NEW ARRIVAL

JAMES WHITBORN

When base is just ace

Sometimes you donít need all the bells and whistles to hit the right note CALL ME a hipster (actually, please donít), but Iíve always liked having a car that few others do. My new long-termer is exactly that, because base-model Audis are a rarity, and no one, it seems, buys a base Audi in red.

Most of the A3 sedans Iíve seen in Sydney are of a higher spec level, or are optioned with the S line sports pack (or both), usually in black or a metallic shade of grey.

As well as a taste for the less common, I also have a liking for base models, for their honesty. And thereís something even more appealing about a premium car in barebones trim.

Compared with the A3 1.8 TFSI Ambition cabrio it replaces in my garage, the silvery cabin highlights are gone, along with seat heaters, start button, powered folding mirrors and other stuff. Iím not missing any of it, and I like the black-on-black cabin, which looks nice and minimalistic with the multimedia screen powered neatly into the dashtop.

I am glad, though, that itís got sat-nav and a reversing camera as part of the Technik package (see panel top right).

Back on the exterior, and thereís even a bit of baby RS4 to the look, thanks to the sedanís taut proportions and crisp creases, its sporty looking silver-finished 10-spokes with chunky, squaresidewalled Dunlops, and of course the colour.

Like almost every Audi Iíve driven, the body feels like a vault (especially after the ragtop).

Yet at 1250kg, the sedan is 180kg lighter than the cabrio.

This shows in a few areas. The CoD is so much livelier at low revs; its power-to-weight

When two will do

DISPLACEMENT-on-demand makes sense with a V8 ó most cars get by with four cylinders, so surely there are times a V8 doesnít need to be running on all eight (in Sydney, maybe all the time).

But wouldnít a four-pot need all its cylinders, all the time?

Apparently not, because the CoD A3 drives just fine on two cylinders. At low to middling loads it shuts the valves to the middle pair of pots, switching seamlessly back to four-cylinder mode when acceleration is needed.

OurGarage

ratio and claimed 0-100km/h are similar to the cabrioís (itís only down 4kW/tonne and is officially 0.4sec slower from 0-100km/h, at 8.2sec).

Perhaps because the 1.4 turbo has the same peak of 250Nm as the 1.8, but with a smaller turbo and less engine inertia pushing less weight, the 1.4 has plenty to give at low revs, and works sweetly in this daily driving zone in the trim sedan.

Pedal with more enthusiasm and itíll leave the line with an eager chirp before sprinting satisfactorily to the top of the tacho. Thereís even a bit of atmo character, rather than tachoround whooshiness, and a hint of FSM Niki (in a good way) as the CoD system slips into two-pot mode (see panel above left).

As in the cabrio, the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission can be a bit jerky, though it is more decisive in letting its clutches out and more responsive to the paddles. Maybe the cabrioís extra weight dictated that it was calibrated to slip its clutches more, like youíd do yourself when towing with an underpowered manual car; Iíd love to ask an Audi engineer.

The steering remains resolutely numb, but the lighter, more rigid body lends the sedan a sense of togetherness in corners that the cab just didnít possess.

Iíd better be careful who I go around telling that the base A3 sedan is a coollooking, not-too-pretentious, efficient, lively, chuckable, fun little thing, or theyíll end up being everywhere.

Easy on the options

THE $2990 Technik package is the only option added to the $40,100 A3 CoD sedan that, unoptioned, costs a mere $1600 more than the equivalent Sportback. A small price to pay, I reckon, for the sedanís classier look. (The CoD sedan costs $4200 more than the entry-level, non-CoD 1.4 Sportback). The Technik pack is also a no-brainer, mostly because it brings a Ďnavigation plusí system, but also for its MMI touch interface, colour driver information system, parking system with rear view camera and park assist, and upgraded audio.

AUDI A3 SEDAN 1.4 CoD

Date acquired: August 2015 Price as tested: $43,090 This month: 529km @ 8.5L/100km Overall: 529km @ 8.5L/100km Da Pr Th Ov 34 3 3 34 44 3 3 0 0 1 6 5 5 WEEK 4

URBAN COUNTRY SPORTS FAMILY MOTORWAY

TAKE IT AS RED

Red paint on a non-RS Audi? Unusual.

Base-model Audi on Sydneyís snooty north shore?

Unheard of