The 2015 Kia Soul EV is Kia’s first all-electric car. While it’s primarily what’s called a “compliance car” – built to comply with California’s zero emissions requirements –  it’s a credible entry into the growing electric vehicle market that has been dominated by the Tesla Model S and the Nissan Leaf.

2015 Kia Soul EV +

2015 Kia Soul EV +

2015 Kia Soul EV's electric motor. It's a front drive unit like the gasoline-powered Soul.

2015 Kia Soul EV’s electric motor. It’s a front drive unit like the gasoline-powered Soul.

As you can see from the this cutaway, the battery of the Soul EV lays flat on the floor of the car. Like in the Tesla Model S, the battery’s floor pan location lowers the center of gravity which enhances handling and nearly eliminates any battery intrusion into the passenger and cargo areas. Rear passenger leg room loses 3.1 inches, but cargo space is unchanged from the gas model.  It makes for a very handy little electric SUV.

2015 Kia Soul EV cutaway

 

Here’s Kia’s press release for the Soul EV:

2015 SOUL EV OVERVIEW

Fun-and-Funky Goes Green: Soul EV Arrives as Kia’s First All-Electric Vehicle in the U.S.

  • Eco-friendly Soul EV positions brand as a true stakeholder in the growing green segment
  • The impressive 27kWh lithium battery delivers EPA estimated 93 miles of range1
  • Soul EV achieves EPA MPGe1 of 92 miles highway and 120 miles city for a combined mileage rating of 105 miles

IRVINE, Calif., September 11, 2014 – As the centerpiece of the Kia’s ‘Clean Mobility’ efforts, the Soul EV is the embodiment of the brand’s environmentally focused mission, transforming the hip urban crossover into Kia’s first mass-market, all-electric zero emissions vehicle to be sold in the U.S. Combining the iconic design of the Soul with advanced eco-friendly technology has landed the Soul EV in a class all its own. Honored with an industry-first automotive environmental validation by Underwriters Laboratory (UL)2 for its innovative use of bio-based materials, the Soul EV also earned an EPA estimated range rating of 93 miles with an MPGe of 92 miles highway and 120 miles city for a combined mileage of 105 miles….

The Soul EV conveniently features two standard charging ports, a SAE J1772 port for Level 1 and Level 2 AC charging, and a CHAdeMo DC fast-charging port (480v). It can be charged to 80 percent in as little as 33 minutes with a 50 Kw–output fast charger (five hours using a 240v outlet).  Set to launch initially in the ultra-EV-friendly state of California, the lively crossover will go on sale in additional select markets in 2015.

High Energy Density Battery and Usable Power
A top concern for EV buyers has commonly been range anxiety.  The Soul EV addresses this issue with a highly energy-dense lithium-ion polymer battery.  Located beneath the floor, the 27kWh, air-cooled, 200 watt-hour/kg battery enables an EPA estimated range of 93 miles, which is better than all other EVs on the market except the Tesla Model S luxury EV.

The 360-volt, 192-cell, lithium-ion polymer, gel-electrolyte battery has been engineered for high capacity, thermal stability and safety.  Accordingly, the battery features a nickel-cobalt-manganese cathode, which helps increase capacity, and a carbon graphite-based anode, which increases durability while reducing weight.

In an effort to maximize efficiency and range, the Soul EV uses Kia’s third-generation regenerative braking system to capture up to 12 percent of the car’s kinetic energy, which is fed back into the battery while the Soul EV is coasting and braking.  Soul EV owners can choose between four drive mode combinations: “Drive” or “Brake” modes in Eco-mode “Off,” and “Drive” or “Brake” modes in Eco-mode “On” (the “Brake” or “B” setting with Eco-mode “On” producing the most regeneration).

The Soul EV makes charging easy by plugging into any standard 120v outlet or a conventional 240v EV charger.  Two charging ports are standard, including a SAE J1772 port for Level 1 and Level 2 AC, and a CHAdeMo DC fast-charging port (480v).  Found behind a sliding door located in the front grille, the dual ports offer flexibility and increase the Soul EV’s go-anywhere appeal, making it more convenient to charge inside the owner’s garage or when on the road.  Recharging times vary from 24 hours for a fully depleted battery using a standard 120v outlet and under five hours when plugged into a 240v outlet.  An 80-percent charge can be achieved from empty in as little as 33 minutes with a 50 kW-output DC fast charger.  Kia has partnered with three charger providers – Bosch, Leviton and AeroVironment™ – which give Soul EV buyers an opportunity to select the unit best suited to their in-home needs. 

