With its sharper-than-ever design, the A3 is now even more eye-catching. And for a premium compact car, there is an abundance of luxurious touches too. Boasting state-of-the-art on-board technology and outstanding driving dynamics it’s easily Audi’s best-selling model.
The goodExcellent handling, impressive economy and so much choice
The badYou could be test driving models for years before making your mind up. The choice is endless!
Audi A3 – first drive (2016)
With a range of powerful new engines, updated and innovative technology, a fresh choice of colours, snazzy wheel designs and some sharply styled design characteristics, the latest Audi A3 range has really turned up the heat against rivals in the premium compact segment.
Customers have a wealth of choices at their disposal with three or five-door versions and a host of body styles to choose from such as sportback, saloon and cabriolet with prices starting from £19,365. And in addition, they can select from four generously-equipped trim levels called SE, SE Technik, Sport or S line. In fact, the A3 range has the widest choice of models in its class.
From the outside, the design changes are instantly noticeable with a bold single frame grille along with new angular headlights with LED daytime running lights as standard which give the vehicle a more aggressive appearance. There are 3D rear lights, a new rear bumper with wider rear diffuser, plus smart alloys in 16, 17 or 18-inch sizings (19-inch is also an option on some versions). Matrix LED headlights are also offered for the first time in this segment.
Step inside and the ‘premium’ label that Audi frequently uses to describe its vehicles is most certainly justified with the very finest materials and techno treats all packaged neatly together to create an upmarket, sophisticated, elegant and very easy-on-the-eye interior that boasts class-leading technology at every turn. In fact, try as you might, you will struggle to find any sharp or cheap surfaces even if you go digging very deep for them.
New features for the latest A3 include the option of Audi’s virtual cockpit which was first seen on the new TT model at launch. This outstanding system allows the driver to personalise and adjust the 12.3-inch high resolution LCD display. In addition, the multi-media interface (MMI) is faster and more intuitive with two buttons instead of four; the steering wheel is new along with fresh air vent designs and the option of a wireless charging function.
Additional engines to the line-up include a 1.0 TFSI three-cylinder powertrain and a newly developed 2.0 TFSI option. Plus there are a number of petrol and diesel engines to choose from – as I said, the choice is vast. And when you add in the option of manual or automatic gearboxes plus front wheel or quattro all-wheel-drive that list of model variants adds up to a whopping 127 models.
The A3 was first introduced back in 1996 and over the years it has become a firm favourite and now enjoys the position of best-selling Audi model here in the UK.
Out of all the body styles Sportback is always the most popular with buyers, especially in the fleet market. In fact, last year 28.6k of all the 41.2k A3 model sold were Sportbacks.
So with that in mind, it was the A3 Sportback 2.0 TDI S line 150PS model with six-speed manual transmission that we took our first test run in. This car costs £26,600 rising to £32,360 with a number of options fitted.
It can sprint from 0-62mph in 8.6 seconds, tops out at 136mph, has a claimed combined fuel efficiency of 65.7mpg with carbon emissions of 109g/km (on 18-inch wheels).
Once you take your seat behind the beautifully-styled sports steering wheel, everything inside the latest A3 seems perfectly positioned for driver usability. The dials are simple to operate as too is the newly designed multi-media interface and that virtual cockpit that can very simply and quickly be adapted to suit the driver’s requirements.
The acceleration through the gears is both swift and responsive with a constant stream of power on tap, which helps make light work of overtaking at short notice. The road-holding is assured and although there is a little road surface noise, it isn’t anything out of the norm these days and can probably be marked down to our grim road conditions rather than the car itself.
Comfort levels are excellent with ample room for a couple of six footers in the back and storage options are also thorough with a boot capacity of 380 litres or 1,220 litres with the 40:20:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat.
With its all-round handling, dynamics, comfort, on-board technology and practicality it’s easy to see why this model is such a crowd pleaser.
Then with rain clouds looming, it probably wasn’t the brightest idea to test out a cabriolet model, but with a roof that can be raised or lowered in 18 seconds at speeds of up to 31mph, we were sure a sudden shower wouldn’t catch us out.
A cabriolet model always appeals to a fairly niche market and last year Audi sold 3,814 A3 cabrio units in the UK. The most popular was the car powered by the 1.4 150PS petrol engine in S line trim. So it was that updated version in dazzling Vegas Yellow that we braved the elements in!
The car, featuring fuel-saving cylinder-on-demand technology, was priced at £31,440 (£40,280 with options). It can reach 62mph from a standing start in 8.9 seconds and redlines at 138mph. According to official figures it can deliver combined fuel efficiency of 54.3mpg with carbon emissions of 119g/km. It had a seven speed S tronic automatic gearbox with steering wheel-mounted paddles.
