Audi A3 TDI Is Bound for US

Audi announced at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show that its 2010 A3 2.0 TDI will be coming to the US early next year. The diesel hatchback, which participated in the Audi Mileage Marathon last fall, averaged more than 45 miles per gallon over the course of the 4,000-mile journey. The A3 is considered one of Europe’s cleanest and most fuel-efficient passenger cars.

The 2010 A3 is not expected to bring big changes from the 2009 model. It will continue to draw power from the same advanced clean diesel powertrain as last year’s model. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine will yield 140 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. Expect superb off-the-line performance and acceleration from the engine—which is mated with a six-speed automatic transmission.

Fighting Words

Audi considers the A3 a hybrid-fighter, specifically putting the Toyota Prius and the 2010 Honda Insight in its sights. The car is perhaps better compared with the Mini Cooper and Volvo C30 in the sport compact luxury segment.

The price of diesel, which remains higher than premium unleaded gasoline, may be a potential downside for consumers. But that deterrent is counter-balanced by great fuel economy, strong performance, a plush ride, and a cabin with loads of high-end upgrades and amenities.

Pricing for the 2010 A3 will be announced later this year.

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  • dave r

    do we want to reduce foreign dependance on oil or just continue to complain about it. Diesel is the short term answer, come on people lets get on board.

  • Less NOx

    While this is much better than the typical ICE mileage of cars in the U.S., I don’t get why diesel enthusiasts claim this to be better than hybrid. The new Prius is bigger (mid-size vs subcompact), has more power (160 hp vs 140) from a smaller engine, AND gets better fuel economy (50 mpg vs 45 mpg). And the EPA rating of 50 probably yields a real world result closer to 55, while the 45 was a real world result for the Audi. Throw in the fact that diesel costs more and being an Audi, the car probably won’t be any cheaper to buy.

    What I never see in these comments is the actual comparisons of pollution emitted from the various models. When I bought my 04 Prius the pollution index was something like .1 or one tenth of the average car. Since the Prius does not get 10 times better fuel economy than the average car, this clean rating is due not only to burning less fuel, but also from the ICE operating in a much narrower power band, the engine shut off when vehicle is stopped or decellerating, and the electric only drive at slow speeds. I’m curious how the new diesels, despite being much cleaner than earlier versions, would compare to electric hybrids on emissions.

    I guess all newer cars will have the start-stop technology, but I gotta say I always feel a lot better being stuck in traffic or in a drive-thru line in my Prius than I do when I’m in my non-hybrid car polluting at idle.

  • Bryce

    HP numbers can be misleading though. Acceleration and engine power come from lb. feet of torque, which diesel engines have more than enough of. Only pure electric cars can beat out a diesels acceleration for the same hp. HP is for sustaining speeds and cruising.

  • Dom

    Less NOx said,

    “The new Prius is bigger (mid-size vs subcompact), has more power (160 hp vs 140) from a smaller engine, AND gets better fuel economy (50 mpg vs 45 mpg).”

    While all that MAY be true (I say may as no one has actually driven the new Prius), the big difference is that you can have fun driving the A3 like a sports car and STILL get 45mpg, while if you drive a Prius like that you will get horrible mpg. THAT my friend, is the difference between diesel and hybrid.
    And like typical a American, you’re looking at horsepower, which is misleading. The true story of diesel is in the torque not the HP. The 2.0L TDI generates 236 pound-feet of torque at ~1750rpm.

  • Samie

    Not sure comparing TDI to a ICE hybrid is a good marketing approach. Instead TDI should be associated with fuel efficient performance cars. As said above torque is what most Americans think of when they hear the word horsepower. Maybe better marketing by the industry could help….. TDI technology could be used to increase mpg’s in luxury cars but as Less NOx said it may not make much difference in emissions. As for the price of diesel one may compare the cost of fueling up with premium gasoline that is required in some performance vehicles.

  • BioDieselWeasel

    The next few years will be rife with these types of comparisons. Tit-for-tat across MPG, emissions, “performance”, etc. are hard when comparing combustion engine drive trains with hybrid or (pure) electric. For instance, statements like “has more power” are totally subjective. Which part of the power band? HP vs. torque come into play (as was pointed out by previous posters).

