Audi A3 hatchback
Price £18,865 - £32,710
- Big choice of engines
- Very refined
- Classy cabin
- Expensive to buy
- BMW 1 Series is better to drive
- Not much room in the back seats
At a glance
"The Audi A3 is a great all-round family hatchback – it’s well built, classy and has a lot of technology inside. It feels like one of Audi’s larger cars but squeezed into a family hatchback."
The Audi A3 is a three-door family hatchback that competes with premium rivals such as the Mercedes A-Class, BMW 1 Series and Volvo V40. It's a little more expensive than your average mid-sized hatchback, but the A3 also competes with slightly cheaper models such as the Volkswagen Golf, with which it shares a lot of parts. The A3 is that bit classier than the Golf though, with a smarter cabin and that desirable Audi badge on the nose.
There's a wide choice of engines available with the A3, encompassing four petrols and three diesels. The most economical version is the 1.6-litre TDI diesel in Ultra guise, which returns a claimed 83.1mpg and is free to tax. It only makes 109bhp, but it's not a bad performer, either.
The diesels are great for high-mileage drivers and anyone who spends a lot of time on the motorway, but the strong range of petrols is also worth a look for anyone who does low to average mileage.
The 1.4-litre TFSI petrol engine is available with Audi's cylinder-on-demand technology, which shuts down parts of the engine when they’re not being used in order to save fuel. As a result, it returns an impressive 62.8mpg, costs only £20 a year to tax and is also quite powerful with 148bhp – so it's fun to drive, too.
Every A3 has a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, but Audi's seven-speed S tronic automatic is also available. Though it does add to the list price, it's worth considering because it's very smooth and complements both the petrol and the diesel engines well. It can actually improve fuel economy and CO2 emissions a little, too, so we prefer it to the standard manual.
The vast majority of A3s are front-wheel drive, but Audi's quattro four-wheel-drive system is available on some of the more powerful models, giving them extra grip in slippery conditions.
Four trim levels are available, all of which include quite a lot of equipment. The entry-level SE comes with alloy wheels, DAB digital radio, air-conditioning, front electric windows and an infotainment screen mounted in the dash that pops up when you start the car – so it's likely to be more than sufficient for a lot of buyers.
SE Technik adds bigger alloy wheels and sat nav, while Sport Nav includes stiffer sports suspension and Audi's Drive Select adjustable handling system. S line Nav follows that up with even bigger 18-inch alloy wheels and bright xenon headlights.
It's worth bearing in mind that the sports suspension on two highest trim levels can make the ride uncomfortable. Fortunately, Audi offers the standard SE model's softer and more forgiving suspension as a no-cost option if you value comfort over sporty handling.
As for safety, the A3 scored the full five stars in Euro NCAP crash-testing and features seven airbags plus electronic stability control as standard.
You'll get excellent fuel economy and low emissions from most Audi A3 models, while insurance and servicing won't break the budget
The Audi A3 is a great cruiser thanks to its predictable handling and comfortable ride. There isn't really a bad engine in the range, either
The Audi A3’s interior is one of its finest attributes. Even the air vents seem to be a work of art
While the Audi A3 shares many parts with the SEAT Leon and VW Golf, it’s a little less practical, but it still has reasonable space for four
Audi A3 owners praise their cars' reliability and it’s got a good reputation for safety thanks to a high Euro NCAP crash-test rating