Audi A3 Sportback 1.6 TDI S Line
If you are looking for an economical and classy hatchback for company or private use, the Volvo V40 and Audi A3 are excellent options. Both are handsome, both have a great badge, and both have engines available that qualify for free road tax. But which one is the best?
There's no doubt that the Audi A3 is a nicer place to be than the Volvo V40. The V40 feels like it has more space, but the quality of the A3's cabin is a step above the Volvo's. Every interior material feels fantastic and the design of the centre console, combined with the neat touch screen which rises from the dashboard, is just as classy as the Volvo's 'floating dash'. S Line trim also includes sports seats and these have a huge level of support (I have a bad back, and the A3's seats do wonders for it).
In terms of efficiency, the A3 1.6 TDI cannot match the V40 D2. Both engines are 1.6-litre turbo-diesels but the Volvo engine is cleaner and therefore for company car buyers it is the wiser choice. The A3 will return 74.3 miles per gallon on a combined cycle with a CO2 rating of 99 g/km versus the Volvo's 83.1 miles per gallon on a combined cycle with a CO2 rating of 88 g/km.
The above translates to this in company car tax terms - the tax payable at 20% of the A3 is £716 and at 40% £1,431. For the V40, that's £602 at 20% and £1,204 at 40%.
If you aren't a company car buyer, though, the A3 will be efficient enough. It qualifies for free annual road tax and it will achieve high 60's in everyday driving. What's more, I prefer the way the 1.6 TDI delivers it power against the D2. Both engines are common rail, but the 1.6 TDI is a much smoother and progressive unit. The gear ratios play a large role in this - in the A3, they are perfectly spaced and there's always power, but in the V40 D2, you do have to drop down a cog to really get moving, and that's despite the V40 having more power and torque (it has a slower 0 - 62 time).
One thing I don't like about the Audi is the level of standard equipment. Even in top spec S Line trim, a lot of the things we have come to expect as standard in cars, such as cruise control, satellite navigation, and heated seats are missing. In the Volvo, they aren't. Aside from heated seats you get sat nav and cruise control as standard, and that's despite the Volvo being cheaper. By the time you have optioned up an A3, you will be paying much more than the cost of a well-equipped V40.