    Another area of difficult to debate is emissions and pollution output from different platforms. What types of driving are we talking about? City? Highway? Combined? Diesel power trains are extremely efficient for highway driving, and, if a person drove highways the majority of the time, have superb handling characteristics (i.e. great passing power, extended highway driving ranges). Furthermore, with the advent of biofuels like biodiesel and WVO conversions (admittedly WVO is hardly prime time, and would be problematic for new vehicles due to warranty issues) diesel platforms become more attractive for those who want to reduce dependence on foreign oils.

    My above opinions are not meant to suggest that diesels are “better;” instead I think that both technologies, hybrid and diesel, are offering Americans an outstanding amount of choices of more efficient vehicles. In fact, I think that for pure city driving (i.e. speeds under 50 miles per hour, short distances, frequent idling) hybrid-based automobiles (or a true electric car) present a more efficient and attractive package. (For example, a diesel engine depends on sustained higher operating temps for maximum efficiency, and this is usually not acheived driving 1 mile).

  • Karkus

    Actually the new Prius “only” has 134 HP combined. But like others said, torque is what matters more.
    On the other hand, the Prius emissions are much lower for smog (PHEV vs LEVII) and a little lower for CO2 (since diesel emits 15% more CO2 for the same MPG).

    But regardless, I’m glad that US consumers will have more choice in efficient cars, whether they are hybrid or diesel or whatever. The Prius and A3 don’t target the same demographic anyway, so the comparison isn’t really that relevant.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    Diesel is great. By reducing oil consumption, it makes it more likely that we’ll be lucky enough to die before oil really gets scarce and our way of life really sucks.
    This way, maybe if we’re lucky, it will be the great-grandkids we’ll never know that have to suffer that horror, not the grandkids that we love.
    Let’s focus on SOLVING the problem with oil, not just POSTPONING it for future generations.
    Hybrids today, electric tomorrow. Diesels were yesterday

    – well maybe there is a small amount of room for bio-diesel in the future for those applications that absolutely need a portable fuel.

  • ev now

    I don’t think anyone in the market for a green sportscar would be considering the Prius. The larger ICE in the new Prius actually improves fuel economy by providing more torque at lower rpm, where the ICE is more efficient. But it doesn’t make it a sportscar.

    If you want a sportscar feel get a Tesla. Electric motors have maximum torque at zero rpm so it should give a smooth rush off the line. Those of us w/o the $ for a Tesla will have to wait and check out the Honda CR-Z or Fisker.

  • crookmatt

    A lot of people are making comparisons between the Prius and Diesel cars in general.

    But in reality they are not targeting the same consumer group. People who buy the A3 TDI are probably those who care more about a sporty image, and sporty ride, etc. Those who buy the Prius are those who’s primary concern is the environment, and don’t mind if the car isn’t the sportiest thing on the road.

    I say welcome the A3, as a sporty car it’s about as efficient as you can get, and the people driving it wouldn’t be driving the Prius even if the A3 never came the the US anyway.

    Not everything is mutually exclusive, and the more choices consumers have of high efficiency cars, the more we’ll see on the road.

  • Bill in France

    Diesel = noise

    get rid of it

  • Anonymous

    Joe said “Diesel = noise”. Groan. ICE = noise if you’re driving a ten year old car. The new diesel engines are barely any nosier than a gasoline engine. That said, some people actually like a bit of engine “noise”. My older 03 TDI is a bit louder than the new ones, but I really like the purr the engine makes, and I use the audio feedback to know when to shift (it’s a 5-spd manual).

    I agree with the those who said diesel, hybrids, and electrics are not mutually exclusive. All of these solutions have strengths and weaknesses, and I disagree with anyone that claims any one of them is THE future. I appreciate that provides news on more than just hybrids.

  • hd

    Groan. So many misconceptions.

    Americans (of which i am one, thank you), need to get away from thinking of cars in terms of MPG. Think of it in terms of cents per mile. Isn’t that the real measure of economy? And when one campares these figures, diesels usually end up cheaper, even thought the price per callon is higher. The Europeans aren’t idiots, and they drive doesels all the time. They also pay $8 to $10 per gallon.

    Comparing an Audi A3 to a Prius is like comparing a Porsche to VW because they have the same lineage. Totally different beasts.

