THE esteemed Mr Boris Johnson has helped put the cat among the automotive pigeons.The London mayor has announced an ultra-low emission zone for the centre of the capital from 2020. Other cities are planning their own schemes and after May’s general election the tax regime for cars is likely to change, further penalising diesel drivers.
That the fuel is now an environmental bad-boy might come as a surprise to the legion of motorists who have converted from petrol to diesel in pursuit of economy, efficiency and environmental benefits. But I reckon I have been at the wheel of one answer to this confusing business. Audi make some superb diesel engines – long may that remain so – and they also have a pearl of a petrol unit in the 1.4 TFSI. It is one of a new generation of smaller-capacity petrol engines that deliver excellent economy while packing lots of punch. Silky-smooth and responsive, it has cylinder-on-demand technology, which imperceptibly cuts from four pots to two when circumstances allow, saving fuel and cutting emissions while delivering a lusty 150bhp.
It is one of five redesigned engines available for the Audi A3 Saloon, a four-door, booted sibling of the big-selling A3 Sportback hatch. Audi’s entry into the modern compact saloon class is wider and longer than the latter car and offers more load space. The car does not have a single metal panel in common with
the A3 and the A3 Sportback – even the low bonnet has been redesigned. In structural terms, the Saloon lies between a classic hatchback design and
that of a convertible.
Its curved roof slopes elegantly toward the rear and merges seamlessly with the shoulder line, and a compact boot lid ends in a pronounced arc that serves
as a contour edge and spoiler lip. The tail end is typical of Audi, with a seamless transition from the bumper to the number plate. Twin exhaust tailpipes are encircled by a diffuser insert, and the vehicle’s width is further underscored by large and flat tail-lights that taper inward to a point.
So, the car looks dynamic, but subtle and sophisticated … a Saville Row suit of a motor.
Goodies on the Flush Magazine test car, a 1.4 TFSI CoD Sport S-tronic, included heated front seats (in gorgeous grey leather), electrically adjustable, heated and automatically folding door mirrors with an auto kerb view dipping function on the passenger side to aid parking, posh info system that pops up out of the dashboard (combined with sat nav), and light and rain sensor package.The interior is a winning combination of high-quality materials and thoughtful, immediately-coherent design, with three-dimensional decorative inlays providing a highlight.
The driving experience is rewarding, for the car is nimble and lively, with a seven-speed dual clutch auto gearbox offering seamless changes. The steering is well weighted and the brakes feel balanced and decisive.The A3 Saloon typifies the German company’s blend of advanced technology, handsome style and top-quality fit and finish. And the 1.4 TFSI engine (and its ilk) may be the way forward for those who wish to avoid diesel power.
But this fuel race has a long distance to run … so don’t worry next time you pick up that filling station nozzle with the black cap.
Make/model: Audi A3 Saloon 1.4 TFSI Sport
TECHNICAL: 1395cc four-cylinder petrol engine with 7-speed dual clutch transmission;
PERFORMANCE: 0-62mph, 8.4 seconds, top speed, 134mph
FUEL: 60mpg (combined);
EMISSIONS: 109g/kg Co2.
Price: £30,090 OTR, inc options.