Can ‘timeless’ also mean ‘dull’? It can when describing the interior of the Sportback. All the usual things that instantly annoy about poorly planned interiors – those tacked-on pieces of ill-advised trim, the irritatingly alternative typeface on the dials, the occasional invisible button, the slightly displaced driving position and the odd blind spot in your vision around the car – are all absent.

Instead, you’re presented with an interior with a design cleanliness to bring a tear of nostalgia to the eye of a retired heart surgeon. There’s nothing superfluous here, no eye-catching gimmicks to divert your attention from some more fundamental failing. In simple ergonomic terms, this cabin is close to perfect.

Nic Cackett

Nic Cackett

Road tester
The cabin is elegant, well built and ergonomically excellent

You can see how Audi has distilled once-separate elements of design into single concentrates. The fuel gauge and water temperature gauges now form part of the arc of the revcounter and speedometer respectively. The MMI control system for navigation (if fitted), media, radio and information systems has boiled down to one rotary knob and two switches. All the ventilation controls are laid out in a single line. In terms of pure ergonomic efficiency, it’s something of a landmark.

But in terms of providing occupants with surprise and delight features to brighten up your journey, it would score a big, fat zero were it not saved by the way the colour display screen disappears into the dash when not in use. That aside, this interior is as straight-laced as the UN Security Council Christmas party.

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Audi range

Driven this week

Never do you feel this more than when sitting in the back. You might think there would be space to spare here, but you’d be wrong; headroom is limited and kneeroom merely adequate, despite that extra 35mm of metal between the wheels.

The seat is comfortable, but the view out is unrelieved and grey. As for the boot, it’s well shaped and easily accessed, and while it offers a pretty paltry extra 15 litres of space over the three-door A3 with the seats up, fully folded there’s an extremely useful additional 120 litres of room for your clobber.

Maybe you will find more joy on the standard equipment levels on the core five trims. Opt for an entry-level SE model and you'll find 16in alloys, xenon headlights, heated wing mirrors, cruise control and automatic lights and wipers on the outside, while inside is dominated by Audi's MMI infotainment system with its retractable 7.0in display, DAB radio, Bluetooth, smartphone integration and USB connectivity.

Upgrade to SE Technik and the additions are limited to the inclusion of sat nav, Audi's online services and rear parking sensors. If that isn't enough tech for you maybe the Sport model can appeal with its additions limited to 17in alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control and more chrome and aluminium trim, while the S-line models get sports seats, lowered, tauter suspension, LED headlights and interior lighting, 18in alloy wheels, a sporty bodykit and additional cubby holes as standard.

The range-topping Black Edition model chiefly adds black exterior trim and tinted rear windows, while those opting for the hybrid Sportback will get a brake recuperation system and numerous Audi safety systems including, lane assist and active city braking, while the MMI infotainment system also gains a 10GB hard drive. Those wanting more power for their premium hatchback have the choice of the S3, which gets an aggressive bodykit, an Audi Sport breathed on suspension set-up, heated front seats and a Nappa leather upholstery, while the S3 Black Edition come with additional black trim parts and a Bang & Olufsen sound system.

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Audi range

Driven this week