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IT'S THREE AND EASY; Nip and tuck makes Audi's A3 the one to beat again.

Byline: By BRUCE BOOTH

NOBODY can argue that when it comes to overall product quality, those clever folk at Audi make it a pretty difficult act for others to try to match.

From the entry-level three-door A3 right through to the R8 wondercar, the quality is there for all to see.

At the end of last year, the A3 went under the scalpel for a bit of anip and tuck and the result means the new model is now more streamlined.

The front end sees a revised radiator grille set inside the single chrome frame, while a redesign has also been reserved for the bumper and air intakes.

Changes have also been made to the rear light clusters and rear bumper, while the overall length has been slightly stretched.

There are eight engine choices for the A3, and I was surprised at how well the 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol unit performed.

This four-cylinder, double-overhead cam, direct injection engine delivers a more-than-respectable 124bhp while pulling 200Nm from 1500 to 4000 revs. This means the little A3 can accelerate from standing to 62mph in just 9.4seconds while its top speed is 126mph.

But the real beauty of the 1390cc power unit is that it is the cleanest petrol engine in Audi's range, with emissions reduced to 137g/km when coupled to a seven-speed S tronic auto box and 143g/km when matched with the more common six-speed manual gearbox.

The three-door A3 offers plenty of space for driver and front passenger, while up to three adults can travel in comfort in the rear. With 350 litres of space with the split/folding rear bench seat in place, or 1080 litres with the seat backs folded, the A3 offers a decent boot.

Those unfamiliar with the Audi marque will be taken by the car's stiff but not uncomfortable ride.

Around town, the A3 proves a well-behaved hatchback, while with little wind or tyre noise, those long-distance trips are a joy.

But it's on the more demanding Broads where the A3 comes into its own. There is masses of grip through the front-wheel-drive system which is coupled with a host of electronic gadgets that come as standard.

Audis don't come cheap, but you get a lot of car for your money. Not the cheapest in the range, the 1.4-litre TFSI in SE specification starts at pounds 16,195.

Included in the package are six-spoke alloy wheels, four-spoke leather multi-function steering wheel, driver's information system, manual air conditioning, electric front windows, CD sound system and heated door mirrors.

Safety features include Audi's electronic stability programme which boasts anti-lock brakes and electronic brake-force distribution, driver, passenger and side airbags, central locking, alarm and immobiliser.

AUDI A3 1.4TFSI SE

PRICE: pounds 16,195.

DRIVETRAIN: 1390cc petrol engine, driving front wheels through six-speed manual gearbox.

TOP SPEED: 126ph.

0-62MPH: 9.4 seconds.

FUEL CONSUMPTION: Combined 47.9mpg.

WARRANTY: Three years/60,000 miles.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 4, 2009
Words:488
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