Tuesday, November 8, 2011

2012 Audi A3 TDI: Cute, Comfortable & Beyond Competent

The new Audi A3 TDI Premium is a great option for anyone who wants a competent wagon with a turbo diesel engine. The diesel gets you great mileage, some eco street cred, and a few talking points at dinner parties, PTA meetings and lacrosse practices. Add the soundbite "My Audi's B5 approved," and you may get an invitation to see the local biodiesel factory.  But hurry -- more and more people are now driving the 2010 Green Car of the Year.

** I recently had a gasoline-powered A3 over for a sleepover. It was well-behaved and fit perfectly in my garage. **


  • Cool daytime running lights (& halogen headlights)
  • Great mileage (30 MPG city/42 MPG highway)
  • Easy to drive, easy to maintain
  • Clean diesel produces 30% fewer CO2 emissions than comparable gasoline-powered engine
  • Light sensor on dash adjusts heating & cooling system based on sun's intensity 
  • S line exterior with appropriate badging
  • Perfect for active families wanting a TDI

The Chevy Volt beat out the A3 as the 2011 Green Car of the Year from Green Car Journal, but you had to see that one coming. Clean diesel is still a good thing and worth exploring if you're looking for a "Green" car. Luckily, there aren't many differences between the 2010, 2011 and 2012 versions of the A3.

Audi A3 Dash with MMI Navigation
The A3 isn't huge, but it is comfortable and very safe. The 2012 A3 TDI boasts mileage of 30 city/42 highway and beat out hybrids and other diesels with these numbers. (The gasoline version of the A3 shows 21 MPG city & 30 MPG highway.) I call the tuning zippy, but not exactly sporty. The automatic shifts with a distinct power-lag, so it feels more like a manual that you don't have to manually shift. Which I realize is not a ringing endorsement, but I also know that Audi improves of these details year-over-year and I expect the next A3 I drive will have smoother transitions. But if I'm looking for a turbo-charged diesel that will give me power, cargo room, and safety, this is the one to see.

The A3 TDI is a 6-speed S tronic automatic with front-wheel drive. If you're looking for Audi's Quattro drive, you'll have to get the 2.0 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder gasoline engine with the S tronic automatic transmission. (The gasoline TFSI also comes in a 6-speed manual with front-wheel drive.) Audi's options and packages with the A3 can get confusing, but aren't as bad as other car makers. I suggest you make your wishlist and then visit the Audi website for your country and see what's available. (I'm looking at the Audi USA website & literature.)

I haven't driven any newer VW Jettas, but I'm guessing that the A3 is very similar in appointments to the Jetta. The A3 Premiums don't have the Audi MMI system, but do have easy to operate and comprehend controls. (The Premium Plus A3 gas & TDI have an option for the MMI Navigation system.) The visibility is good and the wagon isn't too high off the ground to necessitate a back-up camera. So even with these similarities to a Jetta TDI, the interior is nicer with just a bit more luxury and the A3 holds its value very well. I understand from the Audi dealer that both the TDI and gasoline versions of the A3 are in high demand and easy to sell used at higher prices.

Audi A3 Back Seat

The A3 is a good choice for couples and small families. There is enough room in the way back to keep dogs happy, or to transport groceries and strollers, or suitcases and golf bags. We just finished the soccer season here and I kept the fold-up chairs and soccer gear in the back of my car for 3 months, so I appreciate adequate cargo space that is easy to access. There are some limitations on how many kids you can transport at one time in the A3. Meaning you could have two car seats, two booster seats (or a combination of two), and one skinny kid in the middle seat, but three car seats won't work in the back. So if your carpool is on the small side you'll like the good mileage and easy size of the A3.
Audi A3 Rear Cargo Space

Everything in and on an Audi has a purpose -- no design is just for design's sake. On the A3 this functional design is seen on the side mirrors, the front grill and the daytime running lights. The exterior mirrors are specially shaped to deflect rain and snow from the side windows.  (Very thoughtful.) The grill is designed to function as grills should and look cool at the same time. As for those cool Audi running lights, the Audi designers recognized that they have potential to distract other drivers. So Audi programmed the turn signals to take precedence over the running lights. This means when the blinker is on, the zippy lights are off on just that side -- people will notice and will take your intentions more seriously. Or at least that's the idea. I sometimes find my fellow drivers are so distracted by talking, texting, shaving or applying makeup that I just give them the right-of-way for fear that they'll run into me when I stop at a traffic light.

<rant>What people do in their cars is a whole different post I'm writing in my head when I walk my daughter to school. To all those drivers who groom themselves in their cars:  If you're going to drive and use your Norelco at  same time, DON'T DRIVE IN A SCHOOL ZONE! Get up 15 minutes earlier and take care of your grooming at home. That also goes for women who apply mascara while driving. I hope that natural consequences will make people stop these stupid behaviors, but the Norelco won't cut your cheek. A mascara wand in the eye, however, can cause a serious injury.</rant>

The 2.0 TDI Premium I drove with the Cold Weather package, Bluetooth package, roof rails & rear side airbag options cost just over $33,000. The base TDI starts at $30,000 and the base gasoline TFSI starts at $27,240 with manual transmission. I'm a fan of turbocharged diesel engines, so I think this is a good entry-level diesel with a hint of luxury. 

** Find my A3 sleepover update here: http://mamascar.blogspot.com/2012/07/audi-a3-overnight.html 

My thanks to Alex Kludt at Audi Concord in Concord, CA for letting me take the A3 TDI for a drive.

Photos courtesy of Edmunds.com.  

(c) Copyright 2010-2016. Erika JN Fish. Car Mama. All Rights Reserved.

1 comment:

  1. I also haven't driven any new version of Volkswagen, but my cousin has. Have you seen the 2012 VW Beetle? I'm saving up for that car, a red one. It's a very lovable car, and it fits my small garage perfectly.