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Car reviews - Audi - A3

Our Opinion

We like
Fuel economy, energetic powertrains, clever transmission technology, user-friendly human-machine interface, thoughtful packaging, sparkling chassis
Room for improvement
Road and tyre hum, large-diameter steering wheel, rearward visibility of sedan variants, cramped rear middle seat, price is getting up there

The new A3 is arguably the hidden gem of the Audi passenger car range

25 Mar 2022


KEEPING abreast with the polished BMW 1- and 2 Series and capable Mercedes-Benz A-Class hatchback and sedan is no easy feat. Taking a step ahead of those premium small cars seems almost impossible.


But perhaps “impossible” just isn’t in Audi’s dictionary…


The new Audi A3 – which was released in Europe over 18 months ago and is now finally in Australia – is proof that the Ingolstadt-based brand doesn’t take threats to its small-car superiority lying down. The new model is more capable, efficient, technologically advanced, and safer than ever before, plus, with increased cabin space, it is also closer in size to the previous generation A4 than it perhaps has any right to be.


For upsizing A3 drivers – or downsizing A4 owners – that’s clearly a good thing. But from a distance, and from behind the ‘wheel, the new and outgoing A3 may be difficult to tell apart… and just wait until you check out the hiked-up list prices.


The A3 range’s entry point is now $9700 higher than that of the outgoing model. The 35 TFSI Sportback starts from $46,300 (plus on-road costs) and the 40 TFSI quattro S line from $52,900 (+ ORCs) while sedan models jump a further $900. Despite the increase, the A3 still undercuts its direct competitors from BMW and Mercedes-Benz – the 118i begins at $47,570 (+ ORCs) and the A180 at $48,720 (+ ORCs). For reference, the entry-grade A4 retails for $59,900 (+ ORCs).


A3 35 TFSI models are powered by a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine equipped with cylinder-on-demand and mild-hybrid technology. It develops 110kW/250Nm while sipping between 4.9-5.0 litres of fuel per 100km on the combined cycle depending on the body style.


Mid-tier A3 40 TFSI quattro S line variants feature a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine developing 140kW/320Nm. The sedan version is said to consume 6.6L/100 km and the hatchback 6.7L/100km.


Standard equipment across the entry-level A3 35 TFSI range now extends to 18-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, LED headlights, wireless charging pad, as well as Audi’s 10.25-inch Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster. Sportback variants add a powered tailgate.


The 10.1-inch central touchscreen infotainment system incorporates wireless Apple CarPlay and Bluetooth connectivity, Android Auto connectivity via cable, DAB+ digital radio reception and satellite navigation. The myAudi smartphone app, meanwhile, allows access to additional features, including remote lock/unlock, emergency calls, and Audi Service request.


Higher-grade A3 40 TFSI quattro S line variants additionally feature Audi Sport 18-inch alloys, Audi drive mode selector, Audi luggage compartment package, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, interior LED ambient lighting package, and sports seats.


Standard safety equipment includes AEB with cyclist and pedestrian detection, cruise control, lane-keeping assistant, reversing camera and tyre-pressure monitoring. Left-hand drive versions of the Audi A3 scored a five-star safety rating under EuroNCAP’s strict new crash testing criteria.


All A3s are available in a choice of 12 paint colours and with three upholstery colour schemes.


Audi Australia backs the A3 range with a comprehensive five-year service plan package priced at $2250.


Drive Impressions


While the A3 does share its MQB underpinnings with the Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Golf (to name but a few VW Group models), it does have a personality all its own – and we’re not just talking about styling here. Drivers will experience a distinct “Audi-ness” when they’re behind the wheel of the new A3 – it something previous-generation A3 owners will know well… and first-time buyers will come to enjoy.


And with more than 56,000 A3s sold in Australia to date it’s evident there’s no shortage of willing disciples.


The chassis of the A3 remains “mostly” unchanged from that of the outgoing model. We say “mostly” because there are important differences that give the new car a more composed ride and keener handling. A retuned MacPherson strut front- and multi-link rear suspension give even the most basic of A3 variants a polished feel on pockmarked roads and, with 48V mild-hybrid capability now standard across the board, the efficiency of even Audi’s sportiest A3 variant is something that seems somewhat hard to fathom.