    I guess some will buy the Prius for the “green-ness” of it, but since most people are self-interested, it’s bought for the economy.

    The Prius is a sensible family woman’s car, the woman who clips coupons and wants to save money and be safe. The Audi A3 is not this, and was not designed to be so. Not that the A3 isn’t sensible, but I doubt you’ll see anyone looking to buy one for economy.

    The feel of a car is all about the low end torque, not the HP. Most just don’t get it. I doubt many of us will be doing any track work with either of these, so low end pull, or feel, is where it’s at in traffic. Diesels rule in this case.

    I’ll never buy a Prius. It’s like Florsheim shoes: they work, and look OK, but they’re for dorks. And I’m 52 years old. For me, the most sensible car is the one that makes sense economically while keeping my senses pleased. And I think the Prius falls quite short regarding the latter.

  • Boom Boom

    I’ve heard the Prius called many things, but never a “sensible family woman’s car”. That is a truly impressive piece of absolutely insane commentary.

    A couple of factual points here:
    In Europe, diesel is cheaper. The increased mileage of diesel combined with the lower cost makes it very appealing. In the US, diesel is more expensive.
    Data from
    Total Gas Costs for a Prius: $540 (46 MPG)
    Total Gas Costs for a Jetta TDI: $1100 (34 MPG)
    Total Gas Costs for a Jetta Gas: $1152 (25 MPG)

    The math isn’t hard. Clearly, the improvement in the MPG of a diesel is largely outweighed by the increase in costs per gallon. If diesel gets cheaper or you can use biodiesel from McDonalds or whereever, then the math changes, but based on retail fuel costs, those are the number. An A3 TDI will have the same 2.0 liter diesel at the Jetta and is only slightly smaller, so mileage improvements will be minimal.

  • Shines

    Funny no one wants to comment on reliability. Although you would think the diesel would be very reliable the fact it is in an Audi is the problem. The Prius is likely to give you 150K miles of driving with no problems. The Audi on the other hand is likely to have suspension problems, electronics problems (troubles with power windows and locks) and have the little knobs and buttons falling off or coming loose after 3 years.
    And HD your comment on the Prius being a sensible family woman’s car – You’re right about it being sensible as far as a woman’s car; I’ll be polite and just say most of the Prius owners I know are men.

  • go green

    Sorry HD. For someone groaning about misconceptions the idea of a Prius being a women’s car is apparently one of yours. This from a study which appeared on this site almost two years ago:

    Klein believes that the demographics of Prius buyers in his study are indicative of the broader hybrid market:

    71 percent of respondents earned more than $100,000 per year.
    73 percent were 40 years or older.
    58 percent were men.
    88 percent were “very happy” with their Prius; 12 percent were “somewhat happy.”

    Also, I don’t think many Prius owners bought their cars to save money. If you remember, they sold for quite a premium, gas prices had yet to really spike when they came out, and if you look at the income of the buyers I don’t think they were scrimping on fuel costs. We bought ours because it was the “greenest” car with a backseat for kids and because of the incentive in CA to use the carpool lanes solo. So I guess it was sensible.

    I agree w/ previous posters that the comparison between the Audi and Prius is silly because they will appeal to two different markets. But Audi was the one who claimed to be going after the hybrid market. I am glad to see a sporty car that pollutes less but I think that plug-in hybrid or pure ev sport cars will eventually fill that niche as well because most people driving a sports car don’t care about 300 mile range but they will like the immediate torque provided from an electric motor (though I for one will miss the gear stick).

  • wxman

    With respect to “smog-forming” emissions, the clean diesel vehicles typically have an advantage over gasoline vehicles, regardless of the “emission bin” or “green score” given to the specific vehicle (although criteria pollutant emissions are becoming vanishingly small in either case).

    The “green score” (since it is typically based on the emission bin the vehicle is certified to) is an unreliable way to assess environmental impacts for at least two reasons…

    – the “Bins” are emission LIMITS which do not necessarily reflect the actual emissions of a vehicle (most vehicles meet the limits by a significant margin, some more than others).

