Audi A3

So here we are again, another year, another German manufacturer releasing its armada of seemingly seasonal cars. Today we have the 2011 Audi A3, an estate with all the pedigree and grunt you've come to expect from that legendary Audi brand. This time they've really decided to spoil us, by deciding to produce no less than five variants of the A3. 2011 is going to see the range expand with the addition of a further three A3's, the Shortback, the Slantback, and the Eco variants.

Being that there are seven models of the A3 series, I'll start off with the cheapest and most basic. The typical A3 (no tagline), offers a few cosmetic changes over the 2010 model and some inside technical tweaks, but keeps the vast majority untouched in favour of the quote, "if it isn't broke, don't fix it". The new A3 will be the first VW Group product based on the new modular transverse components set which Audi call Modularer Querbaukasten(MQB), essentially a time and money saving regulation standard reminiscent of the old Citroen ZX build system. Audi will be producing their cars using the same components across the entire range, meaning there's no need for loads of fiddly parts that only fit certain models. Being that they are increasing the A3's line-up it makes sense for Audi to move to a modular production line as it should lower the overall production fees and make for a speedier build time across all models.

The above model comes at a generous price, being only 16,420. For that you get an unchanged 1.6 litre manual engine and 101bhp, basically identical to last year's entry level A3. For 125 more you could opt for the 1.2 TFSI package if you wanted that bit more quality and an extra 3bhp. Most tweaks come in the form of exterior cosmetic changes, such as a single-frame grille element, B-pillar trim, reshaped side mirrors and chrome strips on the door handles. There is also now a diffuser inserted at the rear which should help perfect the already admirable handling. Inside we get the usual array of Audi goodness, such as luxury material inlays and a selection of door trims. Split folding rear seats are also included for that all important estate roominess and a handy gear shift indicator can be added to save you money on unneeded revs. The overall enhancements may not seem much, but we have to remember that the A3 was already a pretty solid contender and any minor improvements are only a positive to what was already a good car.

Looking at the other models it seems Audi are slowly trying to advance into every area of the market. Those looking for more of a racing feel will want to get their hands on the Sportback version, with its shorter styling and lower roofline giving it that racing aroma. It sits closer to the road and gets the perk of being carefully tuned for more oomph. Then they have the Shortback, which is the shorter, sleeker version of the A3. Sharing much in common with a regular hatchback, it's the half way point between hatchback and estate. Even if neither of them takes your fancy you still have the saloon styling of the Slantback, the convertible nature of the Cabriolet, and the Eco version of the Sportback. Phew, now that's a lot of choice.