AT a time when it’s hard to find a truly bad car, the best option is often the one you drive. Assuming it’s reliable and legal, takes you where you need to go and it’s safe and secure it’s got to be better than walking. A Porsche or Ferrari easily fits that bill, but so will a 10-year old Ford Focus.
Granted, in the world of new cars there’s a bit more to the attraction-ownership equation but you can add Audi’s latest generation A3 to the list, too.
We all like to think we know something about design, and there’s no denying the fact that the A3 has evolved into a stylish car and it’s no surprise to see a considerable number of A3s on the road since its launch in late 2012. Proof, if you need it, that a lot of people know what they like and they like what they see.
Having lived with an A3 for some months, the same goes for me. I’ve not always been a fan of the brand, mind you. Unimaginative exteriors, austere interiors and fussy detailing have, over time, put me off most things sporting a four-ring badge. However, recent years have seen Audi’s designers take a more mature and cohesive approach to vehicle design. Witness the A3’s smooth flanks, instantly recognisable family face and its more substantial, squat stance.
Gone too are Audi’s once trademark ‘fairy light’ daytime running lights. The A3’s solid white illuminated strip traces a line around the headlamps, giving the car a more purposeful look.
But what’s key for me when it comes to car ownership is ease of use. Yes, even in a Porsche or a Bentley the cabin ergonomics must be spot on, which is why I’ve taken a shine to the A3’s minimalist yet functional driving environment. Whether planned or accidental, the A3’s cabin presents occupants with a fuss-free environment and a refreshing absence of the ‘death by a million buttons’ that’s so often the case in similar cars.
A3 owners are faced with nothing more than a slick-looking colour screen, a rotary controller and a few silvery switches with which to control the majority of the car’s functions. Even the ventilation controls manage to successfully follow this almost zen-like approach to switchgear. Factor in clear, crisp instrumentation plus colour graphics devoid of the tedious digital animation of many rival cars and you’ve got a recipe for automotive contentment.
Oh, I almost forgot; the A3 drives as well as it looks. As the months and miles have passed by, this A3 is easily into comfortable old shoe territory, with the 2.0-litre diesel motor’s ample thrust often taken for granted and anything other than its usual frugal behaviour treated as a shock to a rarely opened wallet.
The reason for this glib approach to the physical act of driving is a simple one: when you spend a lot of time in traffic, be it in town or stationary on motorways, you start to appreciate otherwise invisible design details.
And for all the pub banter surrounding top speeds and horsepower, it’s these things that make the ownership experience more pleasant. While the A3 might possess fewer buttons than a microwave oven, it’s simplicity and aesthetic appeal ensures it continues to surprise and delight – something your average domestic appliance will always struggle to do.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: Audi A3 2.0 TDI Sport 3dr, from £22,730 on the road.
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel unit developing 150bhp.
Transmission: 6-speed manual transmission as standard, driving the front wheels.
Performance: Maximum speed 134mph, 0-62mph 8.6 seconds.
CO2 Rating: 106g/km.