Driven the Audi A3

 

Driven the Audi A3

It is probably the smallest sedan car Audi makes. The previous model helped cement this little niche in the market by bringing premium interiors (and badges) to the compact junior executive range. Previously, small sedans didn’t make a dent in sales figures – when’s the last time you saw a Vauxhall Astra sedan?

But Audi, among others, figured there was room below the usual crop of four-doors for a smaller and cheaper model. It worked too – with the A3 Sedan especially proving to be popular.

So, it’s basically an A3 Sportback that isn’t a hatchback. Simultaneously, it’s much like a smaller and cheaper Audi A4. In terms of rivals, the A3 and A4 are obvious ones, while there are others from rival German cars in the shape of the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe and Mercedes A-Class Sedan.

What engine and trim options are there?

Like with the regular A3, Audi offers a broad range of engine options. Kicking things off is a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol. There’s also a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol that’s quicker, but more expensive.

On the diesel side, there are two 2.0-litre models. One has more power and is more expensive than the other.

There will soon be a plug-in hybrid option, as well as a performance variant called the S3.

At launch, there are four trim levels to choose from. From most expensive to cheapest they go, Sport, S Line, Edition 1, and Vorsprung. Like with other cars, the more money you pay, the more kit you get.

Interior: Audi at its best

Audi is responsible for some of the best interiors in the business. If you kidnapped several people, blindfolded them, and stuck them in an Audi A3 Sedan they’d all probably say that it ‘felt solid.’ The buttons, the gearbox controls, the door handles – they all function with a solidity few can match.

All trim levels get Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, which replaces the traditional dials behind the steering wheel with a configurable screen.

If that all feels a bit too modern for you, it’s worth noting that unlike many similar cars, like the VW Golf, it has physical controls for the heating and cooling. They’re not hidden away in a sub menu on a screen.

The reason we bring up the VW Golf in particular is that the A3 is mechanically similar to it. The interior is where it differentiates itself from the cheaper car the most – everything looks just that bit plusher.

Click through the next few pages to read everything you need to know about the Audi A3 including its practicality, how much it costs to run, what it’s like to drive – and whether we recommend buying one.

Good news – despite being the junior Audi, there is more than enough room for a small family. Up front there’s plenty of elbow space for both passenger and driver to sit comfortably. It’s not all that different to the regular hatchback A3, meaning headroom is ample for everyone. Legroom for rear passengers is helped by sculpted front seats.

But like most other small-ish cars, legroom for the middle seat passenger isn’t great.

Storage space is adequate. The door bins are capable of carrying a litre bottle of water. Cupholders in between the driver and front seat passenger fold out, so it doubles up as a general cubby or and a cupholder.

Plenty of space for phones in the centre console too. Most phones will fit in the car’s wireless charging section too.

The sedan is 6.5-inches longer than the hatchback. This results in a boot that measures in at 425 litres – exactly the same as the previous A3. More importantly, that’s 45-litres more than the A3 hatchback.

10.25-inch touchscreen as standard

All versions get digital instrument display

Swish, grown-up, solid feeling

If you stepped out of a more expensive A4, and into an A3, you wouldn’t feel short changed. While if you moved directly from a Ford Focus to an A3 you’d definitely feel like you are going up in the world.

Settle into the driver’s seat and you’ll find it’s adjustable enough for most people. Cars in S Line spec and above get firm but comfortable sport seats that keep the driver in place.

Looking at the quality of fixtures and fittings there is very little to complain about. The material feels plush, plus, and there’s little in the way of alignment errors.

The only minor complaints are that speaker grilles are cheap feeling. This wouldn’t normally irk anyone, but it’s where your hand naturally sits when opening the door.

The volume button is odd too. It looks like a physical button, but it is in fact touch sensitive. You twirl it around much like an original iPod. Luckily there’s a volume dial on the steering wheel too. USB-A and USB-C connections are on offer. But don’t worry, if your phone is running off a regular USB you can buy an adaptor.

Audi A3 Sedan interior

Ergonomically it’s a master class. You’ll soon find everything you need. The lights and cruise control settings are dealt with by buttons and stalks in places that are sensible. Once you figure out where everything is you probably won’t forget. While the heating/cooling controls are on physical switches and buttons, and not on a touchscreen.

 

Speaking of touchscreen – Audi’s is 10.25-inch and comes as standard, although a 12.3-inch is also available. Both are superb pieces of kit. Audi reckons it’s 10x faster than the one of the old models, and we have to admit it is super responsive and slick.

Audi’s mapping software can divert you around traffic as well as show specific information about landmarks and shops too – like opening times.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both available wirelessly. These work fine in every variation of A3 – apart from the Sportback we’re running on long-term loan. This will sometimes cut out and restart when being used.