The interior of the cabrio seems even more luxurious than the sportback with smart brushed aluminium inlays, and cushioned fine nappa leather upholstery adding to its appeal.
And once again, the whole driving experience lived up to all the hype and more.
The acceleration through the gears is nicely responsive with a constant dash of power when needed and the paddle shifts give you that little extra control when you fancy the urge. The steering is precise and the grippy road holding means tight bends can be attacked with confidence at pace. The visibility is pretty limited which is true to cabriolet form, but that aside the ride, handling and driving dynamics were difficult to find fault with.
In fact, I would say the petrol engine in the cabriolet was far superior to the diesel version in the Sportback – it was edgier, quicker to respond and felt like it offered a lot more instant power and acceleration.
However, I would say that the 19-inch wheels were probably an overstatement too far. They certainly looked fabulous, but that vanity came with a price. It made the ride a tad bouncy at times even when the car was in ‘comfort’ driving mode. In ‘dynamic’ it was not really that suited to any pitted or uneven road surfaces – which in all honesty are difficult to avoid these days.
Being a cabriolet model, the boot space is less than other A3 body styles, but it can accommodate 320 litres of luggage – a capacity that is increased to 678 litres with the seats dropped flat.
And of course, being an Audi, all A3 cars are packed with a comprehensive list of outstanding safety specifications too which helped it achieve the maximum five stars in the Euro NCAP safety ratings.
In introducing the latest A3 range, Audi claimed they were “advancing the advanced and the segment leader just got even better” – and after a day behind the wheel of a couple of the models, the only complaint I had was the good old British summertime weather! Rain, rain and yet more rain!
Audi A3 Cabriolet (2014)
There’s no denying the fact – the British motoring public has a real love affair with open-top cars.
Maybe it’s because our climate is not too hot so we don’t fry behind the wheel, maybe it’s simply the thrill of the wind-in-the-hair driving experience, but we simply can’t resist the chance to lower the roof on any dry day.
And now, thanks to the ever-growing Audi line-up that experience has got even more appealing.
For the German marque has just released its third generation A3 Cabriolet which is slightly longer, wider and lower than its predecessor and those dimensions helps give it a more sporty and athletic stance.
The newcomer is also more powerful, faster and offers increased fuel efficiency and lower carbon emissions than the outgoing model.
There are three trim levels to choose from – SE, Sport and S-line and a choice of two petrol (1.4 and 1.8) and one diesel engine (2.0-litre), with further engine and transmission options being introduced throughout the year.
Audi believes the 1.4 TFSI petrol model delivering 140PS will account for 30 per cent of sales so it was that model that I put through its paces on a lengthy run through the New Forest and along the south coast.
And it certainly lived up to all the hype.
This six-speed manual model in mid-range Sport trim carries a price-tag of £26,370 (£32,065 with optional extras added).
According to official figures, it can reach 0-62mph in 9.1 seconds and redlines at 135mph. It has combined fuel economy of 56.5mpg and carbon emissions of 114g/km.
It has to be said, the cabrio looks amazing from any approach with its coupe-like design and arching roof-line styling. It oozes the Audi design ethos and the test car was fitted with 18-inch multi-spoke alloys which were very striking and unique in appearance.
Once inside, it’s impossible not to notice the premium build quality and elegant styling that surrounds you.
There are heated front seats, a 5.8-inch fold-away colour touchscreen, sat-nav, cruise control, a wind deflector, an amazing sound system and connectivity to all your modern media devices on the go. In fairness, the list of techno treats seems to be never-ending.
Although the A3 Cabriolet is a four-seater, the leg-space in the back is very limited which is typical of this type of car. Elsewhere, the boot can accommodate 320 litres with the fabric roof closed and up to 674 litres with the rear seats folded.
And talking of the hood, it can be opened or closed in just 18 seconds at speeds up to 31mph, which is another plus-point considering our unpredictable weather systems.
When driving at higher speeds, the cabrio feels incredibly well planted and that means tight bends can be attacked and conquered with ease and confidence.
With the roof up, there is little engine or road surface noise thanks to the car’s excellent insulation and with the roof down you can really maximise that open-top experience.
Acceleration through the gears is both swift and smooth and there is a constant supply of power on tap.
Next up was the 2.0 TDI 150PS in Sport trim priced at £27,820 (£37,335 with options). This six-speed manual model can reach 62mph from a standing start in 8.9 seconds and tops out at 139mph. It can deliver combined fuel efficiency of 67.3mpg and has carbon emissions of 110g/km.
The extra power output was immediately apparent as the acceleration seemed slightly sharper and more responsive.
Once again, the vehicle handled beautifully and once again it was packed with premium quality technology and creature comforts to be explored.