Additionally, the 17 Kia retailers participating in the first wave of the Soul EV launch each will be equipped with multiple Level 2 chargers and a DC fast charger, bringing California’s DC fast charging network total to 215, a nearly nine percent increase statewide.  KMA’s EV charging infrastructure plan provides Soul EV buyers with broad coverage, flexibility and excellent support, and Kia’s networking partnership with Greenlots will connect customers to DC fast chargers in convenient locations throughout California.

The front-wheel drive Soul EV is powered by a 109-hp (81.4kW) electric motor, producing a generous 210 lb.-ft. of instantaneous torque.  The liquid-cooled AC synchronous permanent magnet motor uses multi-layer magnets to help improve efficiency and reduce the whine common to most electric vehicles.  The motor delivers its power to the front wheels through a single-speed constant-ratio gear reduction unit.  Acceleration from 0-60 mph is expected to take fewer than 12 seconds with top speed electronically limited to approximately 90 mph. The battery’s location beneath the floor results in a lower center of gravity, which helps ride and handling and ensures that the EV remains true to the Soul’s fun-to-drive reputation.  Additional cross bracing beneath the low-mounted battery contributes to a 5.9 percent improvement in torsional rigidity over the gasoline-powered Soul and offers protection to the battery.

Improved aerodynamics and the absence of engine noise, combined with special sound-proofing materials, result in an exceptionally quiet ride.  For the benefit of pedestrian safety, the Soul EV is equipped with a Pedestrian Warning System (PWS) that emits an auditory alert at speeds below 12 mph and whenever the car is in reverse.

Minimal Battery Intrusion
The Soul EV offers plenty of space inside the cabin thanks to minimal battery intrusion.  Because of the battery’s flat design and location beneath the floor, there is only a slight 3.1-inch reduction to rear seat leg room (from 39.1 to 36 inches) versus the non-EV Soul, yet Soul EV still offers more rear seat leg room than other key EV competitors.  Rear shoulder and hip room remain unchanged from the gasoline-powered Soul, making Soul EV one of the roomiest in the segment.  Rear cargo space of 18.8 cu.-ft. (with rear seats up) is also unchanged from the internal combustion engine Soul, and the under-cargo tray provides convenient storage for the standard 120v portable charger.

Uniquely Designed Inside and Out
The Soul’s bold exterior design carries over to the EV.  From the “floating” roof to the greenhouse that makes the car look like it is wearing wraparound sunglasses, the EV’s look is inspired by the 2012 Kia Track’ster concept and retains the iconic square-shouldered broad stance of the original Soul.  Initially, the Soul EV will be offered in four color choices: Caribbean Blue lower body with Clear White roof, Shadow Black lower body with Inferno Red roof, Titanium Gray and Clear White.  The signature two-tone paint theme is exclusive to the EV and was inspired by a similar treatment seen on the Track’ster.  The EV-exclusive front fascia includes a larger grille area to accommodate the charging ports, and other unique exterior Soul EV design features include color accent trim in the front and rear fascias, projector headlights, LED positioning lamps, and LED tail lights.  “Eco Electric” fender badging replaces the “Soul” fender garnish found on the gasoline-powered car, and the Soul EV gets its own set of distinctive 16-inch alloy wheels wrapped with specially engineered Super Low Rolling Resistance (SLRR) tires that offer 10 percent less resistance than standard low rolling resistance tires, helping to improve range.

