Review

Audi A3 hatchback

Price  £18,575 - £32,420

Audi A3 hatchback

reviewed by Carbuyer

Pros
  • Great engines
  • Fantastic interior
  • Quiet on the motorway
Cons
  • High list prices
  • Rear seats are tight
  • BMW 1 Series is more fun to drive

At a glance

The greenest
1.6 TDI SE 3dr £20,825
The cheapest
1.2 TFSI SE 3dr £18,575
The fastest
2.0 TFSI quattro S tronic 3dr £32,420
Top of the range
2.0 TFSI quattro S tronic 3dr £32,420

"The Audi A3 is a fantastic all-rounder – it feels luxurious, hi-tech and robust. In short, it’s everything that makes an Audi special, but condensed in to a family hatchback-sized package."

The Audi A3 is a premium, three-door hatchback that goes head-to-head with similarly priced rivals including the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class. However, closer to home, because they're all part of the VW Group, it faces slightly cheaper opposition in the form of the Volkswagen Golf and SEAT Leon. All three models share many mechanical components, but the A3 adds an extra layer of quality inside and out, plus the appeal of that Audi badge.

Powering the A3 is a choice of four petrol and three diesel engines. They're all very efficient, but if it's the last word in fuel economy you're looking for, you'll need to buy the A3 e-tron. This uses a powerful 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine combined with an electric motor to achieve up to 188mpg – theoretically at least.

All that technology comes at a price, however, so we'd recommend the much cheaper 1.4-litre TFSI petrol model with cylinder-on-demand technology. This shuts down parts of the engine when they're not needed, saving fuel. The result is fuel economy approaching 60.1mpg – outstanding for a petrol engine. Fortunately, with all of the engine working, performance is impressive, so you can have fun and save money, too.

Of the diesel engines, we'd recommend the 1.6-litre TDI. It can crack 74.3mpg, but although it develops just 104bhp, it's actually quite lively. Being a premium model, it's no surprise that the A3 is available with Audi's S tronic automatic gearbox. This is worth considering, because not only is it smooth and responsive, it doesn't really affect fuel economy. In fact, we prefer it to the manual transmission.

Most versions of the A3 are two-wheel drive, but if you crave the extra grip and handling response that come with a four-wheel-drive system, you can specify more powerful A3s with quattro all-wheel drive.

Three contrasting and relatively generous trim levels make choosing your A3 a straightforward process. With its alloy wheels, front electric windows, air-conditioning, DAB digital radio and a dashboard-mounted colour display that pops up when you start the engine, SE trim will be enough for most people.

Sport and S line bring additional features including sports suspension. It's quite firm and can be uncomfortable on long journeys, so be sure you can live with it. The standard suspension is a no-cost option.

The A3 was awarded five stars by Euro NCAP, so you can be sure it's safe – a claim supported by its anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control and full complement of airbags.

MPG, running costs & CO2

4.2 / 5

You'll get excellent fuel economy and low emissions from most Audi A3 models, while insurance and servicing won't break the budget

Engines, drive & performance

4.3 / 5

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

Interior & comfort

4.3 / 5

The Audi A3’s interior is one of its finest attributes. Even the air vents seem to be a work of art

Practicality & boot space

4 / 5

While the Audi A3 shares many of its parts with the SEAT Leon and Volkswagen Golf, it’s actually a little less practical, but it still has reasonable space for four people and their luggage

Reliability & safety

4.4 / 5

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

What the others say

4 / 5
based on 2 reviews
4 / 5
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.
4 / 5
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.
What owners say 
4.1928774928775
4.2 /5 based on 351 reviews
62%
 people would recommend this car to a friend
Last updated 
2 Feb 2015

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