Performance and 0-60mph time
Five engine choices encompass three turbocharged petrol TFSI four-cylinder units of 1.0, 1.5 and 2 litres and a pair of TDI turbodiesels in 1.6- and 2-litre capacities. Power from that lot ranges from 114bhp in the -litre TFSI the same as the 1.6-litre TDI, up to 187bhp. For more you’ll need to take a look at the brochure for the S3 and the five-cylinder RS3.
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For a time it was a diesel at the top of the power rankings in the standard A3 range, but since the introduction of the ubiquitous EA888 2-litre petrol, it's now that TFSI unit that offers the greatest urge, and the highest performance - 0-62mph is dispatched in 6.1sec in Sport quattro trim coupled to the S-tronic auto 'box. The diesel isn't far behind though, with a 6.7sec sprint time and a top speed just 4mph shy of the petrol which tops out at 147mph.
Even the slowest A3, the 113bhp 1.6 TDi, reaches 62mph in a respectable 10.2sec, and the 1-litre petrol triple is half second quicker than that. Unsurprisingly the diesels and petrol engines deliver different experiences, those TDIs are all about low and mid range grunt, the TFSI petrol units being faster and freer revving and demanding more work to extract their best. The lazy, if rich, torque of the diesels substantially changes the car's character.
The Audi A3 e-tron, available only in five-door Sportback form, is a bit of an outsider's choice, but also worth considering. It's not cheap at just over £36,000 (marginally less than the BMW i3 wih Range Extender) and uses a combination of the older 1.4-litre TFSI petrol motor and an electric motor providing a total output of 201 bhp. Left to its own devices the electric motor can launch the electrified A3 to 60 mph in 12.7sec.