When launched in 2014, the all-new Soul was lauded for its premium interior and significantly reduced levels of NVH.  The Soul EV will be instantly recognizable for these same qualities.  Like its gasoline-powered sibling, a circular theme pervades the cabin and is a pleasing contrast to the exterior’s angular good looks.  Inside, the Soul EV sets itself apart from its gasoline-powered sibling with bright white accent trim on the center console, instrument panel and door panels, lending a light and modern feel to the passenger space.  Distinguished by Kia’s most extensive use of bio-based materials, the Soul EV has received UL’s first ever automotive environmental claim validation for its 52.7 lbs. of bio-based organic content in interior plastic.  Front and center is the use of BTX-free paint on the audio system surround, vent bezel and the floor console.  Bio-based plastics derived from cellulose and sugar cane are found in many places within the cabin, including the door panels, headliner, seat trim, roof pillars and carpeting.  In all, organic, bio-based materials are used in 19 different interior parts.

The Soul EV features exclusive interior color options that perfectly complement the exterior.  Two interior seating materials will be offered:  Standard eco-friendly cloth or optional leather.  Both are two-tone gray with offsetting blue stitching on the cloth seats and blue or black (Shadow black model) piping on the leather seats.  Additional blue stitching (grey stitching on Shadow Black models) is found on the steering wheel and center console armrest.  piping blue stitching on the cloth or seating materials will be offered: Standard eco-friendly cloth or optional leather.

Standard Soul EV amenities include a Navigation with eight-inch screen, a 6.6kW on-board charger, CHAdeMO DC fast charge port, Rear Camera Display3, Bluetooth®4 hands free operation, power windows, power driver’s seat, cruise control, and an exclusive HVAC system designed to extend driving range by minimizing energy draw.

Air conditioning is one of the largest energy drains in any electric vehicle, but the Soul EV’s HVAC system is designed to provide optimum comfort while also helping to extend the car’s range by minimizing energy use.  The Soul EV uses four key technologies to maximize HVAC efficiency: a standard heat pump, individual ventilation, scheduled ventilation, and air intake control.  The heat pump efficiently combines the A/C and heater into one system while greatly reducing energy consumption. It also utilizes waste heat from the Soul EV’s electrical systems to help heat the cabin.  Individual ventilation allows selection of “Driver Only,” which stops airflow to the passenger side front dash and floor vents and the floor vents for the rear passenger compartment, thereby focusing airflow on the driver and reducing the amount of energy needed to reach a comfortable interior temperature.  Scheduled ventilation reduces EV energy use by pre-heating or cooling the passenger compartment prior to starting the car, while it is still plugged into a charger.  Air intake control regulates inner and outer air flow to minimize HVAC usage, regulating interior temperature by carefully managing recirculated cabin air.

Forward Thinking Technology
Available at no cost for the first five years of ownership, UVO EV Services5, a special version of Kia’s award-winning telematics and infotainment system, is put to even greater use in the Soul EV.  Utilizing an embedded connectivity solution powered by the Verizon network and an integral smartphone app, UVO EV Services provides owners with an innovative, real-time, in-vehicle connectivity experience that includes navigation and added convenience features specifically tailored for the Soul EV to help owners stay informed as to their vehicle’s charging status while on the go.  UVO EV Services provides real-time battery-level status, distance to empty, and the ability to search for nearby charging stations.  Also, via the UVO EV app, owners can preset charging time and charging level ratios, as well as precondition the vehicle cabin with remote control of the HVAC presets.  Preconditioning the vehicle moderates cabin temperature in advance, helping reduce battery draw once the Soul EV is uncoupled from the charging station.  At a glance, UVO will also update EV owners of their CO2 savings and their relative positive impact on the environment.

Introduced for the first time on the Soul EV, UVO EV Services includes downloadable apps that reside on the Soul EV’s standard 8-inch capacitive-touch navigation screen.  EV owners may download Yelp®6, the online urban city guide that helps people find cool places to eat, shop, relax and play.  Soul EV owners will also enjoy iHeartRadio, the free, all-in-one digital radio service that lets customers listen to their favorite live stations or create their own commercial-free, all-music custom stations.  Sound Hound, which is also available and accessible through the touch screen, listens to what’s playing and displays all related information such as lyrics, the artist, title and album cover art.

Arriving with a five-year complimentary subscription to SiriusXM™7 Data Services and Travel Link, the Soul EV has access to charging stations and travel information such as road conditions, weather and security alerts as well as sports scores, movie times and stock prices through the screen’s graphical interface and electronic program guide.

