There was a time when Audi was considered the poor cousin of the premium German marques of Mercedes-Benz and BMW – but those days are gone.
It wasn’t all that long ago when Audi were still chasing the pack in terms of innovation and reliability instead of leading it.
Somewhere along the way, the company took a significant shift in its approach and poured their resources into developing their next generation of cars.
Audi has established itself as a brand for real drivers that demand the highest standards.
What really impresses me, is the fact that their new approach is not just concentrated on the executive level – after all, why waste all that effort for your other lines to be considered simply ordinary?
No, here we see all the innovation, development, build quality and drivability that you would expect in the cars far above the price range.
The most recent addition to the Audi fleet on Irish roads is the wonderful A3 Saloon.
This marks the company’s first entry into the world’s largest segment, the compact saloon – but one thing you don’t feel in this car is compact.
Where BMW tried and failed to have the 1 series established as a class-leading saloon, Audi have succeeded.
They have taken everything that has made the A3 the popular car that it is, and given it more.
There’s more room, more power, more space, more efficiency and much, much more to look at.
In terms of room, the boot’s carrying capacity amounts to 425 litres with the seats up – 45 litres more than the A3 Sportback. Naturally, this capacity can be increased by folding down the split rear seat backs.
Let’s talk about the power. The model I tested came with a 1.4-litre TFSI petrol engine coupled to an S-Tronic automatic gearbox – with 140 bhp and an acceleration of 0-100km/h of just 8.4 seconds.
The interior space simply feels too big to be part of the A3 family. I would not be described as slight-of-build, and I regularly feel the pinch of narrow, sporty seats – but the room and comfort on offer in the A3 is delightful.
Elsewhere in the interior, from the construction of the bodyshell to the seating upholstery the A3 has all the attraction of its much more expensive stablemates.
The interactive driver controls, and all the important points of contact just fill the driver with confidence as each and every one boat exceptional build quality.
Nowadays every car needs to impress with fuel efficiency stats, and this is no different. Audi have shaved about as much weight off this car as is possible, and at a meagre 1,205kg for the 1.4 TFSI, this is not a bulky machine.
Audi uses many hot-formed steel parts in the passenger compartment for low weight and maximum strength, and the aluminium bonnet and front suspension sub-frame also help to lighten the load.
As a result, this is a car that sips just 4.7 litres of petrol for every 100km driven, boasts emissions of 109g per km, all of which puts it in tax band A – meaning road tax cost of a mere €109 per year.
The looks of this car tell their own story.
It is refined, with a strong presence. The short overhang at each corner let you know it means business.
Clean lines, crisp edges, simply beautiful LED headlight clusters all combine to give this car a definition all of its own.
The range starts at just under €30,000, nowhere near the cost of any executive saloon, and for that you get a lot of car. An awful lot of car indeed.