    – the “Bins” do not include evaporative emissions, which tend to be MUCH higher with gasoline, both directly from the vehicle (even vehicles certified “PZEV” – a classification in which evaporative emissions are below a “diminimus” level considered by CARB to be “zero”, in addition to meeting “SULEV” tailpipe emissions), and indirectly from the “handling” of the fuel (production, storage, transport, refueling)

  • Anonymous

    Yeah but the hybrids still leave a carbon crater due to the battery technology. The inability to efficiently produce and recycle them ruins the whole benefit.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    I wonder who the “Anonymous” shill is that just posted the nonesense about a ‘carbon crater due to battery technolog”. This is just plain wrong. Batteries are recyclable as well as being reusable for average car life.
    Batteries are also holding up very well. RAV4EV’s are needing a battery overhaul (not replacement) at about 120K miles. Priuses are going over 200K miles with no battery work.
    Sowing lies to discredit battery vehicles is just plain offensive.

  • Bryce

    ROFL……Prius = family woman sedan

    I will be laughing at that one for days whenever I think of it

    Prius is the new mini van…

    Thats great….usually I call Toyota cars old lady cars….but now…this is even better……momimobiles…..

    omg, thank you

  • anonymous

    Prius’s are for nerds. I’ve driven the Prius and was jazzed about how much I could get on a tank of gas but I felt like a total tool. I actually almost got run of the road by some hick in a Ford F150. When my 4runner finally kicks the bucket I will get a diesel A3, save gas, and look cool. Have fun in your electric toolbox.

  • RKRB

    -I agree with Shines. The diesel engine should be durable and sporty, even with an automatic gearbox, but A3 reliability and maintenance should be big question marks, based on Consumer Reports history and “the word on the street.”
    -We owned a Mercedes 190 turbo-diesel for many years and the engine was tough. The rest of the car, though, was a modern Mercedes, and that means you’d better not lose your mechanic’s phone number, and you’d be wise to budget considerable non-maintenance expenses if it’s out of warranty. We could have made new-car payments with what we spent on maintenance, but some people will just not rest until they drive German. “Engineered like no other.” That’s their choice. It’s no longer ours. We were happy when we sold the Benz to a guy who was happy to get it.
    -pre-1985 Mercedes diesel cars (and German cars in general) were often simple, extremely durable, and cheap. Newer cars from MB, BMW, Audi, and VW will probably be complex, delicate, and expensive, including the diesels. They have German engineering, so will always have a market, but buyers should not kid themselves they are buying a predictably cost-efficient car.
    -Resale value depends on the price of fuel. We found our Benz diesel very difficult to sell in a low-fuel-price environment and it wound up depreciating as much as a comparable car from GM.

    -One word of advice: pay whatever they want for the extended warranty.

  • Javier

    I am currently living in the US although I have been living in Spain for my whole life. I drive a Jeep Patriot 2008 here now, unleaded gasoline with manual transmission which gives me a 25 mpg in highway max.

    Right before I moved to the US I was driving a Nissan Almera TDI. this model is not sold here as all the other diesel engine models in their line. I remember I was able to make a solid 1100km with a full 48liters tank, which translates more or less to 50mpg.

    I saw the other day an ad online with the new model of the Ford Focus they are selling now in Spain, the first car in its category capable of doing 100km with 4 liters of diesel, do the math guys, that means around 60mpg.

    There is one BIG downside of diesel engines in Europe, obviously the high costs of gas there, around $1.5 per liter ($6 per gallon, $5 per gallon lately with the hugh drop of 2008).

    With all of these I still don’t understand why the resistance to high efficiency diesel engines in the US. Even with diesel at $3 per gallon you will still save 50% in gas throughout the year, and we can also talk about the reduction on the emissions when you can do double the miles burning the same volume of gas, install a brand new catalytic unit and you are doing even less.

  • Javier

    I forgot to mention, diesel and unleaded prices in Spain have been more or less the same for the last three years, diesel having a clear tendency to be a little cheaper.

    Also remind you that we sell 93, 95 and 98 octanes gasoline only, 87 and 91 were forbidden by the EU long time ago to dramatically reduce the emissions in the whole continent.

  • LG

    I was in France studying for two years and I bought a used Peugeot 207 TDI. It is a tiny car and took me a while to get used to it and stop felling girly, but everybody drives those things there and soon you forget about it.
    I filled it up once every other month or even less, and I used the car to go everywhere, but of course everything is small there, never did more than 20miles per day.

