Audi A3 review - better than a BMW 1-series? - Ride and Handling

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

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from £20,365
  • Beautifully designed, impeccably built and competitively priced premium hatch
  • All just a bit too grown up and sensible, needs a more playful side

The A3 is not going to delight in the same way a BMW 1-series can, but it’s not as distant as your preconceptions might have you think. Three suspension choices are offered (four if you want to option optional Audi Magnetic Ride for £995) standard SE suspension, 15mm lower Sport and S Line sport suspension dropping a further 10mm, the ride deteriorating headlingts with each firmer, lower incarnation.

S line undoubtedly improves the A3’s stance, but the small benefit you might feel in the bends just isn’t worth the large penalties it brings regarding the ride comfort. The Sport is a decent compromise, offering a slightly less crashy, busy ride for a bit more compliance along with a greater degree of control and enthusiasm in corners.

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Regardless of what trim line you pick Audi will let you default your A3 back to SE suspension specification, which might not do much for your ego, but does wonders for the ride. There’s a bit more body roll as a result, but it’s far from wayward, the A3 actually quite adept at stringing a series of corners together, though it errs towards competence rather than genuine excitement. Grip levels are high, though there’s precious little information through the steering wheel to let you know that, traction fine on the front-wheel drive models and genuinely impressive on the quattros.

Even with all four-wheels driving the A3 never exhibits any of the rearward bias that’s now creeping into Audi’s quattro line-up. There’s no option of Audi’s Sport Differential to help here, either. Sport models and up feature Audi Drive Select, allowing you to alter the steering’s power assistance, as well as accelerator and, on autos, gear shift response, though the incremental changes are very small, the Comfort setting the best all-round choice for everything, Dynamic mode doing little to improve the steering’s response. 

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