THE family hatchback comes in many guises. It started more than 40 years ago as a relatively simple run-around with a focus on convenience – exemplified by the tailgate rather than a boot lid.
But what began as pretty much a bread-and-butter offering can now be had in various flavours, depending on your taste.
The menu includes sizzling performance and some fine fare, with the emphasis on luxury.
My latest hatchback drive was a sophisticated and ever-so satisfying serving, in the shape of an Audi A3 S-line.
The A3 has always been something of a looker and the latest iteration’s new honeycomb grille makes a strong first impression, along with larger headlights and dramatic new front air inlets. You’ll also notice a lower, athletic stance. Slightly flared wheel arches for the 18in five-spoke alloys and rear roof spoiler complete the sporty new design.
And there’s a lot that’s new inside, including the optional ambient lighting pack which was fitted to our car. The subtle lighting illuminates the contours of cabin and doors, with five pre-set profiles for each of the selectable driving modes and a choice of 30 colours. The dash, meanwhile, is more focused on the driver – with a 10.1in touch-screen and new-look air vents.
Audi’s ‘virtual cockpit’ digital instrument display comes as standard and shows all your driving information on that crisply-imaged screen, with various layouts to select from.
The cabin is a welcoming place to be – all the surfaces are pleasing to the eye and pleasantly tactile, while the dashboard controls tick the ergonomics box.
The S-line monicker signifies a large helping of kit, with features including parking sensors, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, three-stage heated, leather-upholstered front sport seats with ‘S’ embossing, rear privacy glass, LED headlights with LED rear lights, and ‘dynamic’ rear indicators which have a fluid, sweeping motion.
Practicality? An adjustable boot floor comes as standard and can be raised to reduce the load lip at the boot’s entrance.
The driving experience is rewarding. The 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, 148bhp, 35 TFSI petrol engine is gutsy throughout the rev range. With plenty of low-down torque, the motor pulls handsomely from low speeds, the power channelled via a slick six-speed manual gearbox.
Performance figures are 0-60mph in 8.4 seconds and a top speed of 139mph, while returning 45.6mpg on the combined cycle and 141g/km CO2 emissions (manufacturer’s data).
The S-line has stiffer sports suspension as standard, although the ride can be adjusted to ‘regular’ at the push of a button, while the handling feels taut and responsive.
The German marque is a byword for quality, and my week with the five-door hatchback brought home the feel-good factor delivered by a blend of satisfying driveability, well thought-out design and top engineering.
Price: £30,830 (inc options)