Vital Stats

2.0L Diesel I4
181 HP / 280 LB-FT
6-Speed S-tronic
0-60 Time:
7.1 Seconds (62 MPH)
All-Wheel Drive
13.4 / 43.1 CU-FT
45 HWY (est.)
Just When It Gets Really Good, We May Not Get It

The (final) final decision on whether or not we will get the second-generation Audi A3 Sportback in the US has yet to be handed down by the juries in Ingolstadt and Herndon (Virginia, corporate seat for Audi USA). But that doesn't mean we can't head to the roads of the Monte Carlo Rally in this car's most powerful and accoutered trim three months before European customers take deliveries in late February. Our ride for the day? The A3 Sportback 2.0 TDI Quattro S-line with the beefy six-speed S-tronic, a car good for 181 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque between 1,750 and 3,000 rpm. If it came available in the US, we anticipate pricing would begin around $34,500 for this topmost trim.

When we get a shot to drive on these utterly spectacular roads, the assumption would be that our Audi of choice would be an RS trim with a chassis set up for our usual abuses. Such was not the case this time, however, as our tester did not even benefit from the optional Audi Magnetic Ride dampers that are now available on the A3. Audi Drive Select is standard at this engine and trim level (we had the European "Ambition" trim, which equates roughly to Premium Plus in the States), and this does provide for the recalibration of several dynamic bits between Efficiency, Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual modes. With the six-speed S-tronic gearbox, ADS takes care of shift responses, as well.

Although this A3 Sportback was not like an RS3 by a longshot on our route, we simply toned down our rate to match what might be the driving attitude of a typical owner. Taken as such, this top tune of the 2.0 TDI engine, plus all of our model's premium touches inside, made for a thoroughly satisfying experience on roads any enthusiast would never want to leave. Conditions were ideal, as there was literally zero traffic to disturb our exploration of this latest Sportback.
2014 Audi A3 Sportback side view2014 Audi A3 Sportback front view2014 Audi A3 Sportback rear view

The everyday sensation while simply cruising along the highway is, as we experienced recently on the latest Volkswagen Golf that shares its chassis with the A3, is more like the drive of a well-dressed A4. Riding here on optional top-level S-line 18-inch wheels and tires on this trim's standard dynamic suspension with newly engineered rear multi-link axle, this Sportback body comes off even more capable and sophisticated than other models we've tested using Volkswagen Group's new MQB modular architecture.

A chief reason for the even greater maturity of the ride on this A3 Sportback is that one of the benefits of the new architecture is the ease with which it can be elongated or shortened to fit a particular model. While the overall length of the Sportback body adds just .7 of an inch over the three-door A3 we tested earlier this year, the rear wheels on their axle are simply shifted back 1.4 inches, thereby creating a larger footprint while giving both rear passengers and cargo more space to occupy. The new Sportback wheelbase is a full 2.3 inches longer than that of the outgoing model, which is darn near a lightyear in compact car terms.

2014 Audi A3 Sportback headlight2014 Audi A3 Sportback wheel2014 Audi A3 Sportback taillight2014 Audi A3 Sportback exhaust tips

It's a pity that Audi seems to be leaning toward not submitting this new A3 Sportback for its immigration papers. According to A3 marketing guru Patrick Rismont, the A3 Sportback in its first generation has barely managed to exceed the company's humble sales expectations in America, and that lack of a boffo hit has thrown the A3 Sportback's North American future into question. The feeling in the air is that Audi wants to pummel us rather with the forthcoming A3 sedan and ragtop convertible, the former in its production trim scheduled for public unveiling at the Shanghai Motor Show next April. We know that this is probably the easiest and most practical move, but we are great lovers of Audi's sportbacks, so hope springs eternal they'll keep us supplied with five-doors – especially since this latest edition is so much better than the first one.

Perhaps due to the sheer physics of size and weight, the electro-mechanical steering of the A3 Sportback feels spot-on, and putting it into Dynamic mode tightens things up quite nicely when the road gets twisty. It is eerily smooth, of course, and feedback from the asphalt is not immediate, but we'll hold off whining on that note until the new S3 and RS3 models bless us with their presence. In this trim the steering feel is exactly as it should be.

2014 Audi A3 Sportback engine

We tried our best to shove the A3 Sportback around for cornering photographs and whatnot (stability control all the way off), but whatever natural lateral give there was felt less like oversteer and more like purposeful sideways squish. This redone A3 model weighs between 100 and 165 pounds less than last generation, which is still on sale in the US, and because of that, this aforementioned dynamic squishing can be let to run its natural course through the curve, even allowing us to stay judiciously on throttle. We're not talking body roll here, just a forceful and not altogether unpleasant sideways scooching while holding the good steering rack steady and eyeing the road ahead. Such is the world of your typical Quattro chassis, only now lighter.

To our eyes, this new A3 Sportback, along with the TT, A4 and A5, is solidly in sweet zone for the Audi's most recent styling language. The five-door A3 now looks far more interesting than its three-door counterpart. As on all MQB-based models, too, practically all things you can opt for on larger Audis are now available on the A3 family. There is Audi Pre Sense for avoiding lower speed accidents, Audi Side Assist, lane assist, traffic sign recognition, adaptive cruise control, and several other usual suspects.

