Motoring writer Keith Ward takes an Audi A3 Sportback on a ferry ‘cross the North Sea – but is it a crossing too far?
SO it’s a quick descent from the Pennine homestead, dash east along the M62, bustle through the customary rush hour traffic jam that surrounds Hull and squeeze on to the P&O night crossing to the Netherlands.
It would be nice to say this was all a challenge to the Audi A3 Sportback, but not even the steep ramp up to the car deck of the Pride of Rotterdam and the chicane at the top gives it cause to pause.
Next day it weaves its way through hordes of yellow-plated locals and leaves windmills in its wake to traverse the most densely populated country in Europe in good time to reach our weekend destination of leafy Arnhem, on the German border. No chance of this being a bridge too far, then.
The built-in sat-nav, a £1,650 extra on this model, deals effortlessly with those Dutch place names with their throat-clearing consonants, the voice-over throwing in a bonus lesson in pronunciation. Ah – that’s how they say Nijmegan.
The Sportback is that sort – takes everything competently in its stride, to the extent of being in some people’s eyes, well, a little bit dull. Earlier this year the A3 was voted best buy as a used car, backed by another poll of 26,000 internet adherents of the MSN Cars website which concluded Audi was their favourite German brand.
At a time when a good used car may be more attractive than one new to recession-hit motorists, a three-year-old A3, for example, looked after and with average mileage, should be around half the price new, with life a-plenty left in it.
In somewhat of a reversal of normal, while the A3 hatchback offers only three doors, this sleeker-looking Sportback gives you five, with a marginal 20 litres’ extra boot space and comfortable seating for four adults despite its sloping roofline. Be aware, however, that the boot aperture is not the widest.
The S-line version street cred comprises fancy 18-inch alloys, suspension 10mm lower than the Sport model, special badging and body bits and chrome-trimmed twin exhaust. Inside, there are trimmings of black leather and matt-brushed aluminium.
Don’t be misled. It’s no speedster with this 1.6 turbo-diesel, 0-60 taking a leisurely 11.7 seconds. However, it feels refined, balanced and capable of running all day.
The engine stop-start, which switches off to save fuel while stationary, I got used to but it disconcerted some passengers. It presumably helped towards a fuel consumption of around 50-mpg in driving which did not spare the horses.
THE VITAL STATISTICS
Model: Audi A3 Sportback 1.6 TDI S-line
Engine: Diesel turbo; 1,598cc; 106 bhp; 184 lb ft; 5-speed; stop-start
Pace: 121 mph; 0-60 in 11.7 secs
Body: Five-door hatch; length 4,292 mm; boot 370 to 1,100 litres
CO2: 109 g/km; tax band B
MPG: On test 49.2 mpg; official combined 68.9 mpg; tank 55 litres
Weight: Kerb 1,320 kg
Warranty: 36 months/60,000 miles
Price: £21,630; with extras as tested £26,880