Audi A3 review - better than a 1 Series?

evo staff
22 Oct 2015

Audi’s posh Golf is a massive sales hit and it’s not difficult to see why, though rivals drive better

Evo Rating: 
Beautifully designed, impeccably built and competitively priced premium hatch
All just a bit too grown up and sensible, needs a more playful side

evo Verdict

Since its introduction the Audi A3 has dominated the compact premium hatchback market. Designed as an Audi-badged spin off of the Volkswagen Golf, the A3 has been a serious success for VAG.

It’s not too difficult to understand why it’s been such a phenomenal hit, a premium badge, upmarket build and pricing that’s within the reach of once traditionally mainstream buyers. 

Where the car does fall down is with its driving dynamics compared to its peers - if you ignore the BMW 3 Series Compact, which you should. It’s stuck to the same formula ever since and while rivals at BMW and Mercedes-Benz offer more interest behind the wheel, that’s done little to dent the success of Audi’s premium hatchback.    

evo Tip

The A3 has been a hatchback since its inception, but can also be purchased as both a cabriolet and, more recently, as a saloon. There's even a five-door Sportback while quattro GmbH gets involved at the top of the range with the S3 and RS3 - the latter only being offered in five-door Sportback form. Front and four-wheel drive, manuals and S tronic DSG automatics and a range of turbocharged petrol and economical diesels powering it, there’s even a plug-in hybrid e-tron model. If you cannot find an A3 to suit you, then you might just be a bit too picky.  

evo Comment

 Given its fairly humble underpinnings the Audi A3 has a fairly decent stab at being decent to drive, but it’s more about being inoffensive, classy and rounded than focusing on any real dynamism. That’s absolutely fine for the majority of those who will buy it, but others might write it off as merely pretty, well-built transport. Certainly a BMW 1 Series is a more entertaining drive - largely thanks to its rear-wheel drive chassis - but the A3 is not without some appeal. There’s quattro four-wheel drive on higher power versions, but they’ll not turn you into Stig (Blomqvist), nor turn the A3 into anything approaching an Ur-Quattro tearing through Kielder.

Performance and 0-60 time > The 177bhp 1.8-litre TFSI petrol engine beats the 2-litre TDI to 62mph by 0.1sec, clocking a Golf GTI-rivaling 6.7sec. Read all about the Audi A3 performance and 0-60 time here

Engine and gearbox > Both Audi’s petrol and turbodiesel engines can claim to have a link with its Le Mans prototype racer powerplants. Choices range from a 108bhp 1.2-litre TFSI to a 181bhp 2-litre TDI. Read all about the Audi A3 engine and gearbox here

Ride and handling > Comfort is the best setting for all-round driving, while Dynamic mode does little to improve steering feel. Read all about the Audi A3 ride and handling here

MPG and running costs > The manual A3 1.4-litre TFSI manages a combined 60.1mpg, which is enough to match the 2-litre TDI. The 1.4-litre TFSI is also available with cylinder-on-demand, which shuts down two cylinders when they are not needed. Read all about the Audi A3 MPG and running costs here

Prices, specs and rivals > The A3 range starts at £19,000. Rivals include the rear-wheel-drive BMW 1-series and Mercedes A-class. The Audi comes with decent equipment as standard, but options are expensive.  Read all about the Audi A3 prices, specs and rivals here

Interior and tech > The Audi A3’s interior bests anything in this class in terms of opulence. A slick infotainment system combines with contemporary design. Read all about the Audi A3 interior and tech here                                                                                                      

Design > The A3 isn’t a particularly head-turning car, but Audi’s options list offers the potential for customisation. Read all about the Audi A3 design here

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