The Soul EV also features Kia’s first use of Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) technology.  Low energy consumption and virtually no heat build-up make OLED perfect for an electric-vehicle application.  Found within the Soul EV’s exclusive Supervision instrument cluster, the 3.5-inch OLED screen is crystal clear and provides information on the vehicle’s energy flow, charging time, ECO driving level and energy economy, which measures how efficiently the battery is operating.  Additionally, the OLED screen provides a three-stage alert for the Soul EV’s State of Charge (SOC), which allows the driver to quickly determine how much charge remains within the battery and when it’s time to plug in to a charging unit.

Of all the vehicles in Kia’s line-up, none are better suited for pure electric operation than the Soul. The 2015 Soul EV exceeds the capabilities of of most current EVs (Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus Electric, Chevy Spark EV, Fiat 500e, BMW i3, Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive, Toyota RAV4 EV, etc.) with a range of 80 to 100 miles, recharging time (from fully depleted) of 24 hours on ordinary 120-volt household current, and five hours on a 240-volt charger.

The Soul EV has 3 charging ports: Two of the ports are for conventional AC charging, per SAE standard J1772, and the third for CHAdeMo public stations (CHAdeMo = CHArge de Move, a 480-volt direct current system which can recharge a battery in under 30 minutes).  The standard UVO navigation system finds public charging stations for you.

And Kia says it can reach an 80 percent charge in 33 minutes using a 50kW fast-charger system.  That’s nearly as good as a Tesla Supercharger, you just have to find one. Overall, it’s a very appealing package.

2015 Kia Soul EV interior

2015 Kia Soul EV interior

2015 Kia Soul EV center dasahboard

2015 Kia Soul EV center dasahboard

2015 Kia Soul EV instrument panel

2015 Kia Soul EV instrument panel

2015 Kia Soul EV cockpit

2015 Kia Soul EV cockpit

And Kia also just announced the pricing for the 2015 Soul EV:

2015 KIA SOUL EV PRICING ANNOUNCED

Starting MSRP of $33,7001(not including federal tax rebate of $7,500) with an expected introductory lease price2 of $249 per month makes all-new Soul EV a compelling offer for eco-conscious buyers

  •  The 2015 Soul EV is Kia’s first mass-market, all-electric, zero-emissions car and the centerpiece of the brand’s Clean Mobility program
  • Fully electrified variant retains Soul’s funky design while delivering best-in-class3 EPA-estimated driving range of 93 miles4

IRVINE, Calif., September 11, 2014 – Kia Motors America (KMA) today announced pricing for the all-electric version of its hugely popular urban passenger vehicle, the Kia Soul.  Offered in two trims, Base and + (Plus), the 2015 Soul EV MSRP will be $33,700 (not including federal tax rebate of $7,500) for the Base and $35,7001 for the Plus (not including federal tax rebate of $7,500). With an expected introductory lease price of $249 per month, the Soul EV boasts best-in-class EPA-estimated range of 93 miles and MPGe4 of 92 miles on the highway and 120 miles in the city (105 miles combined). The Soul EV has also been honored with an industry-first automotive environmental validation by Underwriters Laboratory (UL) for its innovative use of bio-based materials.

“With our iconic urban passenger vehicle’s wildly popular style and functionality mated to eco-friendly electric-drive technology that delivers best-in-class range, we’re confident that the Soul EV represents a winning combination,” said Michael Sprague, executive vice president of sales and marketing, KMA.  “And with a starting MSRP of less than $34,000 (not including federal tax rebate of $7,500) and an expected introductory lease price of $249 per month, it represents a compelling value as well.”   

At $33,700 (not including federal tax rebate of $7,500), the Soul EV Base comes equipped with an array of standard features, including navigation, Rear Camera Display5, Bluetooth®6 hands free operation, power windows, cruise control, 6.6kW on-board charger and an exclusive HVAC system designed to extend driving range by minimizing energy draw.  Also, every Soul EV comes standard with UVO EV Services7, which provide real-time battery-level status, distance to empty, and the ability to search for nearby charging stations.  From the UVO EV smartphone app, owners can preset charging time and charging level ratios, as well as precondition the vehicle cabin with remote control of the HVAC presets.

