Wagons and wagon-like cars are making a steady comeback, after years of being shunted aside
by SUVs and crossovers.
Helping fuel the resurgence are cars like the 2009 Audi A3 Sportback, a stylish little wagon that drives like, well, an Audi.
Wagons, with their wood paneling and dowdy styling, had been chucked into the "What were we thinking?" category that includes leisure suits and the music of the Village People.
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Today, wagons just make sense, because of their ability to haul people and cargo, while not being too big and chugging too much fuel.
Also, with models such as this one, you get sporty driving dynamics.
The car comes in two versions: Audi A3 Sportback 2.0 T and A3 Quattro.
The A3's engine, suspension and braking systems are wonderfully engineered.
But it also offers pretty good fuel economy, with our 3.2-liter six-cylinder engine coming in at 18 mpg city, 25 highway.
The practicality that you get from the A3 does not come at the expense of luxury.
The interior design is handsome and classy, and there is plenty of room, so you won't feel cramped while enjoying the sports-car driving experience.
The quality materials and effeciently placed controls are exactly what Audi has become known for.
But it's on the road where the A3 really distinguishes itself.
It is sensational on the open lanes, is perfectly suited to long-haul trips and is versatile enough to be used for your in-town needs.
The A3 delivers great balance and strong acceleration response, which we really enjoyed taking advantage of on some rural western Georgia roads that meandered through farm land.
The A3 2.0 T is front-wheel drive with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine rated at 200 horsepower. Two transmissions are available on that one: six-speed manual or optional Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) automatic.
The 3.2 Quattro, our tester, comes with all-wheel drive, a 250-hp 3.2-liter V6, and the DSG.
The A3 has quite a collection of standard features such as automatic climate control with sun sensor, windshield wipers with four-position intermittent control, four-spoke steering wheel, electronic cruise control with coast, aluminum trim on center dashboard air vents, power windows with power retention when ignition shut-off, power remote keyless entry with trunk release and electric rear window defogger with automatic shut-off feature.
The car has a strong lineup of safety features, too, such as electronic stability program with antilock brakes and electronic brake differential, driver and passenger next-generation front airbag, 3-point safety belts with automatic pre-tensioners, side-impact airbags and adjustable headrests for front and rear seats.
Audi has sold nearly 2 million A3s worldwide, including other body styles, and has earned accolades for its high levels of technology and sporty driving dynamics.
Our tester carried a sticker price of $41,650.
But it's money well spent, certainly better than blowing cash on leisure suits and Village People albums.