2011 Audi A3 TDI
2011 Audi A3 TDI. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Haney Louka

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2011 Audi A3

About a year ago I had the opportunity to drive a Lexus HS 250h hybrid through a Winnipeg winter to find out how its frugal fuel consumption ratings stood up in frigid conditions. After that test, I found that, depending on the temperature, my city-cycle fuel consumption ranged from 7.5 to 9.5 L/100 km. That’s a far cry from its official consumption city/highway ratings of 5.6 and 5.9 respectively, but not far off of what I expected. And all the while, I wondered how that other alternative – the “D” word – would fare under similar conditions.

It’s not only because I thought the diesel would outperform the hybrid in terms of real-world fuel economy – although that is what I was hoping to find – but because efficiency-oriented hybrids are synonymous with a dull driving experience. From where I’m sitting, though, I don’t see why one should be forced to betray their passion for driving in the name of making environmentally sound decisions.

Modern diesel powertrains tend to better preserve the joy of driving while at the same time moving forward in their quest to provide a more frugal alternative to good ol’ regular unleaded.

2011 Audi A3 TDI
2011 Audi A3 TDI. Click image to enlarge

So, for this past frigid season from which we are currently recovering, I contacted Audi Canada and requested a long-term test of an Audi A3 TDI. TDI, for those not familiar with the Audi/VW nomenclature, stands for turbocharged direct injection. While the company does produce gasoline engines that fit that description, the TDI name is used exclusively on their diesel offerings.

While the Lexus HS has a price range of $40 to 50K, the littlest Audi starts at $35,300 and tops out with my $41,800 tester, so there’s certainly some value in the Audi’s favour when talking about initial outlay. Since last year, though, Lexus has released its fresh new hybrid CT 200h which by all accounts has the A3 sharply focused in its crosshairs. The CT, like the A3, is a hatch with four doors and it undercuts the Audi’s price-tag, making it much more competitive in this regard than the HS. I sense another winter test on the horizon.

As I write this, one litre of diesel fuel costs about $1.18, while a litre of regular unleaded will set you back about $1.22. And while that’s consistent with traditional Manitoba fuel price differences, the price of diesel has spiked up above that of regular for short periods of time. But using today’s prices, a 50-litre diesel fill will save you two bucks compared with regular unleaded.

2011 Audi A3 TDI
2011 Audi A3 TDI. Click image to enlarge

That’s assuming equal fuel consumption, an assumption I had hoped I could put to the test this past winter. Press vehicle supply issues prevented me from getting the car during the coldest part of our winter, but I was able to take delivery of a brand-new A3 near the end of March and drive it for a month of near-winter conditions. Earlier on in the test, overnight temperatures dipped into the minus-18 Celsius range and I left the car out on my driveway without plugging it in.

Our tester was the A3 TDI Premium with the S line sport package. Standard on the TDI are 17-inch alloys, dual zone climate control, auxiliary electric air heater, heated leather seats, a six-speed dual-clutch automatic, and fuel consumption ratings of 6.7 L/100 km in the city and 4.6 on the highway.

It should be noted that the TDI is not available with a manual transmission or quattro all-wheel drive.

The $2,700 premium package brings with it Bluetooth phone preparation, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, metallic interior trim, power driver’s seat, and a panoramic sunroof. Ticking the $2,900 S line option adds 18-inch wheels, sport seats, a firmer suspension, three-spoke steering wheel with shift paddles, and S line-specific trim. A further $900 gets bi-xenon headlights.

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