The compact Autobahn cruiser

2006 Audi A3 2.0T (Video Clip)

2006 Audi A3 2.0T (Video Clip)

The compact Autobahn cruiser


In order to keep costs down, car manufacturers have been reducing the sheer number of unique platforms and powerplants. Most of the builders are sticking to a couple of high-tech skeletons that can easily be modified to accept different drivetrains or for various types of vehicles. Volkswagen is not a rookie in this business. Their fourth generation Golf/Jetta chassis served as a basis for the New Beetle, the previous A3 and even for a few Seat and Skoda models. The trick is to build a good backbone and work with it.

This road test has found me soaking up every kilometre in a 2006 Audi A3. This is the first time that North America gets the A3. It has been around in Europe for a while and only now can we finally get to see them on our roads. The A3 is actually built on the same platform as the new fifth generation Volkswagen Jetta and upcoming Golf. They also share many mechanical components.

Base price is $32,950. If one was to add all available options, the price would be of over $56,000. I tested a DSG equipped 2.0T with the premium package. It retails for $39,650.


Styling

The A3 is available in 1 body style for the moment: a 5-door hatchback. A 3-door should arrive in the near future. The car is very elegant and receives the same level of attention as does its more expensive siblings. It shares the corporate horse collar front grille and rising beltline which have become synonymous (for me anyways) with absolute class. The overall design of the car is simple enough, however it is clear that every line and angle received careful attention.

If the old "thump" from closing a door is still a measure of quality for you, then you will find that the A3's body structure and quality of assembly is top notch. Panel fit and gaps are perfect and even. The doors close and seal with authority as does the slamming of the hatch. Speaking of closing the doors, the 4-step door notches that hold it open are somewhat annoying; when opening the door, make sure it is pushed out hard otherwise it will come right back at you.

The interior is impressively well finished. Every portion of plastic is positioned with care and expertise. The materials themselves are generally upper-class and even those that are "less expensive", look good. The seats offer excellent support for all concerned body parts. A driving position is quickly achieved thanks to the multiple possible adjustments to the seats and the tilt/telescopic steering column. The trunk is also remarkably well completed.

My dislikes with the Audi TT styled dashboard are limited to the audio and HVAC controls. They are small and present too much resistance when pushed. The feeling is also a little too plasticky but they do look the part. The biggest disappointment for me is the use of a vulgar Tiptronic shifter for the DSG gearbox. The fact that it is an automatic transmission selector cheapens the "hardcoreness" of this incredible tool. I would have suggested that Audi use an SMG or Cambriocorsa type of selector. It would only make it look more exotic.

By Mathieu St-Pierre,

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