Like a new comfort blanket - Familiar and comfortable with hints of new tech.

Introduction

With huge changes in car-buying habits and new models arriving thick and fast across almost every manufacturer’s range, the A3 is a consistent pillar of Audi’s core offering. While its interior technology has moved on, its familiar styling has survived with only minor tweaks. The A3 is still a family favourite for its mix of quality, understated style and relative affordability.

 

Body Style: Hatchback  Seats: 5  MRP from £19,825 - £35,930

 

Did you know? The easiest way to spot the difference between the current A3 and its lookalike predecessor is that the current one has a square fuel flap

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Verdict:★★★★★★★☆☆ (7.9/10)

The compact hatchback class is taking an ever-more distant back seat to a growing wave of small SUVs and crossovers, but the A3 offers a reminder of why this type of car was so popular for so long. It’s pricey at the top end of the range, but feels worth it thanks to excellent refinement, strong, efficient engines and an interior design that, curious air vents aside, is very easy to live with. It’s beaten by rivals for driving enjoyment, but musters a combination of talents that is very hard to beat. 

Design & Exterior

★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

Interior & Comfort

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Technology & Connectivity

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Performance & Handling

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Safety Features

★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

Spec & Trim Levels

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Running Costs & Fuel Economy

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Pricing

★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

 

2017 Audi A3

We Like

Solid build quality

Reassuring road manners

Range of good engines

We Don't Like

Big wheels hurt ride quality

Trim on cheapest models

Fiddly air vents

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Design & Exterior:★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

2017 Audi A3

Audi is a brand whose image needs little work, thanks to a reputation for quality and desirability that has lasted untarnished among its fans for decades. Many people think of the brand’s cars in a positive light or as aspirational purchases, giving it a head-start when it comes to buyers forming an opinion.

It’s fair to say that the media were disappointed with the lack of invention in re-making the A3’s styling, but Audi insists that customers like it just the way it is. Subtly sharper panel creases and new headlights are there if you look hard, but for an all-new car the changes are surprisingly minimal.

That’s not to say the A3 is bad looking. Far from it, in fact. Its proportions are perfect in all body styles and from any angle there’s a fundamental rightness about the car’s styling. It may not make headline news like the latest sharp-edged and loud-mouthed SUV contingent, but it’s the quiet heartthrob at the back of the class. It has class; its looks will date very slowly, if at all.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Interior & Comfort:★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 Audi A3
2017 Audi A3

The rating for the A3’s interior varies wildly from the bottom of the range to the top. If you cover the Audi badges, cheaper examples don’t give away many clues to suggest the car’s premium brand origins. Some might even say it’s disappointing.

But in Sport and S Line trim grades the story changes, with much more impressive materials and more evidence of technology. S Line cars really feel a cut above the rest thanks to standard leather-trimmed sports seats, and choosing this spec makes a huge improvement to the overall impression the car gives. At least all trim variants are solid to the touch and feel higher quality than they might look.

Practicality

The A3 is yours in saloon, convertible and three- and five-door hatchback forms, the latter of which is called the Sportback. The saloon provides greater boot length, but the most practical of the family is the Sportback, which has a 380-litre boot, an easy-to-lift tailgate and adds 35mm of wheelbase versus the three-door to create more interior space for passengers – and more panel space for the extra doors.

The rear seats don’t fold totally flat but the boot lip is low and total available space rises to 1,220 litres. Being lower than a comparable SUV, it’s easier to get heavy loads in and out.

A slight gripe comes with the placement of the central cupholders in the cabin. Being ahead of the gear stick, when the lever is in first, third or fifth gears it can be awkward to retrieve your drink. That said, at least tall take-away cups seem to fit without fouling the centre console

Boot space

Min: 320 litres (365 litres 3dr, 380 litre Sportback, 425 litres saloon)
 Max: 1,220 litres

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Technology & Connectivity:★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 Audi A3

One of the reasons the A3 remains so popular is that its technology balances forward-thinking with familiarity and ease of use. A digital dashboard in lieu of traditional dials is a complex optional extra with many modes and a busy overall readout, but it mirrors functionality found in much more expensive Audis when installed.

