Road test: Audi A3
Good to drive, stylish and equipped, the A3 is a class act
What is it?
Look closely, and you’ll notice that this is an updated version of the Audi A3. As well as subtle styling changes, there are new engines and extra equipment.
How safe is it?
Safety features abound. The Audi A3 scored the maximum five stars when tested by Euro NCAP in 2012, and the same rating applies to the revised model.
Who should buy one?
If you value high-tech features and a quality interior, you’ll appreciate the A3. But as with upmarket rivals like the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, you’ll need deep pockets.
Road test by David Motton 18 August 2016
DRIVING AND PERFORMANCE
You’ll need to be something of an Audi-spotter to notice the styling changes. There’s a new grille, new headlights with LED running lights and new alloy wheel designs. It’s “as you were” under the skin, with no mechanical changes to speak of unless you choose one of the two new engines.
You might think the new 1.0-litre TFSI is too small to power a car of this size, but this entry-level engine puts out a respectable 115PS (113bhp). Audi’s other new engine is also a turbocharged petrol, the 190PS (187bhp) 2.0 TFSI. It promises near-hot-hatch performance.
Frustratingly, neither of these new engines was available for us to test drive, but we did take a turn behind the wheel of a 150PS (148bhp) 1.4 TFSI, a 110PS (108bhp) 1.6 TDI and 150PS 2.0 TDI models.
The 1.6 diesel musters respectable pace and is the most fuel-efficient choice, but we preferred the punchier 2.0-litre. The larger diesel builds speed nicely, with plenty of pulling power in the middle of the rev range. It’s refined, too – not whisper-quiet perhaps, but certainly not intrusive.
From the driver’s seat, though, we were more taken with the 1.4 TFSI. It may not match the diesel’s mid-range clout, but it’s impressively flexible for a petrol engine and very refined. The 1.4 TFSI is happy to be revved hard without becoming harsh or noisy.
There’s some clever technology at work, too. When cruising at a steady speed, the engine can run on two cylinders rather than all four. Audi calls this ‘Cylinder on Demand’, and it contributes to an official combined figure of 62.8mpg. That’s surprisingly close to the 2.0-litre diesel’s 70.6mpg.
The 1.4 TFSI also feels that bit lighter on its feet than the diesels (it weighs just 1200kg, according to Audi’s figures). We preferred the car on standard suspension rather than the sportier set-up fitted to the most expensive S line models. It’s more forgiving of poor road surfaces, but the car still handles corners well.
SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
We can imagine that many A3 customers are sold before the test drive; as soon as you sit in the cabin you understand why this car has a premium price tag. Few other small hatchbacks are on the same page when it comes to interior quality. The Virtual Cockpit, which replaces conventional dials with a TFT screen, is now available as an option. You may well ask if it’s worth paying £450 when there’s not a lot wrong with conventional dials, but tech geeks will love it.
In terms of space, there’s lots of room up front but the Audi isn’t the biggest hatchback in the rear if you choose the three-door. The longer Sportback five-door is more family-friendly. It also has more boot space. The three-door’s capacity with the seats up is 325 litres, while the Sportback’s is 340 litres. That’s plenty of room for a weekly shop, but you’ll need to be proficient at car-boot Tetris to find space for a family’s holiday luggage.
Euro NCAP testing, so it should protect you well in an accident. Standard safety kit includes Audi Side Assist, which warns the driver of a car hidden in the blind spot, and Audi Pre-sense Basic, which tightens seatbelts, closes the sunroof and windows, and turns on the hazard warning lights if sensors detect a likely collision. There are more safety aids on the option list.
The A3 is available in SE, SE Technik, Sport and S line spec. SE models offer 16-inch alloys, manual air conditioning, cruise control and Xenon headlights. SE Technik adds satnav, rear parking sensors and a different alloy wheel. Sport models gain 17-inch alloys and dual-zone climate control. S line offers LED headlights, sports suspension, 18-inch alloys and part-leather upholstery.
Prices start at £19,365 for the cheapest three-door with the new 1.0-litre TFSI engine. The five-door Sportback starts from £19,985 with the same engine. But set premium pricing against strong resale values and modest running costs. The most fuel-efficient engine, the 1.6 diesel, returns 74.3mpg on the combined cycle (although don’t expect to match that figure in everyday driving).
Good to drive, stylish and equipped, the A3 is a class act.
AT A GLANCE:
Price: £22,135 as tested
Performance: 0-62mph in 8.1 seconds
Economy: 62.8mpg combined
Insurance: Group TBC
Tax: Band D (£0/£20)
Figures for the Audi A3 Sportback 1.4 TFSI CoD (150PS) SE