The hatch is 30mm longer and 20mm wider than before with more front- and rear-seat headroom. The bodywork is creased between the wheels to exaggerate the wheel arches and the front-end is adorned with a larger grille and bolder DRL signature.


When you’re behind its ‘wheel, the A3 evokes a “here for the driver” ambience that’s hard to shake – until you sit elsewhere in the car. Spend any time in the A3 and you’ll soon feel how thoughtful the packaging of the interior is, especially when it comes to the use of comfy soft-touch surfaces and nifty storage areas.


For the driver, a pair of high-set vents flank the digital instrument cluster and deliver air to the face – not the fingers. The vents taper down to a stitched dash pad and large central screen; as in the previous iteration of the A3, hard buttons are used for key features such as headlights and HVAC controls, which is admirable.


There is ample seating space for four (but not five) adults and decent legroom throughout. Luggage capacity is, likewise, generous with 380 litres in the hatch (Sportback) – 50 litres more than before – and 425 litres in the sedan, the same as the outgoing model.


Seating comfort is terrific with ample adjustment and support. Even with the mechanical seat adjustment offered in the entry-grade 35 TFSI, the A3 is easy to get comfortable in, and remains that way for the duration of your trip – even when that trip is four hours long.


Like most Audis, the A3’s tech interface is logical and easy to use on the go. The touchscreen responds quickly and is easy to read on even the glariest of days, as is the digital instrument panel. The resolution of the reversing camera is top notch and, in sedan models, arguably necessary… We found the sloping roofline of the sedan made the four-door harder to reverse than the hatch, but with terrific mirror optics and the clear camera view, it’s hardly an issue.


The A3’s steering is equal parts light and easy to manoeuvre around town; the twirl of the steering wheel has pleasing weight to it on winding country roads. The rack speed is beautifully matched to the A3’s revamped chassis and accurately telegraphs the front wheels’ placement to the driver.


The level of feedback the steering communicates to the driver complements the A3’s nimble chassis incredibly well and provides a level of confidence that’s often omitted in entry-grade prestige models. The A3 isn’t easily upset by troughs or broken surfaces and, even on unsealed roads, is wonderfully precise. If you’re not into the styling of the BMW 1 Series, driving enthusiasts, the Audi A3’s handling is equally crisp.


On the downside, the grippy rubber and large alloy wheels fitted to the 35 TFSI (standard on the 40 TFSI, on test here) do generate notable tyre hum – which, to be fair, is only really evident because the rest of the car is so quiet. Mechanical noise is minimal, even when the powertrain’s working hard, and wind noise is very well contained.


As expected, the A3’s braking performance is strong, and the pedal feels good without being brilliant. We’d have liked a little more graduation to really make the most of the stopping power available, although, at the same time, we must remind ourselves this is a daily runabout and not a hard-charging sport model!


So far, the 35 TFSI and 40 TFSI have been very hard to split, and while the quattro grip of the latter is noteworthy, it’s not so pronounced as to be deemed a “must have”. The level of grip provided by the entry-grade variant, allied with its lithe road feel and energetic engine, endow the 35 TFSI with a sense of connection many vehicles in this category have lost in the search of all-out refinement.


And that’s not to say the 35 TFSI isn’t refined – it genuinely is. It’s just a very engaging little car to drive and own, where the 40 TFSI quattro feels effortless, dare we say, even uneventful.


Of course, we really should credit much of the A3’s facile power delivery to its quick-witted dual-clutch transmission. Whether coasting to save fuel or holding a ratio in the bends, the Audi’s auto ‘box is something of an unsung hero in the A3 – it seemingly preempting both the driver’s intentions and the road ahead to a point where the paddle shifts are virtually redundant – phenomenal, really.


And phenomenal is probably a word that describes the A3 very well. We know a lot of people will overlook the model in favour of an A4, or even a Q3, but they’re honestly missing out. There’s very little that the A3 doesn’t offer when viewed against Audi’s default-option models, and if you’re in any way interested in the way a car makes you feel while you’re driving it, then we reckon the A3 should not be overlooked.

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