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Audi A3 Sportback 1.6 TDI S Line vs. Volvo V40 1.6 D2 SE Nav

Audi A3 Sportback 1.6 TDI S Line

Audi A3 Sportback 1.6 TDI S Line

 

Price: £24,525

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.

Volvo V40 1.6 D2 SE Nav

Volvo V40 1.6 D2 SE Nav

 

Price: £23,070

There's no doubt that the Audi A3 is a nicer place to sit in than the V40, but I'm not sure that it's a nicer car to look at. The A3 is based on the same platform as the Seat Leon and the Volkswagen Golf, and it carries across much of the same design language. The result of this is that there's a huge amount of same-old cars on the road. The V40 by contrast stands out from the crowd with its muscular front end and twin exhausts (which are on every V40, no matter the engine or trim).

Plus, inside, the V40 is pleasant. It lacks the finishing touch of the A3, sure, but the chunky steering wheel, classy dials, solid materials and floating centre dash give this car real appeal. The seats are also fantastic and the driving position is great. You can tell that the Audi A3 is the newer car, but the Volvo V40 is hardly bad inside.

When it comes to driving, the Audi A3 is better than the V40, at least in these guises. As I pointed out in my A3 section, the Audi has more accessible performance and it feels the much brisker machine. This is largely because of the V40's gearing - the car idles at 780 rpm but maximum torque is only available from 1,400 rpm. Below 1,400 rpm, the V40 D2 is slow and when the power does come, it arrives in a stampede of torque that trails off at 3,000 rpm. The A3, by contrast, has a very linear power delivery and it will continue to rev for longer. In other words, it is a much more relaxing and involving machine.

In terms of ride quality, both cars are similar, but both have trade-offs - the V40 has better damping and ride quality, but the A3 has better handling and refinement.

For company car buyers, none of this might matter though. You see, the V40 D2 is cheaper to buy than the A3 and it is way more efficient (83.1 mpg vs. 74.3 mpg, 88 g /km vs. 99 g/km). Even though the A3 is better to drive and to sit in, it isn't as efficient.

Overall

If you have read through this whole article, you will likely not be surprised by my conclusion - the Audi A3 is the better car for private buyers but the Volvo V40 is the better car for company buyers. You should make your decision based on how you are going to be paying for your car and what use you are going to get out of it. If I had to pick one for everything, though, I would go for the A3. For me, the improved driving characteristics outweigh the extra efficiency of the V40.

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