Review

Audi A3 Sportback hatchback

Price  £22,135 - £35,690

Audi A3 Sportback hatchback

reviewed by Carbuyer

Pros
  • Most spacious model in the range
  • Good range of engines
  • High quality interior
Cons
  • Some versions’ ride is too firm
  • Not the cheapest car in the class
  • Various rivals have more bootspace

At a glance

Our Pick
1.4 TFSI 150PS SE 5dr £22,135
The greenest
1.4 TFSI e-tron 5dr £35,690
The cheapest
1.4 TFSI 150PS SE 5dr £22,135
The fastest
Nav 2.0 TFSI quattro Sportback S tronic 5dr £33,330
Top of the range
1.4 TFSI e-tron 5dr £35,690

“The Audi A3 Sportback is practical and luxurious family hatchback that – despite the relatively high price tag – is easy to recommend.”

The Audi A3 Sportback is the five-door version of the standard three-door A3 hatchback. Despite being billed as a completely separate model from the three-door, Audi asks about £600 more for the Sportback, which is roughly in line with what other premium carmakers charge for choosing five doors over three. With a starting price of around £20,000, the A3 Sportback competes with upmarket models like the BMW 1 Series, Mercedes A-Class and Volvo V40. If you’re considering an A3 Sportback, you may also want to look at the cheaper Volkswagen Golf – although it can’t quite match the A3 in terms of luxury or brand appeal.

The A3 Sportback may seem expensive for a family hatchback – especially when the excellent Ford Focus fulfils a very similar role for about three-quarters of the price – but for that initial outlay you get a practical, five-door family hatchback with a genuinely luxurious interior. The A3 Sportback is also likely to have better residual values than many of its competitors, so spending a little extra when buying the car is likely to pay off when it's time to sell or trade in.

The A3 Sportback is available with a wide range of petrol and diesel engines. There's also a plug-in hybrid model, called the A3 e-tron, which returns 176mpg and emits just 37g/km of CO2, making it exempt from both road tax and the London Congestion Charge. It's over £15,000 more expensive than an entry-level A3 Sportback, however.

There are four petrol engines available, ranging from the 108bhp 1.2-litre (which costs £30 a year to tax and returns 57.6mpg) to the 177bhp 1.8-litre, which costs £185 a year to tax and manages 42.8mpg. There's also a 1.4-litre engine, available with either 123 or 148bhp, and we recommend the more powerful of these if you’re after a petrol-engined A3 Sportback. The 148bhp 1.4-litre engine is actually the most economical petrol, returning 61.4mpg and costing £30 a year in road tax, despite being capable of 0-62mph in 8.2 seconds. This impressive blend of economy and performance is thanks to Audi's ‘cylinder-on-demand’ system, which shuts down half the engine to save fuel during gentle driving.

If you cover more miles than most, a diesel engine makes more sense. The A3 Sportback is available with 108bhp 1.6-litre or 2.0-litre diesel engines, the latter with either 148 or 181bhp. The 108bhp 1.6-litre diesel is the most efficient engine, managing an impressive 74.3mpg and being road-tax-exempt thanks to its low CO2 emissions. While the 1.6-litre's 0-62mph time of 10.7 seconds isn’t too bad, we recommend the 148bhp 2.0-litre. This engine is capable of 0-62mph in 8.6 seconds, yet its 68.9mpg fuel economy is still impressive. You’ll only have to pay £20 a year in road tax, while a Benefit-in-Kind rate of 21% will appeal to company-car drivers.

Audi also makes two performance versions of the A3 Sportback, called the S3 Sportback and RS3. They’re roughly £10,000 and £20,000 more than the standard car, respectively. The S3 Sportback is capable of 0-62mph in just 5.3 seconds, and the RS3 manages 0-62mph in just 4.3 seconds. While these are both quite expensive to buy and run, they’re seriously swift cars that can out-accelerate a Porsche Cayman, yet offer typical hatchback practicality at the same time.

On the road, the A3 Sportback feels very secure, while grip improves even further with the addition of Audi's quattro four-wheel-drive system – although this option adds about £1,500, sees fuel economy drop by about 7mpg and road tax rise by two bands.

Climb inside and you’re treated to as nice an interior as it's possible to find in this class of car. All of the materials seem high-quality and well put-together, while the overall design has a ‘premium’ feel to it, which goes some way to justifying the A3 Sportback's relatively high price.

The A3 Sportback is available in four trims, starting with SE and rising through SE Technik, Sport Nav and S line Nav. Entry-level SE cars come with 16-inch alloys, air-conditioning, Bluetooth phone connectivity and DAB digital radio, although if you want sat nav, you’ll need to specify SE Technik trim, which also adds cruise control and rear parking sensors.

In terms of reliability, the Audi A3 finished a reasonable 47th out of 150 cars in our 2016 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, although an 81st-place finish for reliability is average at best. There are no such concerns over safety, however, thanks to a five-star rating from Euro NCAP for the three-door A3, with which the Sportback shares much of its mechanical parts.

MPG, running costs & CO2

4.2 / 5

While BMW offers a three-year/unlimited-mileage warranty on its cars, the Audi A3 Sportback offers just 60,000 miles cover over the same period

Engines, drive & performance

4.3 / 5

The Audi A3 Sportback delivers a mature blend of predictable handling, a comfortable and quiet ride, plus smooth and effortless performance

Interior & comfort

4.2 / 5

Thanks to the Audi A3 Sportback’s widely adjustable seat and steering wheel, it’s easy to find the perfect driving position

Practicality & boot space

3.8 / 5

Fitted with one of the powerful but frugal diesel engines and four-wheel drive, the roomy and practical Audi A3 Sportback makes a great tow car

Reliability & safety

4.2 / 5

The Audi A3 Sportback has excellent safety credentials and reasonable reliability ratings

What the others say

4.5 / 5
based on 4 reviews
4 / 5
“Factor in its well-built, high-tech cabin and new-found practicality and it's one of the best cars in the current Audi range.”
4.5 / 5
“Its weight has been cut by 90kg compared with the previous model and that has helped to keep fuel consumption and CO2 emissions down.”
5 / 5
“The SE's suspension provides the best balance of comfort and control, and you can specify it at no extra cost with every trim level.”
9 / 10
"The A3 is one of the best family hatchbacks around, thanks to its classy interior, entertaining drive and surprisingly reasonable ownership costs."
What owners say 
4.1666666666667
4.2 /5 based on 6 reviews
83%
 of people would recommend this car to a friend

Owner rating:

3 star   0
2 star   0
Last updated 
25 Apr 2016
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