The Soul EV Plus, priced at $35,700 (not including federal tax rebate of $7,500), adds EV-unique leather trimmed seats, which are tri-level heated and ventilated for front passengers, while the rear outboard seats are heated for added comfort.  The Plus also includes projection-style fog lamps and power-folding outside mirrors, rounding out the thoughtfully packaged, value-conscious electric vehicle offering.

I love this color combination: The 2015 Kia Soul EV in Cherry Black with Inferno Red trim/roof.

I love this color combination: The 2015 Kia Soul EV in Shadow Black with Inferno Red trim/roof.

At $249/month for 36 months, with $1,999 down, it’s a very tempting to make the Kia Soul my first EV. I’d keep one of my gas-powered cars for longer drives, but I could easily use this car every day of the week for nearly all of my in-town commuting, errand and recreational needs.

It’s still not a Tesla, but by the time the lease is up, hopefully the “affordable” $40,000 Tesla Model 3 will be available with a 200+ mile range and a much larger network of Superchargers to enable the big switch to full  EV transportation.

Finally, I have to thank Kia for producing a wonderful commercial for the Soul EV. I’ve seen shorter versions on TV, but this is the full-length video. I think it’s Super Bowl quality – high production values, great Maroon 5 soundtrack and that intangible “viral” vibe that is so hard to quantify or manufacture.

Is an EV right for you? Kia has prepared an infographic to help in your decision:

Kia_Soul-EV_Infographic

 

Chat  —  Posted: September 13, 2014 in Kia
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2015 Audi A3 2.0T Quattro

2015 Audi A3 2.0T Quattro

Audi’s all-new “entry level” 2015 A3 is a sweet little car that comes with a pretty big price tag.  Sure, it starts at $29,900, but that can easily soar past $40,000.  My tester, an A3 2.0 quattro in Prestige trim started at $41,350. Add the $800 Sports package and $895 destination and it hits an eye-popping $43,045.  You can spend more – $550 for metallic colors or $1,400 for an Advanced Technology Package that includes active lane assist, forward collision warning and adaptive cruise control – which takes it to a wince-inducing $44,995.  Now you shouldn’t be surprised that the 2015 Audi A4 2.0 quattro Prestige starts at $45,895; but the top price of an A3 is already deep into A4 territory – a sobering thought when ticking option boxes.

Now if you can get past the price, let me explain a few things.

Volkswagen Group's MQB Platform

Volkswagen Group’s MQB Platform

2015 VW Golf GTI

2015 VW Golf GTI

The all-new 2015 Audi A3 is basically a Volkswagen Golf wearing a smart Armani suit.  The 2015 A3 and 2015 VW Golf are the first two vehicles in the U.S. market built on VW’s much-anticipated, multi-billion euro platform called MQB, which stands for Modularer Querbaukasten, translating from German to “Modular Transversal Toolkit.”  It’s a big deal because it’s supposed to underpin hundreds of new models across VW’s vast multi-brand empire for years to come.  From the beginning, it’s able to support front- and all-wheel drive architecture as well as hybrid and pure electric powertrains (such as the e-Golf).

Audi A3 2.0T quattro badge

Audi A3 2.0T quattro badge

The base front drive A3 has VW’s 1.8L direct-injected turbo 4-cylinder engine making 170 hp and 200 lb-ft of torque. I drove it, hated it, and immediately asked to drive the model with the 2.0L direct-injected turbo 4 making 220 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque – the same sweet (slightly less powerful) engine in the 2015 VW Golf GTI.  Mated to the only transmission offered – a 6-speed S-Tronic dual clutchautomatic – it’s a firecracker. Fast, direct, fun to drive and supremely sure-footed with Audi’s signature quattro all-wheel drive system.

Dual-clutch transmissions can be a clunky affair, but the VW group has sorted these things out well for many years. That said, the creep forward at stop is pronounced and it’s not as buttery smooth at the ZF 8-speed automatic used by BMW in most of its products and upper-tier Audis. But it’s easily as good as the 7-speed dual clutch Mercedes uses in the CLA250, the direct competitor to the A3.

