Since its inception in 1909, Audi has been synonymous with understated style and slick German efficiency – and the new A3 hatchback is careful not to stray too far from its core family values.
Regarded as one of the tidiest medium hatchbacks on the market, the A3’s popularity among affluent buyers seeking an unassuming but high performing vehicle has seen its stock continue to rise in recent years.
The latest A3 design is consistent with Audi’s newer models – the A6 and A4, for example – and offers motorists superior build quality combined with a choice of exceptional engines and practical running costs.
So far, so good – but how does it perform in the real world?
Across the range, performance is excellent, and the choice of reworked engines offers an agreeable cross section to keep even the fussiest of drivers amused. The 121bhp 1.4 is zippy enough for the discerning driver about town, while the 178bhp 1.8 and the 248bhp 2.0 TDI are pleasingly quick. All engines are coupled with a smooth shifting six-speed manual gearbox, although the 1.8 does come complete with a seven-speed S Tronic semi-automatic gearbox.
The A3’s steering is less responsive and noticeably weightier when compared to the BMW 1 Series, for example, but Audi aficionados are unlikely to see this as much of an issue. Quite simply, the A3 is a very good car and, whether it’s a jaunt along a winding B-road or a cruise on a seemingly endless motorway, the grip levels are exceptional. Satisfyingly, there’s also a noticeable lack of body lean when tackling tricky corners.
The ride quality of the A3 is excellent, with a smooth drive guaranteed over most surfaces. Overall, it feels larger than its predecessors, with the chrome touches in the interior serving to brighten the cabin. Additionally, its wheelbase has been lengthened by 23mm, which may not sound like much, but for passengers in the rear blessed with a lanky frame, the extension offers some very welcome legroom in the A3. In the front seats, both driver and passenger are comfortably buttressed and the car’s side supports are useful when undertaking a slice of overzealous cornering.
Given the extension of its wheelbase, the boot space in the A3 has received a welcome boost, too, with an increase of 15 litres, which brings it up to 365 litres with the seats in-situ. Fold the seats down, though, and the boot space jumps to an impressive 1,100 litres. Additionally, throughout the cabin, there are various spaces to keep your sunglasses and chewing gum, and the glove box is big enough to comfortably hold all of the essentials.
Behind the wheel
Slink behind the wheel of the A3 and you’ll find a cabin that’s both intuitive and aesthetically pleasing. As you would expect from an Audi, all of the switchgear is handsomely made and solid, with the chrome inserts helping to enhance the overall look and feel of the cabin. For those who’ve forked out for electric seats, it’s simple to get into a comfortable driving position, but others without this luxury may find it a tad more difficult.
Safety and security
The A3 received a five-star crash rating from Euro NCAP (a realistic and independent assessment of the safety performance of some of the most popular cars sold in Europe), and comes complete with stability control and front, side and curtain airbags. If you fancy adding Audi’s Pre Sense system, which gets the safety kit ready if a crash seems inevitable, you need to pay extra. As standard, though, the A3 is fitted with an alarm and deadlocks to help guard against theft.
We would all like to save a bit of cash from time to time, so the 1.6 TDi A3 should be top of the list for the most economical Audi lovers. The claimed average fuel economy on this model is 74.3mpg, which equates to around 64mpg in the real world. When it comes to servicing your motor, though, Audi’s are notoriously expensive, especially if done through a dealership, and spare parts aren’t exactly cheap. However, the 1.6 TDi emits only 99g/km of CO2, making it popular with company car and private buyers seeking to help the planet AND reduce their road tax costs.