Base price: $29,950
Price as tested: $36,500 (est.)
Capsule Review of the 2010 Audi A3 TDI Clean Diesel
The 2010 Audi A3 TDI Clean Diesel is a five-door bundle of Autobahn- and oil-burning fun. So what's the problem?
The problem is the Audi A3 TDI's brother from another mother, the the VW Golf TDI Clean Diesel. The two cars share many parts, including a sweet running 2-liter 140hp TDI powerplant and an optional slick-shifting Direct Shift Gearbox (a standard trans that behaves like an automatic). Not surprisingly, the cars have similar road mannerisms as well.
But the Audi is, well, an Audi, and for the privilege of nosing that four ring emblem into your favorite parking space at the mall, expect to pay an additional $6,000. If money isn't an issue, go ahead treat yourself. But if you're on a budget...
Highs:• Audis are hip these days
• Stingy with a gallon of diesel
• Sporty handling, sweet interior
Lows:• Whoa, $30K?
• A Golf under the skin
• Ride can be unforgiving
2010 Audi A3 TDI Clean Diesel Review
First off, full disclosure: I was only behind the wheel of the 2010 Audi A3 TDI Clean Diesel for a quick spin around Bear Mountain State Park in New York at a recent media event. I feel like a bit of a schlub for writing this based on such a short drive, but I will update things once I arrange to spend more time behind the wheel of an A3.
Now, if you've read my shameless gushing about VW/Audi's 2-liter TDI engine, when I sampled it in the VW Golf TDI Clean Diesel and the VW Jetta TDI Clean Diesel, then you know I'm impressed with it. My daily driver is a tough-as-nails Mercedes 300D turbodiesel, whose loyal service I'm grateful for. But comparing the powerplant in my old Benz to these new diesels is like comparing a 1980s-vintage boombox blaring A Flock of Seagulls "I Ran" to the iPod on which I'm currently blaring A Flock of Seagulls "I Ran."
Same old song, but German diesel technology has vastly changed the overall experience. A 30-second pause for the glow plugs? Rattly idle? Smoky takeoffs? Ocean liner-like acceleration? Nein, nein, nein!
As with its VW counterparts you'd be hard pressed to know this is a diesel-fueled automobile. Startups are fast and smooth, with perhaps just a little bit of laboring from the engine when you first put the Direct Shift Gearbox in gear. Step on the gas and the 236 pound-feet of torque muscles you out of the driveway with who-needs-gasoline zeal. I experienced impressive fuel economy with VW's TDIs and I have no reason to expect anything less from the Audi. It's EPA rating is 30 city and 42 highway.
2010 Audi A3 TDI Road Manners
The A3's handling is crisp and sporty. The MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear, suspension that the A3 shares with its VW siblings strikes a nice balance between smooth ride and sharp handling, though it's definitely setup on the iron-butt side. The 17-inch wheels shod with beefy 225/45/17 Michelins do a lot to keep the car planted, but little to cushion the ride over potholes and bumps.
The A3's steering is quick and precise without the twitchy overboosted feeling that VW's compact cars once had. The A3 feels very sophisticated in the turns and over relatively smooth roads.
2010 Audi A3 TDI Interior
There's one thing that VW/Audi does better than almost anyone else these days: interiors.
All of the A3's soft surfaces have a premium look and feel. The instruments are easy to read and aesthetically very pleasing, while all of the switches and controls operate as if they're teflon coated. In 2009, Audi installed its MMI system in every one of its cars -- the setup uses a central-dash display screen and single control knob (think computer and mouse) for HVAC and audio controls -- and technophobes everywhere winced in anticipation of not being able to turn off the fan or tune in a radio station. But the system is fairly intuitive. (Though not as intuitive as the knobs labeled "fan" or "tune" in old cars.) Like it or not, if you're getting an A3 you're getting the big screen and knob in the middle of the dash.
The A3's seats are supportive though stiff in typical Teutonic fashion. Sit up straight and you'll like ’em, slouch and you'll be uncomfortable. The rear seat is fine for the vertically challenged, taller passengers might find themselves running out of room for their head and legs.
As a five-door, the A3 offers a nice hatch area with a split folding rear seat for hauling home groceries or flea market loot and then hauling it off later to the transfer station or town dump. Like all modern hatchbacks or station wagons, the cargo zone is nicely trimmed so you're not going to want to use it for anything gritty — at least not until the car is paid off. There's also a pass-through carved into the right side seat back to accommodate longish items (skis, 2x4x8s) when you don't feel like dropping the seat and a hatch lid that keeps prying eyes from seeing the booty stashed inside the boot.
2010 Audi A3 TDI: Should I or Shouldn't I?
The 2010 Audi A3 TDI is a very desirable car. But for about the cost of 6,000 Flock of Seagulls downloads you could be driving The People's TDI, which is light years better than any other compact diesel you've ever driven.
That's really the A3 TDI's only drawback and if your only problem is deciding which to own, well, that's a good problem to have.