Audi A3 review - better than a BMW 1-series?

evo staff
23 Jun 2016

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

The Audi A3 has dominated the compact premium hatchback market since its launch. Designed as an Audi-badged spin off of the Volkswagen Golf, the A3 has been a serious success for VAG. The reasons for the success are all too obvious really, it's a premium badge, boasts and upmarket build and has pricing that is just within reach of what would typically be deemed a mainstream buyer.

Unfortunately the car falls short of delivering on its driving dynamics when compared to its peers, even falling short of the Golf with which it shares a platform. The A3 has stuck to the same formula ever since its launch and while rivals at BMW and Mercedes 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 - Range now stretches all the way from a dinky 1-litre three-cylinder to 2-litre petrol and diesels. All are frugal and respectably smooth. 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 - 1.6-litre TDIs are the most frugal, but most A3s are fairly economical for their class. 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 just over £19,000. Rivals include the rear-wheel-drive BMW 1-series, and the 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 sheer integrity of build. Virtual Cockpit has been a recent introduction. 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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