Latest Business Car Manager News: Audi A3 Sportback 1.8 TFSi road test – treat themselves to a proper pocket rocket

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With a longer wheel base, the new Audi A3 Sportback is very different from it's five-door version. Business Car Manager has released a new review on Audi's latest.

The 1.8 TFSI is the quickest in the range until the S3 shows up - but that's not until the autumn of 2013. Pictures show the quattro version which will follow the 2WD next spring

THE Audi A3 Sportback is more than just a five-door version of the A3. For the first time it’s actually got a longer wheelbase than the three-door and, as a result, there’s more space in the back seats and a slightly larger boot.

Until the Audi S3 Sportback arrives in autumn 2013 this 1.8 TFSI is the most powerful Sportback they can buy. It’s powered by a 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol engine with 180PS and can accelerate from 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds and still delivers over 50mpg.

Breathless? They should be.

They are driving it here with front-wheel drive and a seven-speed S-Tronic double-clutch gearbox, but a quattro four-wheel drive version arrives in May 2013. With a P11D value of just under £25k it’s one of the most expensive Audi A3 Sportbacks they can buy too, but for the money the business car buyer is getting a genuine pocket rocket that makes an interesting alternative to more expensive saloons.

Given its performance, CO2 emissions are the highest in the Audi A3 Sportback range. But that’s only relative. At 130g/km company car tax is a middling 17%. That’s around £160 a month for a 40% tax payer so business owners attracted to this top line version might find it more fiscally attractive to own one privately and then claim for business mileage using the 45p per mile AMAP rate.

What’s hot?

•The Sportback is a whole lot more practical than the three-door. They really can comfortably fit four six-footers in the cabin comfortably. So it’s ideal for business.
•And the boot is slightly bigger, too, with an additional 30 litres of room.
•This isn’t the company car pick of the range but it is the most fun. They get hot-hatch performance from the 180PS engine, with 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds.
•It’s extremely capable on twisty roads, too. There’s so much grip and the body stays almost completely flat, allowing the Sportback to feel light on its feet.
•And despite all that performance, it actually only emits 130g/km and fuel economy stands at 50.4mpg. As a result road tax and pence-per-mile costs are surprisingly low.
•The A3’s cabin is fantastic, too. Build quality and material quality are both top-notch, and they will struggle to find anything you can criticise.
•The driving experience is extremely grown-up, with impeccable refinement and a comfortable ride. If long motorway journeys are a regular occurrence, then the Audi A3 Sportback is the perfect companion.

What’s not

•One of the major problems the 1.8 TFSI faces is the 2.0 TDI with 184PS that arrives later next spring. It feels even quicker in gear. It’s also capable of 64.2mpg and is almost just as refined as the petrol engine.
•And although the Sportback has huge amounts of grip it’s not as much fun from behind the wheel as you might expect. The steering feels a bit too numb for them to get really in to the driving experience.

The Audi A3 Sportback is a fantastic all-rounder, and this 1.8 TFSI model is undoubtedly the best-handling and fastest model currently in the range. It’s still spacious and refined enough to take four tall adults on a long motorway journey, too.

This is where the new A3 trumps the old car. Because of the longer wheelbase there’s much more room for passengers and luggage.

The problem is, this isn’t the A3 Sportback we’d necessarily recommend. The 2.0 TDI with 184PS feels marginally faster and just as capable in the bends but they suspect it will be cheaper to run. But they will have to wait a little longer to get their hands on one.

And if they really fancy a sporty five-door hatch, the BMW 1 Series is more involving and fun to drive. The drawback there, though, is that the 1 Series is more cramped in the back seats and in the boot – so less useful for all-round business life. Pick whichever suits their personality better.

For those who like the A3 but want something that’s more cost-effective as a company car, they should read our business car review of the 1.6 diesel.

The 2.0 TDI 184PS variant of the A3 Sportback and all quattro models don’t reach the UK until May 2013. Other versions of the Sportback will be on our roads in March.

Audi A3 Sportback 1.8 TFSI Sport 180PS S Tronic - the low down

P11D Value £24,975
Monthly business rental (ex VAT) From £n/a a month (3yrs/30,000 miles)
Company car tax bands 2012/13 to 2014/15    17%, 18%, 19%
BIK tax £4,246, £4,496, £4,745
Engine 1.8-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
CO2    130 g/km
Power/torque 180PS/ 280Nm
0-62mph    7.3 seconds/ 144mph
Economy    50.4 mpg

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Conrad Swailes
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