Mother Proof's view

I cannot believe time flies by so quickly. My babies are now in second and fourth grades. Diapers are long gone; preschool is but a brief memory, and there’s not a wisp of baby fat anywhere on their lean bodies. And I can now drive a small car again.

Despite its small size, my whole family enjoyed the 2012 Audi A3 TDI; it was fun to ride in, even more fun to drive and handled most of our stuff.

The A3 is a small hatchback. The Colorado girl in me would require a ski rack, but all other day-to-day activities were handled with major zip.

The major zip is courtesy of a 2.0-liter clean diesel engine paired with a S-Tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission. I mention this piece of machinery because it’s amazing. When shifting, there is no lag and no kick — just seamless power. It’s quite addicting.

The 2012 Audi A3 has a starting MSRP of $27,270 for a gas-powered four-cylinder. My test car, an A3 TDI, starts at $30,250. Add in a navigation system and the Premium Plus, 18-inch Sport and Cold Weather packages (along with a couple other accessories) and my test car’s price zipped to $38,050.

The Audi A3 TDI looks like an itty-bitty wagon. It’s got four doors and a rear hatch, and it’s cute. But watch out, this car is faster than the toddler who you swore was here half a second ago.

The five-seat A3 is easy to get into and out of for everyone. It should be noted that there are some foot wells in the rear that will take some getting used to. The real hurdle will be for parents of kids who need help getting into their child-safety seats. Your backs may ache and your heads may be bonked due to the A3’s low door height, but keep your eyes on the horizon, my friends. Someday this will be a non-issue, but will you be able to hang in there with the A3 that long?

The cargo area is easy to access, and the hatch doesn’t go too high so it’s easy to reach when open — even for shorter folks. My son, age 10, actually liked opening and closing the hatch and loading and unloading stuff out of the back because it was so easy for him. The cargo floor’s height is perfect for him to load his own hockey bag in and out of the back. Hallelujah! The less I have to touch that thing, the better, and he only started playing a few months ago.

The A3 TDI has a turbocharged 2.0-liter diesel four-cylinder engine that makes 140 horsepower and an awe-inspiring 236 pounds-feet of torque. It gets an EPA-estimated 30/42 mpg city/highway.

Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Groove-On

The A3 TDI’s interior feels like a cockpit because everything is close together, bolstered and dark. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it feels more sporty and enclosed than open and airy.

In the front, the center stack was simple to use, though the Multi Media Interface’s screen looked a little like it was added aftermarket because it was the only item that had polished black plastic. When I looked closely at the stereo system, I noticed there was no CD player. I mourned my advancing age and how technology confounds me; then I tuned in an AM radio station and moved on. Had I wanted to listen to my gadget though, it was easy to do by plugging it in using a USB cord in the glove box.

I liked how all the dials, knobs and switches felt solid and sturdy. The front row’s cupholders were smallish but usable. In the backseat, the cupholders popped out of the end of the armrest. This is not a new configuration from Audi and works fine for older kids, but if you have youngsters these cupholders may cause some frustration and may even get damaged as I’m not sure they would fare well over time in everyday battles.

I had plenty of legroom in the front row, and the kids were surprisingly comfortable in the back. The rear seats were deep, enabling families to be comfortable in the A3 despite its small size. There isn’t an abounding amount of rear legroom, though, so forward-facing child-safety seats are best for this car.

Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair

The 2012 Audi A3 has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. A car must receive the top score of Good in front, side, rear and roof-strength crash tests to earn this safety nod. The A3 hasn’t been crash-tested by the federal government.

A3 has two sets of lower Latch anchors in the second row, and they’re some of the best anchors ever designed. They’re covered by removable plastic clips and sit in a perfect plastic housing — right out there for you to use with ease. That said, rear-facing convertibles and infant seats will be a stretch (or rather, a cram) for most. They will fit, but front seat space will be compromised. My 6-foot-tall husband was not on board with how far forward the seat had to be moved to accommodate the safety seats. I was OK in the driver’s seat, but I am 5 feet 5 inches tall.

Standard safety features in the A3 include front-wheel drive, four-wheel-disc antilock brakes, an electronic stability system with traction control, active front head restraints and six airbags, including curtains for both rows. Rear seat side-impact airbags are optional.

Get more safety information about the 2012 Audi A3 TDI here.

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