In The City — 11 July 2014
The Audi A3: a big push toward small luxury

By Eric Barton

The line of cars dropping off kids at Harbordale Elementary in Fort Lauderdale snakes around the block. There are certainly lots of minivans and SUVS, all as shapely as a Lego brick.

But there are plenty of sedans mixed in too, maybe far more than there used to be. There are even two-doors and convertibles and sports cars that say, yeah, this middle-aged parent still knows how to joyride.

The newest of all these sedans is the one I’m driving, the entirely re-done Audi A3. It’s no longer a hatchback but a small four-door that’s not much bigger than the Civic driven by that kid down the street.

Carmakers seem to think that this, the small-ish sedan, is what Americans of the Future will want. The theory goes that we’ve become more conscious of gas prices and no longer want our SUVs to gulp away the last of our fossil fuels. Consider that Cadillac, BMW and Mercedes all have entirely brand new small sedans they’re trying to sell you.

The Audi certainly isn’t the most eye-catching of them. Nobody in the Harbordale line even seemed to notice one of the newest cars on the market was among them. Thing is, the curves of the A3 look so similar to the A4, and, really, every other Audi, that it takes a car nerd to tell them apart.

That’s not to say it’s not a beautiful vehicle. The A3 is defined by sharp creases that streak in two directions across its hood, and then double-time down the doors. The lines make it look in motion, constantly fast, even when stuck in a school drop-off line.

It’s also a whole lot of fun to drive. Our tester had the base 1.8-liter engine, but it would be hard to find a place in South Florida where it didn’t provide the thing with enough power. It fights its way onto Interstate 95 just fine.

Like most of the cars in this entry-level luxury segment, the Audi boasts a cost under $30,000, which is good news for those who don’t care about the toys. Our tester had do-it-yourself AC controls and a manually adjusted passenger seat, complete with a wheel that controls up and down.

Spring for the next step up, an upgrade of about six grand, and you get dual-climate control, all-wheel drive, a bigger engine, and, mercifully, a passenger seat adjusted by electricity.

Looking into the other vehicles in the Harbordale line, it’s hard to imagine those musical instrument cases and car seats and playpens fitting in the back of the A3. It’s small enough that elbows will bump on the front armrest. But it’s also a car sporty enough and beautiful enough that it just might convince a few Harbordale parents to trade in the Lego block for a little sports sedan.

Audi Coral Springs, 5555 N State Road 7, Coral Springs, 866-387-8080; Audi Pembroke Pines, 15000 Sheridan St., Pembroke Pines, 954-620-2000; Prestige Audi, 14780 Biscayne Blvd., North Miami, 305-947-1000.


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