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In-depth reviews

Audi A3 Sportback hatchback - Engines, drive & performance

Regular versions of the A3 are smooth and controlled but not especially engaging

Carbuyer Rating

4.2 out of 5

Owners Rating

2.0 out of 5

Read owner reviews
Engines, drive & performance Rating

4.0 out of 5

The facelifted Audi A3 is as smooth and assured to drive as ever, without necessarily offering the enjoyment of rivals like the BMW 1 Series. It’s based on the same platform as other hatchbacks from the Volkswagen Group, including the Volkswagen Golf, SEAT Leon and Skoda Octavia among others.

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We found the A3’s ride to be quite firm, but the suspension works well at rounding off the worst bumps. Our test car had fairly large 18-inch wheels, and even then it wasn’t uncomfortable to ride in, and there was little road or wind noise that made its way into the cabin.

The steering feels well-weighted and accurate, giving a capable feeling to the A3, but it’s not particularly thrilling to drive – for that, of course, you’d be better off trying the S3 hot hatch.

The mild-hybrid version gets regenerative braking which puts some of the energy generated from braking back into the engine. We found it quite intrusive while driving, though, so we preferred to keep this switched off.

Audi A3 petrol engines

For now, the sole petrol option is the 35 TFSI, which uses a 148bhp 1.5-litre mild-hybrid assisted four-cylinder unit, as was offered in the pre-facelift car. It will get from 0-62mph in 8.1 seconds and onto a top speed of 140mph and is a very smooth, refined engine. The mild-hybrid system means it’s able to turn off and coast along to save fuel. It can be a little strange to get used to at first, when pulling up to a junction and hearing the engine spring back into life, and many may prefer to tweak these settings to their liking.

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The entry-level petrol, which uses a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo badged 30 TFSI with 109bhp, will return later in 2024 to the facelifted car. Despite its low output, it's eager to rev and gets the A3 from 0-62mph in 10.6 seconds. A surprising top speed of 127mph also means it shouldn't feel strained at the national speed limit. An S tronic automatic gearbox is also available, which is a good option if you often drive in heavy traffic. It doesn't feel quite as nippy as you may expect but there's enough performance available to make it an acceptable all-rounder. 

Hybrid engines

Whereas before the Audi A3 got two plug-in hybrid options, the lower-powered 40 TFSI e has been dropped in favour of the 45 TFSI e for the facelift, and it will arrive later in 2024.

The 45 TFSI e combines a 1.4-litre petrol engine, a 13kWh battery and an electric motor to produce 242bhp. Power is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic gearbox which feels smooth. Performance is brisk, with the plug-in A3 managing 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds and a top speed of 141mph.

The car always starts in electric mode if there’s enough charge in the battery, so you’ll only hear a faint whirr from the motor. At higher speeds, road noise becomes more of an issue - especially with the big wheels and sports suspension of S line trim - and the heavy powertrain makes it less comfortable than other A3s. 

Diesel engines

In facelifted cars, the sole remaining diesel engine is the 35 TDI. This uses a 2.0-litre engine that produces the same 148bhp as the petrol car, and manages the same 0-62mph sprint in 8.1 seconds. Top speed is 141mph.

While the 35 TDI is quieter than many diesels, including that of the previous-generation A3, it’s still a bit too audible for our liking. It comes with front-wheel drive and the same automatic gearbox as the petrol engine. While the power may be identical, the extra torque makes the diesel feel punchier than the 35 TFSI in traffic and for overtaking.

The 30 TDI version, which uses a 114bhp version of the same engine, is no longer available to order. Designed primarily with economy in mind, it still gets from 0-62mph in a reasonable 10.1 seconds. Like the entry-level petrol, it was available with just one six-speed manual gearbox.

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Which Is Best?

Cheapest

  • Name
    30 TFSI Sport 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £28,890

Most Economical

  • Name
    40 TFSI e Sport 5dr S Tronic
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £36,400

Fastest

  • Name
    S3 TFSI Black Edition Quattro 5dr S Tronic
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £46,695

Charlie writes and edits news, review and advice articles for Carbuyer, as well as publishing content to its social media platforms. He has also been a regular contributor to its sister titles Auto Express, DrivingElectric and evo. As well as being consumed by everything automotive, Charlie is a speaker of five languages and once lived in Chile, Siberia and the Czech Republic, returning to the UK to write about his life-long passion: cars.

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