Nevertheless, we highly rate the A3’s interior. If you’re looking for something even flasher too – head to Mercedes. All of the infotainment and screens just seem that bit more polished.

How comfortable is the Audi A3?

The A3 we’ve tested was broadly comfortable. Very capable of both threading through town and battering the highway. However, if you’re a real comfort snob you’ll want to pay attention to this.

The suspension set up is dependent on the engine. For ’30’ engined cars (learn what that means in the engine section) there is a simple suspension set up. Anything more powerful than ’30’ gets a more sophisticated, and comfier, suspension set up.

S Line, Edition 1, and Vorsprung get Sport suspension (ironically Sport spec does not). These have lower, firmer suspension set ups. This is mostly a cosmetic choice.

All cars ride well. Even Edition 1 models with 19-inch wheels and the firmest suspension glide over most road imperfections, with only deep ruts transferring vibrations through the seat and steering wheel.

Road noise is fairly high, it’s noisier than you’ll find in a BMW 2 Series GC. While the BMW is also slightly more comfortable. There’s not much in it though. The A Class is very similar.

Good news on the engine front – all of them are good. Easy to wrap your head around too – there are two petrols and two diesels. The diesels are slightly more economical, while the petrols are quieter and more refined.

Diesels get a bit of a bad name in this day and age, but there’s definitely a time and place for them. The A3 with a diesel engine will really suit someone who covers lots of distances

The engine range:

30 TFSI petrol – 82Kw, 0-100kmh 10.6 seconds

35 TFSI petrol – 112Kw, 0-100kmh 8.7 seconds

30 TDI diesel – 85Kw, 0-100kmh 10.1 seconds

35 TDI diesel – 112Kw, 0-100kmh 8.3 seconds

The 30 TFSI is a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, while the 35 TFSI is a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol.

Both diesels are 2.0-litres, just with different power outputs. Suffice to say, the more powerful engines are more expensive than the less powerful engines.

Company car drivers, take note. The A3’s diesels aren’t RDE2 compliant, meaning you’ll pay a 4% surcharge.

Efficient diesel engines

The 30TDI is the cheapest diesel on offer. If you cover mostly highway kms, it’s just about powerful enough for the daily cruise.

We’d recommend going for the 35TDI. The km/l is the same as the lesser model, but it’s usefully quicker. This version doesn’t come with the manual option; however, the seven-speed auto is smooth and rarely confused. Overtaking is a doddle – you can really feel the power kick in from next to no rpm.

These engines aren’t overly loud on the move, but at start up there is a bit of diesel grumble.

Quiet and smooth petrol power

The petrol range mirrors the diesel’s in that there are two options, and we’d recommend the more powerful, more expensive one.

Suspension depends on engine

The steering of the Audi is direct, meaning there’s very little slack in turning the wheel. Make a minor adjustment to the wheel and there’s a minor adjustment to the steering, make a major one…you get it.

This is brilliant for two reasons. It makes the Audi superbly easy to place, making your driving more accurate. And it also makes the A3 enjoyable to drive. You get a very positive feeling from the A3 down a winding road – even in the less powerful versions.

Audi A3 Sedan dynamic

Suspension setup changes on which model you go for. Versions with less than 112Kw get a simpler set up, while cars with 112Kw or more get a more advanced multi-link rear suspension.

We won’t bore you, but we reckon it’s worth the extra money. It gives slightly more stability round corners, especially at a fast-ish speed.

All models (except for the base model Sport) get a Drive Select function. There are four or five pre-set modes depending on the engine. Each one changes the power steering feel, throttle response, and the ferocity of gear changes on automatic versions. Dynamic mode offers the most direct steering. But comfort is the mode most people will find the best to use.

We can heartily recommend the A3 Sedan if you’re in the market for a premium, but small, executive-style car.

It looks brilliant, feels just as grown up as more expensive Audis, and has an interior that gives a wow factor.

 

A Mercedes A-Class has a flasher interior, while a BMW 2-Series Gran Coupe is a touch better to drive. The A3 is the happy medium between these two.

If you dig the looks, this is a no brainer. But if you’re on the fence about them, a regular A3 does much the same job but is a bit cheaper and a smidge more practical because of the hatchback boot.

The 35TDI offers the best bang for buck in our opinion. But the 35TFSI is equally as good if you can’t warrant a diesel. The cheaper, less powerful petrol and diesel options are fine, but feel a bit so-so in a premium brand.

Watch out on the options too – not all cars come with reversing cameras, and things like the Bang & Olufsen stereo can pump up the list price.

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