A4, A5 as well as the A1 and A6 and its nose has a less chiselled look than the more contemporary Audi models. But still, it’s not too bad for a model that has been around for almost seven years, an eternity in the fast moving world of motoring. There’s just a certain timeless appeal about the A3 Sportback’s looks – graft on the latest iteration of Audi’s corporate nose and I should reckon that the A3 Sportback will look showroom fresh once again.

Other than the badges on the boot lid and the different alloy wheel designs, there’s little clue to help differentiate the 1.4 TFSI from the 1.8 TFSI on the outside. While the 1.8 TFSI has ‘1.8T’ badges on the tailgate, the 1.4 TFSI just reads ‘TFSI’.