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Audi A3 TDI bans old diesel bugaboos

Wake up, America!

It’s time to make peace with diesel power.

Forget the smelly exhaust, the rattling idle, the extended warm-up time, the glacierlike acceleration.

2012 Audi A3 2.0 TDI
VEHICLE TYPE: Four-door, five-passenger, compact hatchback
BASE PRICE: $30,250
PRICE AS TESTED: $38,050 (incl. delivery fees)
POWERTRAIN: 2.0-liter, DOHC, turbocharged inline four-cylinder diesel; 140 horsepower; 236 lb.-ft. torque; six-speed automatic transmission; front-wheel drive
WHEELBASE/LENGTH: 101.5″/168.9″
CURB WEIGHT: 3,318 pounds
EPA FUEL RATING: 30 mpg city/42 highway (regular grade)

It would only take 15 minutes or so in an Audi A3 2.0 TDI to make a believer out of you.

Already a sweet ride with its standard 2.0-liter gasoline engine, the optional diesel actually adds to the vehicle’s desirability, and not just for its exceptional mileage – 30 mpg city and 42 highway.

The same size diesel puts out a puny 140 horsepower, which would seem like barely enough to push the 3,300-pound compact out of its own way. But a turbocharger does the trick, force-feeding fuel to produce a generous 236 pound-feet of torque, the force that pushes you back into your seat as the revs rise and the turbo quickly spools up.

The A3 TDI isn’t as quick as the gas version, but it sure feels as spunky. With the superslick six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission clicking off virtually imperceptible shifts, this little hatchback is a real kick to drive.

The old diesel bugaboos mentioned above are pretty much banished in the Audi (as well as other vehicles produced by parent-company Volkswagen that employ this powerplant). Only at initial startup is the engine a bit gravelly sounding. And only a rare occasional whiff of exhaust reminds you of the fuel being so parsimoniously sipped.

Otherwise, the TDI displays all the attractive A3 attributes: the high-grade interior fitments, the comfortable seats, the exacting assembly quality.

It also shares the confident over-the-road behavior all Audis share: The taut handling, sharp steering response, powerful brakes and well-damped highway ride.

Our test car did display a modicum of unexpected road noise, possibly attributable to the low-profile tires that came with the optional Sport Package. And like many German cars, the price tag ratchets up quickly as those options boxes are checked.

Still, it’s hard to nitpick with such an agreeable ride. Oh, and did I mention 42 miles per gallon?

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