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It’s a high five for A3 Sportback 


MARCH sees car manufacturers battling for new licence sales in the UK and Audi is flexing its muscles to take on all comers in the premium sector.

It’s biggest seller is the A3 and a third generation five-door version adds to the model’s appeal when it goes on sale on March 16.

The Sportback will cost you an extra £620 over the three door and as well as giving you easier access to the rear, that will bring you extra head and legroom in the back, increased boot space – and a brighter area in the rear thanks to the third side window.

On the road prices start at £19,825 and that’s not a lot more than you will pay for some models that aren’t anywhere the premium class of this latest A3.

The cabin has the Audi ‘luxury’ feel about it with Sportback coming in three trim levels – SE, Sport and S-Line.

There are three engine offerings from launch – 1.4 and 1.8-litre petrol and 2-litre diesel – to be followed by a 1.6-litre diesel in May and 1.2 and 1.4 petrol units later in the summer.

The cars are all front-wheel drive at launch with quattro following later on more powerful engine models.

Audi chose to take us to Le Castellet in the the South of  France for a pre-UK launch test drive and the routes featured some pretty winding and hilly terrain.

My pick of the cars was the 2.0 TDI which will be the top seller with 40 per cent of the A3’s annual 30,000 sales target in the UK.

Priced at £22,125, the SE model I sampled didn’t lack comfort with high-quality cloth seating in its classy interior.

Sitting in the middle of its wraparound dashboard is a retractable high-resolution monitor for the MMI (multi media interface) operating system.

On the road, the Sportback  couldn’t be faulted on ride or handling with its suspension coping well on some potholed surfaces.

It didn’t lack power with the 148bhp engine capable of reaching a top speed of 132mph and sprinting to 62mph in 8.7 seconds.

The car gripped the tarmac as it swung in and out of bends and mid-range acceleration was excellent.

A super slick six-speed manual transmission enabled quick gear changes and this model also purred quietly along on motorway stretches away from the mountains.

A seven-speed automatic is available on the 1.8 petrol model at launch but I much preferred the superb manual.

The new A3 Sportback is much lighter and this helps to provide excellent economy figures of 67.3mpg on this model and CO2 emissions of just 108g/km.

With a wheelbase 58mm longer than its predecessor and 35 longer than the three-door A3 you get more luggage space – 380 litres expanding to 1,220 litres with rear seats folded.

The Audi brand has never been stronger, setting new record 1,455,100 worldwide sales last year, 123,622 in the UK which was a rise of around 10,000 cars in 2011.

It is top of a hotly-contested sector where buyers appreciate quality – and there is no lack of that in the new A3 Sportback.