Audi A3 Sportback hatchback
Price £18,900 - £34,950
- High quality interior
- Massive boot
- Very comfortable
- Less stylish than three-door A3
- BMW 1 Series is more fun to drive
- Quite expensive
At a glance
"The Audi A3 Sportback is a family hatchback that offers a premium level of luxury and interior quality that you don’t usually find in this class."
The Audi A3 Sportback carries all the virtues of the standard Audi A3 hatchback, but adds a little extra space and the practicality of five-doors. It competes with cars such as the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf, as well as more premium models like the BMW 1 Series and the Mercedes A-Class – and there's even the option of a plug-in hybrid Audi A3 e-tron too.
Audi DNA means the Sportback gets a well-built interior, which is a match for many more expensive cars.
The Sportback comes with the same excellent range of engines that are available on the standard A3. Highlights include a 1.6-litre diesel that can get 74.3mpg and the high-performance 296bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine in the Audi S3 Sportback. It can get from 0-62mph in just 4.9 seconds and has a top speed that is limited to 155mph. Buyers can also spec Audi's grippy quattro four-wheel-drive system.
Trim levels offer a similarly broad selection, but even the basic SE model gets a 5.8-inch colour display, alloy wheels, a Bluetooth phone connection, and air-conditioning.
MPG, running costs & CO2
A range of frugal diesels means the A3 Sportback has very low running costs
If you want to stick with a petrol or diesel-powered Audi, the 1.6-litre diesel engine is the most economical in the range, and is capable of an impressive 74.3mpg. Its emissions are so low that road tax is also free. The two 2.0-litre diesels are almost as economical, but are much quicker than the smaller engine.
However, if it's rock-bottom running costs that you're after, go for the A3 e-tron. This plug-in hybrid version costs slightly more than the most economical petrol and diesel models, yet will manage a whopping 176mpg and emit just 35g/km of CO2. That means it is free to tax and exempt from the London Congestion Charge. It qualifies for the government's £5,000 grant for electric and plug-in hybrid cars, too.
You will not be punished too much in terms of economy if you opt for some of the petrol engines either, as the 1.4-litre TSI can return more than 60mpg, while its emissions translate into annual road tax of £20. Even the top-of-the-range Audi S3 isn’t too bad on fuel, relative to the performance on offer. It's capable of 40.9mpg and emissions of 159g/km.
Interior & comfort
Interior is best in class and comfort levels are impressive
The standard Audi A3 could never be described as an uncomfortable car, but high-spec Audi A3 S line models get sporty suspension that is best avoided if you want a smooth ride. That said, you can spec the SE's more comfortable set up at no extra cost.
The Sportback's longer wheelbase (the space between the front and back wheels) also means it is slightly better at ironing out bumps than the standard car.
In addition to the comfy ride, the A3's interior is logically laid out and solidly built, which makes it an extremely nice place to sit. In fact, it's safe to say that Audi is top of the class in this respect. Steering that adjusts for rake and reach, as well as a height adjustable driver's seat, makes getting comfortable behind the wheel easy.
Practicality & boot space
Plenty of space for passengers and the boot is roomy, too
Larger dimensions give the five-door Audi A3 Sportback more space inside than the smaller three-door model, so there's more legroom in the back, while boot capacity is up from 350 litres to 380 litres. Fold down the rear seats and that expands to 1,220 litres, with a false boot floor to hide valuables under, too.
However, go for one of the four-wheel drive Quattro models and this shrinks back down to 340 litres thanks to the bulky drivetrain system, which is required to send power to both the front and rear wheels. The same is true of the big battery packs in the Audi A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid model – so if bootspace is a priority, these two are best avoided.
Storage areas include a decent-sized glovebox, a cubbyhole under the front armrest, deep door bins, and plenty of other places for odds and ends.
Reliability & safety
Excellent build quality, five-star safety rating, but poor customer feedback
The Audi A3 Sportback is based on the standard A3, which got five stars when it was tested for safety by Euro NCAP. All cars get multiple airbags and electronic stability control, while parents will be reassured to know the seatbelt warning buzzer works on both the front and back seats – so kids can’t unbuckle without you knowing about it. You can add to these with options such as autonomous braking, which can brake the car if it detects an imminent collision, and active cruise control, which can maintain a safe distance from the car in front.
The Audi doesn’t just feel well built, it is well built. If you take a look at our 2014 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, you'll notice that the A3 came an impressive 16th out of 150 cars – two places ahead of the cheaper Volkswagen Golf, which the A3 is based on.
Engines, drive & performance
A3 Sportback comes with a wide range of powerful, quiet and frugal engines
The huge range of engines on offer allows buyers to tailor an Audi A3 Sportback perfectly for their needs. Even the super-economical small diesel can get from 0-62mph in a respectable 10.9 seconds, and actually feels faster in the real-world thanks to plenty of power available from low revs.
The mid-range 2.0-litre diesel gets that down to 8.4 seconds, when specced with the optional DSG automatic gearbox, while the flagship diesel can do it in just 6.9 seconds.
The 1.2-litre petrol is the cheapest model to buy, and gets from 0-62mph in 10.5 seconds, and there are plenty of other options before you get to the ultra-fast (and range-topping) Audi S3 model.
If low running costs are top of your list, we'd look at the Audi A3 e-tron. Only available in the five-door Sportback model, the e-tron gets a 1.4-litre petrol engine and electric motor – combining to offer 203bhp. It's very fast to 30mph and can run on electric power alone up to 80mph. It's not as fun to drive at high speeds, but around town, few cars can beat its mix of quietness and nippy acceleration.
All Audi A3 Sportbacks are fun to drive, and the SE models also manage to be comfortable, but if you are looking for the ultimate fun behind the wheel, the BMW 1 Series is even better. The S3 model, meanwhile, gets grippy four-wheel drive and will be quick even in wet or slippery conditions.
Price, value for money & options
It’s not cheap, but it’s of a higher quality than most rivals
A high list price – compared to mainstream models – shouldn’t necessarily put you off Audi A3 ownership, because you’ll more than likely recoup that money when you come to sell the car, thanks to Audi's strong second-hand values.
Basic models get all the equipment you should need, including DAB radio, air-con, a Bluetooth phone connection, and a large multimedia screen. The top-of-the-range S3 model gets leather seats as standard, a sports steering wheel, and a subtle body kit. Audi also has a comprehensive options list that includes a sat-nav system and a premium Bang & Olufsen stereo, but be warned – they don’t come cheap.
What the others say
"It may not look as stylish as the three-door model and it costs £620 more, but with its luxurious cabin, grown-up handling and new-found practicality, the Sportback is one of the best all-rounders Audi builds."
"The third-generation Audi A3 Sportback may not look different from the old model but it offers more space, better fuel economy, lower emissions and more equipment."
"The Audi A3 Sportback is an outstanding car in almost every respect – it's a superb buy."