Now into its fourth generation, the latest Audi A3 still bears some resemblance to its predecessor but the biggest change to the latest model is its interior. Sharing the same platform with the new Volkswagen Golf, SEAT Leon and Skoda Octavia, the German manufacturer have also ditched the less practical three-door model in favour of a five-door layout, bringing the A3 in line with rival models such as the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class. But have Audi retained that winning formula that saw the A3 gain in popularity over the years and can the latest model live up to the high standards of its predecessor?
This A3 is initially offered in a choice of petrol and diesel engines with mild hybrid technology and a plug-in hybrid expected to join the line up at some point in the future. There are two diesel engines available; the entry-level 114bhp 30 TDI or the more powerful 148bhp 35 TDI, both are 2litre engines with the 30 TDI paired with a six-speed manual gearbox while the 35 TDI is only available with a seven-speed S tronic automatic gearbox. The petrol engines on the other hand are available in a 1litre 109bhp 30 TFSI with a six-speed manual gearbox, while the 1.5litre 148bph 35 TSFI is available in a separate six-speed manual and seven-speed automatic. Unlike some of the automatic gearboxes in other modern Audis, the A3 is quick to respond when accelerating briskly away from standstill.
On the road the A3 Sportback handles well, gripping the road securely responding to quick directional changes confidently. The steering on the other hand, while precise, can feel a little vague at times leaving the A3 falling short compared to the likes of the sharp-steering on the BMW 1 Series and the weightier build-up on the A-Class. The latest model feels quick on A-roads and motorways but put the A3 in Sport mode and the accelerator is responsive and the steering sharp, giving you all the feel you need in bends, while Eco mode turns it into a much more relaxing car to drive. The suspension varies on the A3 Sportback, depending on the engine and the badge you go for. The lower powered models have a less sophisticated rear suspension setup than the more powerful versions, but the A3 is still great at cushioning the bumps more so than the BMW 1 Series M Sport. Hit a rough patch and the car recovers its composure quickly, with very little bouncing around afterwards - a trait that the Mercedes A-Class suffers from.
Along with its premium badge, the A3's main selling point has always been its upmarket interior and the latest model is no different. It’s available in a number of trims; Technik, Sport, S line, Edition 1 and Vorsprung. Technik is similar to the SE trim Audi has used previously, with 16inch alloy wheels and cloth upholstery, but standard features like the 10.1inch touchscreen with sat-nav and smartphone mirroring for Android and Apple devices are added. There’s also the 10.25inch Virtual Cockpit that will remember the profiles of up to six drivers, storing preferred sat-nav destinations, seat positions and even air-con preferences, making even the entry-level a well equipped model. Upgrading to Sport sees larger wheels and a part-leather interior added, along with a choice of driving modes, dual-zone climate control and folding door mirrors. Go for the top spec Edition 1 and Vorsprung and the A3 gets an even more premium feel, adding technology such as Matrix LED headlights, a Bang & Olufsen stereo, Virtual Cockpit Plus and even larger wheels.
Upholding their reputation for smart cabins, the interior quality in the A3 seems top notch with plenty of high-quality plastic, metallic surfaces and gloss black finishes adding to the premium feel of the car. Whilst not as impressive looking as the A-Class, it is more refined than the 1 Series and is by far one of the best interiors that Audi has produced for some time. Up front, the cabin is roomy and even the tallest drivers will quickly get comfortable with plenty of leg and shoulder space available. In terms of passenger space, the A3 is on par with the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class with plenty of knee room on offer but six foot passengers won’t exactly be sprawling out in the back seats. Boot space is decent, with a similar sized load space to the A-Class, but the A3 simply can’t compare to the packhorse of family cars, the Skoda Octavia. All A3 variants come with an adjustable boot floor as standard that can be raised to reduce the load lip at the boot's entrance.
Should you buy one? Although the new Audi A3 isn't dramatically different from the previous model, it remains a very classy little car and does well competing against other premium models in the class like BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class. The A3 is more expensive than mainstream alternatives like the Volkswagen Golf or Mazda 3, but it’s comfortable, good to drive, roomy, comes with plenty of kit and technology as standard and should be on your shortlist if you’re after a more premium family hatchback.
Pros ‘n’ Cons:
• Ride Comfort √
• Interior √
• Technology and kit √
• Price X
• Initial engine line-up is limited X
(Audi A3 S line 35 TFSI)
• Price: £ 27,275.00
• Max speed: 139mph
• 0-62 mph: 8.4seconds
• Range: 48.7mpg
• Engine layout: 1.5litre TFSI petrol engine
• Max. power: 148bhp
• CO2: 111g/km
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