The phrase ''know your enemy'' has special meaning for Audi New Zealand boss Dean Sheed.
Arguably, no-one knows the rival for the new A3 more intimately than this man, given that before taking on his present job, he was in charge of tailoring the very car Audi's hatch will invariably be compared with.
It's the Volkswagen Golf, of course, the car from which the A3 has always been spun. The car that, in its latest form, is winning all sorts of awards - not least a World Car of the Year (snatched from the A3) - and all manner of accolades.
They share so much - the brilliant new MQB platform, common drivetrains operating through the front wheels and much the same equipment level at base form.
Audi picks up $5250 above where VW leaves off and there is no doubt the A3 has an air of affluence about it. This sportback shape, that starts at $48,500 for the entry 1.4-litre, moving to a Sport edition at $51,900 then stepping up $500 to the 1.8-petrol or 2.0-litre TDi (both also in Sport trim), is a styling standout, slinkier than anything in Golfdom.
Excellence continues within, with materials that are soft to the touch and solid in their construction.
It looks techy, too - LED lights for the fuel and temperature gauges and a central pop-up screen and a multimedia interface (MMI) controller between the front seats, allowing menu-driven access to all major functions.
When coupled with satellite navigation, MMI has a touch-sensitive dial that allows you to ''write'' in commands.
But there's a qualifier. In Golf, the satellite navigation is standard at the high end. In every A3, it's extra, as is leather. A technology pack adds parking sensors, navigation and a reversing camera and there's a styling pack (S-Line trim, nicer 17-inch alloys, xenon lights), both for $3500.
You can spend more for the in-vogue side assist, lane assist, adaptive cruise control and park assist. The canny will go for a deal bundling the last three for $1900.
The car is all the better for these smarts, but is it clever for Audi NZ to keep asking extra money for kit that is starting to show in lower-priced fare?
Sheed agrees that if a major premium rival were to up the ante, he would be forced to change tack.
Driving-wise, the new A3 offers a sporty edge with light and accurate steering. For those who seek it, Sport and S-line suspension options increase the car's handling stiffness to improve road holding, if at the expense of ride.
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