Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2014 Review
Ewan Kennedy road tests and reviews the 2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
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Being first isn’t always best but the move is likely to pay off for Audi as it sets the pace in the prestige compact sedan. The A3 might lack the dynamics of a BMW or Mercedes-Benz - and that’s yet to be established, given its rivals haven’t hit the streets yet - but Audi research shows premium compact sedan buyers invest in style and brand.
The A3 sedan backs that up with build quality and on-road manners to tempt potential owners behind the wheel and keep them there.
A $3000 premium over the comparable A3 Sportback models adds a 425-litre boot and a similarly large lift in style. Local prices haven’t been finalised - the cars won’t land here until January or February - but expect prices to start around $38,600 for the 1.4-litre petrol that will be sold in Attraction specification, rising to $45,600 for the 1.8-litre petrol and 2.0-litre turbodiesel in the higher Ambition spec.
The dual-clutch S-tronic transmission is the default option, with six or seven gears; a six-speed manual is a no-cost special order. Sitting behind the wheel, the car feels more expensive and expansive than the price suggests, to the point potential A4 buyers may decide they can do with marginally less space. Standard gear is fairly basic at this level but Audi has bundled its best features in a variety of packages that cost from $2000-$3000.
Cylinder deactivation flows to the compact class in the base 1.4-litre petrol launch engine (the same size engine without deactivation will arrive next year). It’s a clever approach that uses camshaft sleeves with two different profiles.
When the engine is under low load and running at 1000-4000rpm, the sleeve rotates to avoid activating the valves on two cylinders Audi says it trims fuel use by 0.4 litres/100km and shut down is all but imperceptible, with a tiny jolt when the driver accelerates and the cylinders kick back in.
Weight savings are evident across the range and in every area of the car, from an aluminium bonnet to the alloy crank. Audi continues to turbocharge all engines to satisfy power/economy targets to the point even the 1.4 is capable of axle tramp on a wet road yet officially uses just 4.7 litres/100km.
Audi has gotten kinky and it transforms the A3 sedan into the edgiest-looking sedan in its range. The sharp crease-lines typical of the brand now extend into three dimensions - the shoulder and character lines aren’t creases so much as extruded edges and it gives the profile a genuinely sporty look.
Flared guards with a recessed rim enhance the effect. The back is just as distinctive - identifiably Audi but with more character than other models. The VW Group’s MQB chassis let the engineers trim the front and rear overhangs and the body is wider and lower than the five-door A3 Sportback.
The interior is at least a match for the quality seen in the larger, more expensive, and supposedly more luxurious A4 sedan. All surfaces are soft touch or hi-gloss contrast inserts and the tactility of the switchgear, from the vents to the electronic park brake is as good as you’ll find in any vehicle.
The seats are supportive and a pair of 180cm adults can sit in the front or back, though the centre rear seat doubles as the ski port, so it is hard on the back and will be uncomfortable after more than a couple of blocks.
The A3 is a five-star car and the sedan is a step up on the Sportback. Gas-charged struts pop the bonnet to counter ANCAP noting the already-released Sportback poses a potential risk to passengers. Seven airbags are standard, though buyers will pay around $1990 for the advanced safety systems such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure and blind spot warnings.
A reversing camera isn’t standard - it is paired with the MMI Navigation Plus package that extends the pop-up infotainment screen from 5.8-inches to 7-inches and adds satnav and auto-parking software. The package is expected to match the $2990 cost on the Sportback.
A patchwork of repaired potholes and distinct wheel track ruts make the Hungarian back-roads close to Australian country conditions and the compact sedan shines. The ride is expectedly firmer than Asian cars without being harsh and will only be improved when Audi releases its optional magnetic dampers soon after the car’s local launch.
It handles like a small car but rides like a mid-sized sedan and even in the back seat there is little perception of body roll or pitching. Wind noise is subdued but Carsguide suspects the optional low-profile 19-inch rubber fitted to the 1.8-litre petrol car will generate some tyre noise on our coarse-chip bitumen.
The steering is light and direct but lacks the feedback of its German rivals, so cornering is based on visual rather than visceral stimulation. The 221kW S3 sedan should arrive in March to satisfy four-ringed fans who want more driving dynamics. A quattro system for the regular 1.8 model will be available at launch for those who want to take advantage of the ski port in the rear seat with trips to the snowfields.
Audi needs something special to take on the Mercedes-Benz CLA and the still gestating BMW 1 Series sedan. The A3 is that car - at least for those who want a premium sedan that performs but aren’t too bothered about buying a pseudo sports car.
Audi A3 sedan
Price: from $38,600 (est)
Warranty: Three years/unlimited km
Capped servicing: No
Service intervals: 12 months/15,000km
Safety rating: 5 stars
Engines: 1.4-litre turbo 4-cylinder, 103kW/250Nm; 1.8-litre turbo 4-cylinder, 132kW/250Nm; 2.0-litre turbodiesel 4-cylinder; 110kW/320Nm
Transmissions: 6-speed manual, 7-speed dual-clutch auto, FWD
Dimensions: 4.46m (L), 1.8m (W), 1.42m (H)
Thirst: 4.7L/100km, 109g/km CO2 (1.4), 5.6L/100km, 129g/km CO2 (1.8), 4.1L/100km, 107/km CO2 (2.0)
|1.8 TFSI Attraction||1.8L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$18,480 – 23,430||2013 Audi A3 2013 1.8 TFSI Attraction Pricing and Specs|
|2.0 TFSI Ambition||2.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$23,540 – 29,040||2013 Audi A3 2013 2.0 TFSI Ambition Pricing and Specs|
|S/BACK 1.4 TFSI ATTRACTION COD||1.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$14,300 – 18,810||2013 Audi A3 2013 S/BACK 1.4 TFSI ATTRACTION COD Pricing and Specs|
|Sb 1.8 TFSI Quattro Ambition||1.8L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$22,990 – 24,990||2013 Audi A3 2013 Sb 1.8 TFSI Quattro Ambition Pricing and Specs|