2014 Audi A3 Sportback interior2014 Audi A3 Sportback front 3/4 view2014 Audi A3 Sportback rear seats2014 Audi A3 Sportback rear cargo area

The latest MMI Navigation Plus with touch pad also makes its Sportback debut, and when you add the Connect feature, your connectivity to the world takes you and your car to places never before known to this vehicle segment. An added compact-class first – shared with all MQB hatches launched so far, but with the most sophisticated treatment saved for Audi – is the full LED lighting front and rear, the front being of the adaptive sort. On the topic of lights, the cargo area – good for a minimum of 13.4 and up to 43.1 cubic feet and eminently flexible despite the lack of a perfectly flat floor – gets two ambient night lights for when you need to open up the panel covering the underfloor stowage space.

Diesel engine family EA288 has been completely redesigned to suit the MQB architecture and be more efficient. Way down low in the rev range, there is certainly some turbo lag before the diesel freight train effect takes hold. But hit the sweet spot starting at 1,750 rpm in second or third gear coming out of curves and the urgency is felt quite clearly. Plus, the noise it makes through the pair of exhaust pipes is pretty nice for a little diesel. Acceleration to 62 mph is estimated at 7.1 seconds, but based on the spirit with which we were dicing up the hills, we figure it's got to have a 6.8-second run in it. As far as economy goes, highway mileage in the US would peak somewhere around 45 miles per gallon.

2014 Audi A3 Sportback rear 3/4 view

As ever, we'd love to have a six-speed manual in this application, but Audi isn't planning to offer such a gearbox in the Quattro-equipped A3 at this top diesel power rating. The existing S-tronic dual-clutch gearbox is heavy and it behaves heavily at times. Here's hoping that the latest S-tronic design, as seen on the new R8 supercoupe, can somehow trickle down the lineup, because that quicker and more compact tranny really does work as promised... finally.

Equally important while shoving around any car is a good set of brakes since, aside from the famous curvy roads we drove, there are several spots in the vicinity where huge trucks have inexplicably been allowed inland from the seaside, and there is hardly enough room for their side-view mirrors to pass the local bar without nicking it. Luckily, the A3 Sportback's discs hauled us down from speed pretty well all day long, and with a bare minimum of nose dive and consequent passenger discomfort in the process.

We do hope Audi sees fit to keep one of its hatchback bodies in the US. If not, our lineup of cars from Audi will soon be nearly free of conventional wagons and hatchbacks. And that's not good – because this new Sportback certainly is.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 2 Years Ago
      This is actually the third gen. Just because it didn't make it to the States, it doesn't mean it never existed.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Nice with the S line package and 45 mpg, yes please!
      • 2 Years Ago
      wow, so want
      • 2 Years Ago
      My father-in-law has an A3 and it's enjoyable. The interior is good but in the way that a Golf's interior is good. It doesn't feel a full step above. To me, the major advantage over the VW comparables is AWD and the Audi badge and $10K is a lot to spend for that. I'm not sure that my only complaint with the existing S-tronic would be that it's "heavy." I find that it isn't smooth or particularly fun. Hope the upcoming model addresses this.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Sport back? what's that? This is just an A3 five door... No? I don't like the side profile but from front and back it's ok... Golf would be a better buy imo and almost as nice inside or maybe even nicer... I can imagine the motor is a winner, quick acceleration and good fuel economy, winner... I just don't love the lag/build-up of torque on intitial launch from diesel motors... trade off I guess..
        • 2 Years Ago
        "Sportback" is Audi's marketing term for their slightly-extended five door hatches.
      • 2 Years Ago
      I guess the roof rails will be standard on the five-door? Wish I could see it without. I'll have to see that pop-up screen on the dash in person. If we can't have the three-door, I might prefer the sedan. Let's see it already!
        • 2 Years Ago
        I'd like to see the sedan, but as it's on the same platform as this car, it will likely come with crappy" Quattro," as opposed to *real* Quattro. If the original A4 (which is most likely has a smaller engine bay than this car) could take an inline four mounted longitudinally, along with a decent version of Quattro, why can't Audi give it to this car? Why are they diluting their reputation with this Haldex-based nonsense?
      • 1 Year Ago
      Dear Audi Sales and Marketing: CANADA needs hatchbacks. We can't fit our skis AND our snowboots AND our beer keg (for apres ski) comfortably in a sedan. Get a weather map and a copy of "Canadian Recreation Weekly" and figure out how 4 doors is going to handle my need for 5. And while you're at it, give us the Q3!!! The A3 and Q3 are the only models of interest to presumably many of us wanting sporty luxury, quality, and style. If they ain't coming I'm going to have to spring for an ugly X1 or something.
        Michael Smith Fenste
        • 11 Months Ago
        There is also a rumo[u]r that none other than Subaru is considering bringing a diesel AWD wagon to North America. I'd hate to leave the German engineering to drive a diesel AWD wagon. . . . .
      Frank Berrios
      • 2 Years Ago
      You already have one sold right here
      • 2 Years Ago
      Who do we pettition for the sportsback? I'd upgrade from my Golf TDI (which I love btw) but the sedan is of no intrest to me.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Looks like a cheap hatchback dressed up with big wheels and fancy headlights.
      • 2 Years Ago
      I'd like to see the A3 hatch offered here again. World needs more nice hatches.
      • 2 Years Ago
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