Due to low sulfur diesel at filling stations and more advanced emissions controls, diesel cars are making a small comeback in the U.S. Volkswagen, which owns Audi, is a major proponent of diesel cars, and won the Green Car of the Year award at the Los Angeles Auto Show with the A3 TDI.
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The Audi A3 is a small wagon, and the bottom of the Audi model lineup in the U.S. Audi offers it in gasoline and diesel variants.
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The A3 TDI maintains consistent Audi design language, with a grille that spans the bumper and LED parking lights around the headlamps.
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The turbocharged 2-liter, four-cylinder diesel engine is also used in the Volkswagen Jetta TDI, which previously won the Green Car of the Year award. Its EPA mileage is 30 mpg city and 42 mpg highway. We saw an average economy of 38.5 mpg.
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People more than 6 feet tall may feel a bit cramped in the A3's cabin. But with four doors and a hatchback, the body design is very practical.
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The A3 TDI's suspension is a little stiff, but that makes it handle well, especially when pushed hard in the corners.
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As Audi is a premium brand, the cabin shows quality workmanship and materials. However, cheaper touches, such as plastic rings around vents, lessen the impact.
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The A3's suspension and steering are tight, geared toward a sports car feel.
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As in other Audis, the center display on the instrument cluster shows trip, navigation, and audio information.
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The only transmission available with the Audi A3 TDI is the S-tronic dual-clutch automated manual. We found some issues with it making clunky shifts while driving in Sport mode at slow speeds.
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Although DVD-based, the navigation system's maps show very good resolution.
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The navigation system shows traffic information, but it does not dynamically route around bad traffic.
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We like the Bluetooth phone system in the A3 TDI. It automatically imports a phone's contact list, making it available onscreen.
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The LCD folds down, revealing slots for SD cards and the map DVD.
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The SD card interface for MP3 playback is limited, merely showing folders and files.
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iPod integration is more full-featured, indexing music by album, artist, and genre.