2015 Audi A3 looks good from all angles.

2015 Audi A3 looks good from all angles.

The instruments panel of the A3 is a model of clarity and it looks terrific at night. Note the average MPG readout from the standard multifunction trip computer.

The instruments panel of the A3 is a model of clarity and it looks terrific at night. Note the average MPG readout from the standard multifunction trip computer. Note the retro analog trip odometer reset “0.0” on top of the steering column. Fast and easy! 

The EPA rates the 2.0L quattro setup at 24 mpg city, 33 highway and 27 combined. My tester’s computer showed 20.6 mpg on a combination of about 40% highway and 60% city driving.  It sucks down premium unleaded.

The A3's headlights remind me of something from Angry Birds. A signature Audi look.

The A3’s headlights remind me of something from Angry Birds. A signature Audi look.

The window and side mirror controls are from the VW  parts bin, but they are high quality and the chrome surrounds add a nice touch.

The window and side mirror controls are from the VW parts bin, but they are high quality and the chrome surrounds add a nice touch.

Just about everything in the A3 is executed well. From the signature Angry Bird-inspired LED running lights to the sharply creased sheet metal, this little car looks good from every angle.  The A3 appropriately telegraphs Audi’s DNA and nothing about it screams that it’s a rebadged VW (because it isn’t). It may share the MQB platform and the drivetrain, but what you see is pure Audi.

The same can be said about the inside.  Audi does about the best interiors in the auto business, although the competition has caught up over time. The A3’s interior looks terrific — from the tablet-style pop-up infotainment display to the turbine-inspired round vents, it’s a feast for the eyes.  Most of the surfaces you see and touch are good (not top) quality plastics and soft to the touch, but some hard plastic lurks, particularly in the door panels, below the arm rest, the seat backs and some lower fascia.

This particular model had all the bells and whistles. I particularly liked the Google Earth navigation maps and the 705 watt Bang & Olufsen 14-speaker surround sound.  Both were standard on the 2.0L Prestige.  Audi’s latest-generation MMI (multimedia interface) was easy to use with the center controller and dedicated buttons.  My iPhone 5S synced easily with the system and calls were clear.

The A3's full-color infotainment screen displays Google Earth beautifully and easily with its built-in 4G LTE connection.

The A3’s full-color infotainment screen displays Google Earth beautifully and easily with its built-in 4G LTE connection.

The wide angle backup camera works well, although if you're in a hurry, it takes a couple seconds to pop up and display.

The wide angle backup camera works well, although if you’re in a hurry, it takes a couple seconds to pop up and display.

Audi's Multimedia Interface (MMI) works well with the large center controller. The finger-writing recognition is too difficult while driving and good luck with the voice recognition.

Audi’s Multimedia Interface (MMI) works well with the large center controller. The finger-writing recognition is too difficult while driving and good luck with the voice recognition.

The power seat controls on the side of the front seats. I’d rather see the controls placed on door like Mercedes.

The power sports seats are comfortable but don’t have a memory function. They do, however, have a hand-adjustable thigh support – something my 6’1″ frame appreciates very much.  Unfortunately, the seat controls are so close to the door that you may have to open the door to adjust the seat!  And the damn seat belt doesn’t have a stop for the buckle so the buckle falls to the bottom of the belt every time you take it off. You have to jam your hand down to the tight crevice between the B-pillar, the seat and the floor – evoking flashbacks of 127 Hours – to find it each time you buckle up.  What were they thinking?

This car is loaded with all the bells and whistles: Full LED headlights and taillights, automatic headlights and rain-sensing wipers, dual zone automatic climate control, front and rear parking sensors, back up camera with guide lines, full-color MMI display, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, real-time traffic and weather, HD radio, 4-G connection w/Wi-Fi hot spot, auto-dimming rear view and side mirrors, leather seating surfaces, power heated (but not cooled) seats, digital compass, panoramic sunroof, tilt/telescope steering wheel, keyless entry and ignition, a dizzying array of safety features including countless airbags and air curtains and electronic nannies for braking, stability control and blind spot moniters.

Old-school physical controls and buttons are easy and fast to use.  Dual-zone automatic climate control is standard. Optional heated seats have 3 levels.

