2011 Audi A3 Review

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2011 Audi A3 Overview

For me, the 2011 Audi A3 sports wagon is just about perfect. It offers plenty of space while maintaining its parking-friendly footprint, comes with brag-worthy refinements, and above all, handles like an Audi.

Of course I stand only 5 and a half feet tall, live in a city, and drive alone more than 90 percent of the time. For someone like me, headroom – in this case measuring less than 40 inches – is just as irrelevant as shoulder room or rear passenger comfort. In a word, my take on driving perfection might not translate to those of you who play college basketball or have a family of five.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why commercial success has largely eluded the A3, which made its U.S. debut in 2005. Looking like a wagon but posing as a hatch, the little-changed 2011 Audi A3 remains a bit too confining for taller drivers and passengers. Even with its five-door “Sportback” design and a highly configurable 60/40-split-folding rear bench, the A3 is just not bulbous enough to yield the kind of room and cargo space today’s hatchback buyers want. The standard all-leather interior might also give you a moment of pause before hurling a rusty grill and fishing gear into the back of your Audi.

Yet if you're like me and city traffic is your great outdoors, you’ll be pleased to know that the 2011 A3 is a hub of everything luxury and hi-tech. Between the Premium and Premium Plus trim levels, you'll find features like Audi’s own 10-speaker MP3 audio with an SD card slot and auxiliary input, dual-zone automatic climate control, hands-free Bluetooth system for cell phones, daytime running xenon LEDs, 17-inch ten-spoke wheels with 225/45 all-season tires, and all things power. Like last year’s model, the new 2011 A3 is also peppered with small exterior add-ons from Audi’s high-performance S line.

So far we have learned that perfection is relative. However, there is nothing ambiguous about the kind of driving experience only a German machine can inspire. This doesn’t mean that the new A3 stands to cast out its few class rivals, let alone its own brethren from the S division. Nevertheless, the themes and sounds are all familiar, delivered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine capable of 200 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. When matched to the automatic six-speed S tronic gearbox, it gets the A3 from 0-60 mph in 6.9 seconds; it takes 7.1 seconds with the quick-shifting six-speed manual.

Like other Audis, the A3 is available with Quattro all-wheel drive. It also offers a 140-hp, 2.0-liter clean-diesel engine, which it shares with the Volkswagen Jetta TDI. Though less peppy than the gas version, this engine is a remarkable study in fuel efficiency without the hybrid upgrade - it's rated by the EPA at an astounding 30/42 mpg! The gas version’s economy figures are downright disappointing by comparison, achieving only 21/30 mpg with a manual gearbox and 22/28 mpg with the S tronic.

It’s also worth noting that the A3 has seen no significant updates since the car shed its V6 engine for 2010. Besides slightly altering the side mirrors, rounding off the gear shifter, and playing with the hue of instrument dials, Audi has left the new 2011 A3 with little in the way of novelty.

The verdict? After more than five years on our side of the pond, the Audi A3 continues to outclass its competition with a perfect blend of vigor, comfort, and style. This tradition is very much alive in the 2011 model. At the same time, this brisk Euro wagon remains too pricey and perhaps too diminutive for a family hauler. So while the diesel version is definitely worth a look, most car buyers in this segment will likely find that the 2011 Audi A3 is just enough sport, but not enough car.

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