Audi plans to retain the top spot in the Indian luxury car market with the launch of its entry-level sedan. We drive it for our Audi A3 Review and to see if the Audi A3 can really keep it at the top…
Audi’s success in the Indian market, over the past few years, makes for an interesting case study. A late entrant into the market, Audi made a very aggressive run for the top spot amongst the luxury players and managed to achieve it with some fanfare – becoming the first luxury manufacturer in India to achieve a sales record of over 10,000 units sold in a single year (2013).
However, the competition – which, essentially, consists of compatriots Mercedes and BMW – has been fairly aggressive, and they’ve matched Audi every step of the way. There is one difference though – and it could be quite telling! Where the others chose small hatchbacks from their line-ups as their entry-level models to spur growth to the next level – an experiment that’s yielded mixed results – Audi has chosen to place its bets on the brand new Audi A3 sedan instead. So, we found ourselves in (hot) Udaipur to put the Audi A3 through its paces – and to do our Audi A3 Review to see if it can cement market leadership for Audi in the Indian market.
The styling of the Audi A3 retains the Audi family look – with sleek, sharp styling, combined with the traditional Audi cues like the large single piece front grille. The sides are dominated by a strong shoulder line, which runs the length of the car, while the roofline has a coupe-like slant – giving the car quite a striking posture. The well-defined rear end, with a nicely sculpted lip spoiler, adds to the visual appeal of the Audi A3. And while the Audi A3 naturally looks smaller than the A4, it has a significant amount of road presence. The looks certainly don’t indicate that this is an entry-level model – and that could be a very important point in regards to how consumers view it as a product.
With a length of 4,460mm, the new Audi A3 isn’t exactly a compact sedan – but, by luxury segment standards, it is a bit on the smaller side. So, think of it as a car more suited to self-driving rather than being chauffeured around. And, as one would expect, rear seat space is not one of the car’s strengths – with limited legroom and width meaning that tall passengers will face a tough time. The tapering roofline doesn’t do headroom any favours either. However, the seats themselves are quite comfortable, and there’s plenty of room in the front.
One of the biggest strengths of products from the Audi stable are their high-quality interiors – and the Audi A3 is no different. While the interior does looks rather Spartan – or, as Audi refers to it, ‘lean’ – compared to its other products, the interior quality of the Audi A3 remains absolutely stellar. Moreover, the design shows great attention to detail – while the pop-up 7-inch screen in the middle of the dashboard is a nice touch. The MMI system has also been given an upgrade on the Audi A3, with the touch-wheel controller now featuring touch recognition. The top surface of the wheel acts as a touch-sensitive pad, which can be used for inputting letters and numbers. Also, the new 3D Aluminium trim on the dashboard and doors is an interesting addition and lends a fresh look to the interior – especially in the two-tone version. Another novel touch comes in the form of the newly designed ‘turbine-like’ air vents that look rather impressive. They work pretty well too with their spot and diffuse functions. So, other than space – or lack thereof – the interiors are certainly up to Audi’s high standards, and they’re a great place to spend time in.
As far as powertrains are concerned, the Audi A3 will be offered with two engines in India – a 1.8 TFSI petrol engine with 177bhp and a 2-litre diesel with 141bhp, which will obviously be the volume seller. Both engines are paired with DSG dual-clutch transmissions – the petrol offers a 7-speed box, while the diesel comes with a 6-speed. In a change from the usual though, Audi has now tweaked its naming system. So, the petrol version is now called the 40TFSI, while the diesel is the 35TDI. There is evidently an elaborate formula that is used to calculate these designations, but it appears to be a bit of a secret sauce because the folks at Audi were reluctant to share more. So, in the absence of details, we’ll be forced to assume that it’s a marketing gimmick that could actually serve to confuse those who are already used to the existing terminology.
As far as the performance goes – as one would expect, with a car that’s quite compact and lightweight, the Audi A3 is a hoot to pilot. The diesel engined version that we tested has more than adequate power for our roads and can cruise at high speeds for extended periods of time without any fuss whatsoever. The DSG gearbox functions pretty well too – with the shifts being smooth and quick. However, steering wheel mounted gearshift paddles are sorely missed and would be a good addition to provide the driver with some added control. Handling wise, the Audi A3 is rock solid even at high speeds, and is a very comfortable vehicle to travel in. The suspension, a little on the stiff side, improves as the speeds pick up – at which point it provides the car with immense stability. The steering can be a bit of a let-down though – while it’s direct and quick to respond, it offers virtually no feel.
Towards the end of our Audi A3 Review in India, we realised that the Audi A3 is a very promising product – with its combination of looks, driving appeal, high levels of standard equipment and fit-and-finish. For those who prefer to drive themselves, it could be the perfect entry point into the luxury sector. If you’re looking for a luxury sedan to be chauffeured around in though, I would suggest that you look elsewhere. With a price tag that’s lower than the larger A4, the Audi A3 will undoubtedly bring a whole new set of customers to Audi. So expect to see plenty of these striking four-ringed sedans on our roads, thereby continuing the Audi juggernaut in India.
- AUDI A3 35TDI
Engine: 1,968 CC / 4 CYLINDERS / DOHC / TURBOCHARGED
Transmission: 6-SPEED DUAL CLUTCH AUTOM ATIC / FRONT - WHEEL DRIVE
Power: 141 BHP @ 3500 - 4000 RPM
Torque: 320 NM @ 1750 - 3000 RPM