Old-school physical controls and buttons are easy and fast to use. Dual-zone automatic climate control is standard. Optional heated seats have 3 levels.

The cup holders are too close to the HVAC controls. No Big Gulps here. Also the power port should be moved away from the cup holders. Bad placement.

The cup holders are too close to the HVAC controls. No Big Gulps here. Also the power port should be moved away from the cup holders. Bad placement.

And if you’re like me and you’ve experienced the intoxicating, magical capabilities of adaptive cruise control (now with advanced stop & go), then no new vehicle purchase could be complete without it. Simply tick the box for the Advanced Technology package – it only adds $20/month to the lease.

But you know what you can’t get on an A3 – no matter how much you pay? You can’t get a HomeLink garage controller so you have to clip an ugly remote to your visor.  HomeLink is available on a Mazda 3 or a Kia Forte, but not an Audi A3?

The physical volume control knob on the right is handy. The MMI controller is nicely machined and well weighted. Hard buttons clustered around the controller provide short cuts to the main functions - Navigation, Telephone, Radio, and Media.

The physical volume control knob on the right is handy. The MMI controller is nicely machined and well weighted. Hard buttons clustered around the controller provide short cuts to the main functions – Navigation, Telephone, Radio, and Media. Note the electronic parking brake button nicely tucked into the console. The S-Tronic transmission can be shifted in sports mode from the shift lever or paddles behind the steering wheel.

Driving the A3 is a breeze.  The electric power steering is fast and tight even though it lacks some of the feedback you might get from now-antiquated  hydraulic units.  It darts in and out of traffic with ease.  The body is rock solid so quick maneuvers don’t feel like the mass is moving in the opposite direction.  The turbo spools up quickly leaving little room turbo lag (except at very low speeds) as the engine pulls and revvs happily to the red line.  Quattro cements the little car firmly in place, so the high winds we experience in the desert don’t blow it away or pull it dramatically off track.

The A3 is easy to park and the turning radius is very tight. The parking sensors and backup camera are very handy but sometimes the cross-path and other warning noises can get annoying. I’ve been heard shouting at the car to shut up, but that’s just me.

The front of the A3 sports Audi's logo: the Four Rings of Auto Union. Extra credit if you can name each ring.

The front of the A3 sports Audi’s logo: the Four Rings of Auto Union. Extra credit if you can name each ring.

Overall it’s a terrific driver’s car, more engaging and better rendered than the Mercedes CLA250. I also think that its lines will age better.

Another small but annoying feature is this key.  The VW group has been using the same large, clunky key for more than a decade. With keyless ignition, it's unnecessarily bulky in my pocket. It's the same key I had on my 2005 A6. Time for a change.

Another small but annoying feature is this key. The VW group has been using the same large, clunky key for more than a decade. With keyless ignition, it’s unnecessarily bulky in my pocket. It’s the same key I had on my 2005 A6. Time for a change.

All this gets me back to the price of a prestigious German badge. You can get far more for your money from a non-luxury or near-luxury brand. For example, the all-new 2015 Acura TLX, a bigger car, about the size of an A4, starts at $30,995. A fully-loaded TXL with a 3.5L 290 hp V6 engine, 9-speed automatic transmission, SH-AWD and the top Advance Package that includes far more luxury features and advanced technology than the A3 or A4 – is $45,595.

The average transaction price of an A3 is probably closer to $36,000 (not coincidentally the about same as the base A4). That’s still $4,000 more than a top-spec VW Golf GTI and enough for a base A4.

Is it worth the the steep premium to drive a small car with the four interlocking rings of Auto Union proudly affixed front and back? You do get a better standard warranty – 4 years/50,000 miles – and sales/service at an Audi dealer is probably much better than a non-luxury brand.  For most people, it all comes down to the deal.  As long as the lease payments are low enough, people naturally gravitate to the fancy German label. So far, the A3 has been a huge hit for Audi and it’s the main reason Audi’s sales are up dramatically so far this year.  I bet your local Audi dealer could find a terrific A3 deal for you too!

The 2015 Audi A3 2.0T quattro.

The 2015 Audi A3 2.0T quattro.

Chat  —  Posted: September 1, 2014 in Audi, Automobile Manufacturers
Tags: , ,