    I would buy a TDI over a hybrid without hesitation any day now… what is going on with this hype? a hybrid Escalade????? please!!!! let’s bring the common sense back

  • Anonymous

    My first car was a 1984 VW Rabbit (diesel of course). For the past 8 years I’ve driven a TDI Jetta. True, the price of diesel is above gas (RIGHT NOW…), but there is no way anyone should purchase a hybrid over a TDI.

    Hybrids, while in theory are a great idea, simply don’t live up to all the hype in real life. Spurred on by the righteous and media. They are extremely difficult to repair, unreliable in the long-term, and unless driven in the most cautious, old lady manner, end up with fuel economy signigicantly poorer than many gas vehicle (ex. “Top Gear” test drive, Prius vs. BMW, BMW had better fuel economy…).

    Diesels are proven technology, reliably deliver economy in the 45 MPG range, last FOREVER (my 1984 Rabbit still runs and still gets better MPG than my sister’s camry), and still can deliver exceptional performance (torque-y turbo diesel has a lot of snot…).

    Buy a diesel not a Prius (remember, lemmings fall off cliffs…)

  • Jack Blackman

    Diesel is a long term solution. It can be made from peanuts, soy, pine trees, wheat, corn, petroleum or any mixture of the above and diesel vehicles can burn straight vegetable oil as well.

    The big advantage of using bio-sourced diesel is that it produces less CO2 than the source plant absorbs. You reduce CO2 emissions by burning more bio-diesel!

  • Anonymous

    I’m biased, being a VW TDI driver, but I really think the diesels are better. Good economy, and surely more fun to drive while getting said good economy (LOTS of torque there). Here’s an interesting read for you:

  • D. John McCarthy

    When you add in the environmental cost of the batteries the A3 is a much greener car. It is also a lot more fun to drive and when you drive at real highway speeds gets better milage then the Prius. The faster you go the better the A3 is.

  • Mike Shields

    Diesel engines produce power as efficiently as most electric power plants can make the equivalent KW power of electricity, and certainly diesel makes cleaner power than 80 percent of power generating plants. That is a hard point to swallow, but it is true. It is the reason the Eurozone has gone to diesel. So unless electric power is atomic generated, with all the hidden costs, diesel power is very viable alternative. Conversion to diesel will reduce dependency on foreign oil by about 30%.

    One problem for the states is our refiners mainly use cracking towers biased to gasoline production, whereas the rest of the world uses a process that does about 15% more diesel and 15% less gas. This is currently why diesel is more expensive in some regions of the US. The good news is all new capacity is being constructed with the diesel biased process.

    From both a technical and an environmental view, the modern, high pressure injection Diesel is in every way superior to gasoline engines. Very, very clean, 30% more fuel efficient AND they are very powerful. There is an old saw, “You buy horsepower, but you drive torque.” Diesels make huge torque, much more than a gas motor and can actually be quite fun to drive, if say a 3 liter size. At 1.8 liter you get 45-50 mpg and 230-250 ft-lbs torque. Just the ticket.

  • dan_23_ca

    Who wants to drive the same car for 200,000 miles?

    If you drive more than 20 miles a day, the luxuries of the Audi will be well worth it in my opinion.

    Currently I drive a Toyota Corolla 04 Type S Manual. It drives much like a Prius (except that the engine stays on when stopped). It is as reliable as people say and averages about 36.5 miles per gallon (mostly freeway driving). However, its ride quality, road noise, and general cabin comfort leaves MUCH to be desired not to mention its lack of handling and lack of power when more than 2 people are in the car. By lack of handling, I especially mean the degree at which you have to turn the steering wheel to get the car to turn (really bad for u-turns, its like driving a bus).

    I think if you can get the luxuries of an Audi, keep it for only 5 years to avoid the large maintenance fees later in its life and benefit from an averaged 40+ mpg, why the hell not?

    I think the Prius needs to ditch pursuing solar panels on the roof to cool the car… especially since solar panel production is only like 20% efficient wasting most of the raw materials… and slowing production of the cars. Instead, they should focus on luxuries that cars like the Audi have.

    Also, what is so bad about a clean diesel hybrid? Wouldn’t it get like 60+ mpg ?