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Audi A3 Saloon (2013-2020) - Engines, drive & performance

The Audi A3 saloon 1.6-litre TDI is the only slouch, while the S3 is sports car fast

Carbuyer Rating

3.4 out of 5

Owners Rating
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Engines, drive & performance Rating

3.5 out of 5

Light, accurate steering and secure handling make the Audi A3 Saloon feel safe and confident to drive, but it’s not as much fun as the two-door, rear-wheel drive BMW 2 Series.

We’d recommend sticking with the comfort suspension, regardless of trim level, because the Sport and S line suspension is very firm for Britain’s rough roads. Fortunately, deselecting it is a no-cost option.

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The A3 Saloon can be configured with either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed automatic gearbox as an option. We think the automatic is a worthwhile upgrade, as it changes gears smoothly and with impressive speed.

Four-wheel-drive quattro is standard on the powerful S3, but can also be added to the 2.0-litre TFSI petrol S tronic and 148bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesel models.

Audi A3 diesel engines

The 1.6-litre TDI is the only version of the A3 Saloon that takes more than 10 seconds to accelerate from 0-62mph, being aimed squarely at economy-conscious drivers. Despite its eco credentials, this engine is actually fairly smooth, although you need to work it hard to get maximum performance.

The 148bhp 2.0-litre TDI takes 8.6 seconds to do 0-62mph with a manual gearbox, or 8.3 seconds with Audi's S tronic automatic.

These engines are used found under the bonnet of other Audi, Volkswagen, Skoda and SEAT models, and their mix of performance and economy is well documented.

Petrol engines

Even the entry-level 1.4-litre TFSI petrol engine should be quick enough for most drivers, with 148bhp propelling it from 0-62mph in 8.2 seconds and onto 139mph. But the standout feature of this engine is the quiet and smooth manner in which it goes about its business. There are few quieter engines in cars of this size.

The 2.0-litre TFSI chops a second off the acceleration figure, while adding four-wheel drive helps the 187bhp engine get the car to 62mph from rest in 6.9 seconds.

Choosing the Audi S3 Saloon sends performance into a different league. It has 306bhp from a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine, four-wheel drive, sports suspension, wider tyres and bigger brakes. It can hit 62mph from rest in as little as 4.5 seconds (when fitted with an automatic gearbox) and will keep up with most sports cars along a twisting B-road. The S3 Saloon is impressively fast, then, but it's also engaging to drive, with a sophisticated four-wheel drive setup and well-engineered suspension.

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Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.

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