These days, it seems that car makers only need add a set of alloy wheels and a subtle bodykit to justify badging a new model ‘Sport’.
Take Audi’s revised A3 Sportback for example. With five doors and a more practical body than the three-door version, the family-oriented machine appears anything but sporty.
However, in Audi’s defence, this car is not quite as simple as a five-door A3. It’s more than that – 54mm more, in fact. That’s the extra length the Sportback adds to the three-door, all of it dedicated to rear legroom and boot space.
So there’s plenty of room, but you can’t help but wish for a little more aesthetic appeal from a premium car with a large price tag – our model, the 2.0T FSI S line quattro, came loaded with options that would take the cost up to £33,000! From all angles, the Sportback has the look of a shrunken A4 estate, even in top-spec trim.
The 2008 updates, which include reshaped bumpers front and rear, plus redesigned lights with daytime-running LEDs, further emphasise the family appearance.
Inside, it’s a similar story, but what the A3 lacks in outright visual flair, it more than makes up for in quality. Not many cars feel as solid in any class.
However, the highlight is undoubtedly the turbocharged 2.0-litre engine. It’s the same unit that’s found in the Volkswagen Golf GTI, and the 197bhp motor has a deep-chested bellow from 2,000rpm to the red line.
The engine is mated to the six-speed S tronic dual-clutch gearbox, which snaps between ratios without hesitation, and the A3 gives you a genuine thump in the back. The driving experience is less impressive, though. Where the GTI feels nimble and fluid from corner-to-corner, the A3 suffers from woolly steering and a slightly harsh ride. There’s plenty of grip thanks to quattro four-wheel drive, but the Sportback lacks the VW’s sparkle – and it costs a lot more, too.