The Drive Select option that allows you to adapt the dynamics of the car is another plus-factor, especially on the UK’s broken roads where differing suspension options are always a bonus.
And the car also featured a Bang & Olufsen sound system as a £750 option that certainly helped to crank up the volume and quality of the audio features.
Whilst all Audi models are crammed with a whole host of safety features to protect occupants and pedestrians, this particular car boasted Audi’s Driver Assistance Pack (£1,300 extra) which introduces adaptive cruise control, active lane assist, high beam assist and Audi’s parking system.
All in all, this latest arrival to the ever-increasing Audi family is a beautiful drive and a gentle reminder that summer is just around the corner.
Audi A3 Sportback
Audi is certainly riding high on the crest of a wave with record sales figures and a model list as long as your arm.
And now that range has gained even more momentum with the introduction of the company’s third generation A3 Sportback.
It is 58mm longer, 90kg lighter and more efficient than its predecessor, but is still instantly recognisable with A3 DNA running through its veins.
The car features sweeping streamlining, sharp bonnet folds, steeply angled B-pillars, a rear spoiler, a distinctive hexagonal grille housing the Audi rings and smart alloys.
There is an air of stylish elegance about the car and this is just as apparent within the cabin too with the driver-orientated wraparound dashboard being the focal point.
Technology is plentiful and with three trim levels to choose from along with plenty of option packs, buyers can really personalise their vehicle.
And there is also a selection of petrol or diesel engines along with a choice of tranmissions.
Entry level SE models have air conditioning, a multi-media sound system with ultra-thin 11mm fold-away screen, Bluetooth, alloy wheels, a Driver Information System and plenty more.
In Sport editions you will find larger alloys, Audi’s drive select to change the car’s driving modes, sports seats, a sports steering wheel and aluminium detailing both inside and out.
The top-of-the-range S line introduces 18-inch alloys, S line body styling, an S line sports steering wheel, LED daytime running lights and part-leather seats embossed with the S line logo.
The new A3 Sportback boasts excellent storage capabilities with 380 litres of space, an increase of 10 litres over the outgoing model. This capacity can be increased to 1,220 litres with the split-folding rear seats laid flat.
Audi believes the 2.0-litre diesel model will prove the most popular with customers so we took that model in a mid-range SE trim on a lengthy test run.
The car handled beautifully as it accelerated effortlessly through the six-speed manual transmission.
There was a constant supply of power and the road-holding was very impressive even at higher speeds where tight bends were attacked and conquered with ease.
There was very little road surface or engine noise thanks to the car’s excellent insulation and even the dips, bumps and potholes were absorbed by the impressive suspension system.
The driver is treated to very good all-round visibility and all occupants benefit from generous amounts of legroom within the bright and welcoming cabin.
According to the official figures, the test car can sprint to 62mph from a standing start in 8.7 seconds and tops out at 134mph. It has a combined fuel economy of 67.3mpg and carbon emissions of 108g/km. It is priced at £21,480 but this was increased to £25,020 with a number of optional extras.
And of course, Audi has packed a whole host of top notch safety specifications into the car.
With a model to suit all requirements and budgets, it would seem Audi has produced another premium-brand winner with its latest A3 Sportback.
Audi A3 2.0T FSI Sport DSG 5dr
When it comes to designing vehicles that bring out the green-eyed monster in people then Audi has to be the forerunner in the field.
And the A3 is no different. The exterior boasts attractive lines and that ever-familiar Audi front end grille with the traditional emblem.
But it’s inside that the A3 really impresses on the looks stakes with snazzy red leather seats, a leather trimmed steering wheel and a dashboard that would fit in nicely at mission control.
And while we are on the subject of space, the A3 Sportback has plenty of that too.
There is ample room for four adults – even those of the taller variety – to travel in comfort and with a generously-sized storage area, they can take along all their luggage items as well.
The split folding rear seats open up an even bigger storage capacity and this makes carrying bulky or unusually-shaped items a doddle. This really adds to the overall versatility of the vehicle.
The driver benefits from excellent all-round visibility which makes driving the A3 in busy city centre traffic a pleasure and the vehicle is deceptively agile for its size.
But it’s out on the open road where the 2.0-litre engine really bursts into life with exceptional pace and acceleration.
The automatic transmission is very smooth and also incredibly responsive, and as one would expect from Audi, the road-holding was awesome in all driving conditions.
There is a typically solid feel to the A3 and even the doors feel very heavy, although be warned, they can spring back on you if you are not careful.
Elsewhere, the car is equipped with first class safety features including anti-lock brakes, electronic stability programme, numerous airbags and plenty more.
All in all, the Audi A3 Sportback is not cheap, but for that little bit extra you do get a real all-round performer with a plethora of hidden talents to discover along the way.