Audi A3 hatchback
Price £18,280 - £32,125
- Stylish, quality cabin
- Comfortable ride
- Wide range of efficient engines
- BMW 1 Series is better to drive
- Tight in the back
- Looks too similar to other cars from Audi
At a glance
"The Audi A3 is a high-quality hatchback that's relaxing to drive and great to own."
The Audi A3 is based on the Volkswagen Golf but comes with a more upmarket interior that makes it feel more special inside than the VW. In fact, the Audi competes directly with premium hatchbacks such as the BMW 1 Series and the new Mercedes A-Class.
One of the best parts of the Audi A3 is its engine range. None of the engines are slow and the 1.6-litre diesel in particular is very cheap to run. Opting for one of the 2.0-litre diesels means you get a car that's both quick and frugal on fuel, while the S3 rivals cars such as the BMW M135i for speed, but can still get 40mpg.
With the basic Audi A3 SE trim level you get a colour display, air conditioning, a Bluetooth phone connection and a digital radio. You also get the best suspension setup for soaking up the UK's bumpy roads. Audi A3 Sport and Audi A3 S line models get larger alloy wheels and sportier looks, but we would recommend speccing the SE's suspension, something you can do at no extra cost.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Strong economy and low CO2 figures
It shares the same excellent range of engines as the SEAT and the Volkswagen, which means it gets the excellent 1.6-litre diesel engine that can get 74.3mpg and emissions that dip under 100g/km of CO2 for road tax exemption. If you want more power, the 2.0-litre diesel represents a sensible step up, with decent economy and 0-60mph taking just 8.6 seconds. The 1.4-litre TFSI gets cylinder deactivation, which means it can use just half the engine when full power's not needed to save fuel.
Fixed-price servicing means that you should never have unexpected maintenance bills and the A3 gets Audi's three-year/60,000 mile warranty, which is extendable at extra cost.
Interior & comfort
Decent space and ride comfort
Building excellent interiors is something Audi has garnered an excellent reputation for and the A3 is another example of this. The old model's was already smart, but all new A3s get a colour screen that means there's no need for loads of buttons to clutter the dashboard. A height adjustable driver's seat, as well as height and reach adjustment for the steering wheel, means finding a good driving position is easy.
Getting suspension that strikes a balance between comfort and sporty driving characteristics hasn’t been a particular Audi strongpoint, but the company has mastered it now in SE spec cars. Suitably equipped, the A3 glides over poor surfaces, while Sport and S line models can get the same set up at no extra cost.
Practicality & boot space
Reasonable space for people and their luggage
Although the new Audi A3 has similar dimensions to the old car, Audi has still managed to find extra space inside. That's thanks to the A3 getting a longer wheelbase – the space between the front and rear wheels – which makes room for both front and rear passengers. Three-door Audi A3s have front seats that slide forwards for better access to the rear, but if you’re going to be carrying passengers in the back on a regular basis the five-door Audi A3 Sportback is the model to go for.
Boot space has risen by 15 litres to 365 litres, which expands to 1,100 litres with the rear seats folded down. The standard-fit split-folding rear seats drop down nearly completely flat and the boot has a false floor to get round its high lip, so heavy items slide in easily. If you need extra space, the five-door Sportback has a 380-litre boot that expands to 1,220 with the back seats down.
Reliability & safety
High quality interior and a bunch of satisfied customers
Inside, the Audi feels better built than many cars costing a lot more, but the bits you can’t see are also tough and durable. In our 2014 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, the Audi A3 came 16th out of 150 cars. Owners ranked it second for build quality, while it came 30th for reliability, and owners also scored it well for in-car technology.
With five-stars from Euro NCAP, the A3 is extremely safe and it gets all the safety features you would expect including plenty of airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability control. The comprehensive options list means you can also go for features such as active cruise control, which can match the speed of the car in front and keep a safe distance away from it. The A3 can also be specced with Audi's quattro four-wheel drive system.
Engines, drive & performance
Comfortable and safe handling make the A3 a great cruiser
In the past, getting the sporty looks of S line and Sport Audi A3 models also meant getting stiffer suspension, which doesn’t suit roads in the UK. Now though, you can get the sporty looks and spec the SE's softer suspension at no extra cost. The A3 has plenty of grip and very little body roll in the corners but the BMW 1 Series is the car in this class to go for if you’re a driving enthusiast.
The 1.6-litre diesel A3 can get from 0-60mph in 10.7 seconds, while the 1.4-litre petrol is quicker and also cheaper to buy. The 2.0-litre diesel can be had with either 148bhp or 182bhp, and the latter is particularly quick at no real expense to fuel economy. Fastest of all is the S3 model, which comes with grippy four-wheel drive as standard.
Price, value for money & options
Better value than you might expect from an Audi
The Audi A3 costs more than mainstream rivals such as the Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf, but should hold its value better than both. It's also slightly cheaper than the BMW 1 Series and the Mercedes A-Class.
All models get air-conditioning, alloy wheels, Bluetooth phone connection, and Audi's clever new multimedia interface.
Sharper exterior looks can be had by going for the S line model, which gets bigger alloy wheels , Xenon headlights, and an S line body kit, while inside you get leather sports seats.
What the others say
So plenty has changed, apart from the looks. Audi itself describes the new A3 as evolutionary, but man has evolved faster than the look of Audi’s line-up. The goatee grill remains but there's slightly slimmer headlights, a sharper crease along the sides and larger rear lights. It looks like more of a facelift than an all-new car, but such is the way of Audi’s design these days – it probably won’t harm sales: Audi’s lookalike line-up helped the marque to a record year in 2011, with 2012 set to grow even further.
Don’t be fooled, though. The latest A3 is built on a new platform that will also underpin the next generation Volkswagen Golf. There are big efficiency gains; engine stop-start is now standard across the range, and Audi has used aluminium and high-strength steel to help make the new car up to 80kg lighter than the old one.
New Audi A3 goes on sale in the UK from September 2012 with prices starting at around £19,000. Five-door Sportback from later in 2012. A3 styling takes inspiration from Audi's current line-up with the front end very similar to the recently revised A4 range while rear echoes new A6 saloon. From the side it's still recognisable as an A3 and despite not being exactly a big departure in terms of looks, it's a neat design.