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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
The 2.0T engine lags in low-speed power delivery, then supplies it with a rush.
The steering is precise, though, and the brakes have a reassuringly solid and direct feel.
The A3’s responses are as eager and precise
Car and Driver
the little oil burner has the power to pull you through corners with some gusto
the TDI actually feels much quicker in real world driving, because of the wealth of torque on tap at low engine speeds -- as low as 1750 rpm
There are two different engines to choose from when buying the 2012 Audi A3, one of them diesel. Both are 2.0-liter four-cylinder units that are turbocharged, however, the diesel is the much more fuel efficient option.
The base unit is the gasoline one. It’s rated at 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque, and will accelerate the A3 from 0-60 mph in 7.1 seconds with the standard six-speed manual transmission. Opt for the six-speed dual-clutch gearbox, or “S tronic” in Audi-speak, and you’ll see that acceleration figure drop to 6.9 seconds. For even faster acceleration you’ll need to opt for the quattro all-wheel drive, which together with the S tronic gearbox will see your 0-60 times drop to a brief 6.7 seconds.
The TDI turbodiesel is the slower option but with the 0-60 time taking less than 9 seconds it’s still faster than some rivals. Where the TDI really shines is its strong torque, which peaks at 236 pound-feet at just 1,750 rpm. This translates into strong off-the-line performance, which counts more in the real world. Note, the diesel is only offered with the S tronic gearbox.
The S tronic is worth a mention on its own. It can be fully automatic or manually-operated and it’s more fuel efficient than a conventional manual. It also shifts very quickly and decisively.
The Audi A3 driving experience is a joy in most respects: light, direct, and refined. Audi's magnetic ride system is available on the A3. The adaptive-action shock absorber control system uses voltage to electrify a magneto-rheological fluid in the shocks to change their response within milliseconds, allowing the suspension to quickly change character from soft to firm, depending on driving or road conditions.
You have the choice between Normal and Sport programs, which can be toggled with the flip of a switch. The electric power steering system doesn't wind and unwind quite like a traditional hydraulic system would, though it provides the A3 with good maneuverability and a combination of crisp response at low speed and good stability on the highway.
Whether you get it as in gas or TDI diesel form, the 2012 Audi A3 is a remarkably well-rounded—if not immensely thrilling—performer.