Satellite navigation is standard on all but the most basic model, but even that one has the necessary electronic preparation to accommodate it as an upgrade. Bluetooth, DAB radio and two SD card slots are among the stereo input options, and it also maintains a CD drive. There’s system-wide voice control, albeit with a limited number of commands.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Performance & Handling:★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 Audi A3

One of the great strengths of the Volkswagen Group is that it always seems to have a broad range of excellent engines. They aren’t always the sharpest or most involving, but they are usually among the most efficient and most refined.

That’s definitely the case here, and Audi soundproofing pushes refinement beyond the reaches of what cheaper hatchbacks can achieve. Turbocharging is now universal across both the petrol and diesel ranges, with the most entertaining being a the 1.4-litre petrol with cylinder deactivation technology, shutting off two cylinders when only a small amount of power is needed. All the engines deliver plenty of torque, making each one feel strong and willing, but the 1.0-litre TFSI petrol quickly reaches its limits out of town.

Despite being very stable and blessed with huge grip, the A3 doesn’t really have any dynamic character to speak of. It doesn’t reward a driver for pushing harder, and the steering, although accurate, lacks a sense of connection to the road. The latest suspension updates have improved the handling, though, with supple spring rates and more forgiving damping.

There are certainly more exciting cars to choose, but the A3 strikes a great balance and that’s the reason so many people still love it.

Recommended engine: 2.0 TDI 150

0-62 MPH

8.6 seconds

Fuel economy

65.7 mpg

Emissions

109g/km

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Safety Features:★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

2017 Audi A3

While it’s impossible to fault the A3’s five-star Euro NCAP crash safety rating, most of the advanced and active safety equipment that can be specified is optional. It’s good to see automatic lights and wipers standardised across the range, along with cruise control and a suite of stability and braking aids, but that’s old news.

Pre-collision warning, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot warning, hill-hold assist, automated parking and much more are all optional, and in many cases costly. Adding them can start to make the A3 look expensive, even for the class.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Specs and Trim Levels:★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 Audi A3

Colours

There’s a good amount of choice. Brilliant Black and Ibis White are the two free solid colour options, with a third solid, Vegas Yellow, a cost-option. Optional metallic paints include Beluga Brown, Cosmos Blue, Floret Silver, Glacier White, Monsoon Grey, Mythos Black, Nano Grey and Tango Red. There is also Daytona Grey in a pearl effect. The palette is largely muted with just two exceptions.

Trim Levels

There are four core models and a special halo grade that won’t always be available. Entry-level SE wears 16in alloy wheels and standard suspension, features a retractable media screen and lacks sat-nav. It only has one SD card slot, has basic cloth seats, uses manual air conditioning and has cheap-looking silver trim inserts in the doors.

SE Technik changes the wheel style and adds sat-nav, rear parking sensors and an extra SD card slot, but is otherwise very similar to SE. Sport upgrades the interior ambience with higher-quality trim inserts, adds dual-zone climate control and upgrades to 17in wheels. It’s also the lowest grade to feature the adjustable driving modes of Audi Drive Select.

S Line is Audi’s traditional flagship trim grade and and uses a unique 18in wheel design under lowered sports suspension. Sports seats are standard in leather, along with a flat-bottomed steering wheel. The interior trim inserts become brushed aluminium for a classier effect, among many other quality touches.

Based on the S Line level, Black Edition gets a black styling pack incorporating the front grille surround, mirror housings and door trim edgings, which are in silver on lesser A3s. It’s the only grade to get privacy glass as standard, and music fans will be interested to know that a more powerful Audi Sound System is standard.

Finally, Black Edition models receive what are easily the most attractive alloy wheels in the range: an 18in 10-spoke set specific to this car, finished in a matte titanium colour. It costs over £1,400 more than an S Line car, though, making it questionable value.

Size and Dimensions

The A1 is wider than some superminis, helping to give it a broader, more imposing stance and the look of a larger, more potent car from the front and rear, but that doesn’t make it too big to manage in the city. It’s short, visibility out of it is good and it will slot into the average garage with ease.

Length

4,313 mm

Width

1,785 mm

Height

1,426 mm

Max towing weight without brake

From 620kg (1.4 TFSI 150hp) - 750kg (2.0 TDI 184hp)

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Running Costs & Fuel Economy:★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 Audi A3

Apart from the 1.4-litre petrol with its cylinder deactivation technology, the A3’s engines share the same range of technologies, including stop-start and special internal coatings to reduce frictional losses. Official fuel economy varies surprisingly little across the engines. It starts from a very respectable 47.9mpg for the largest petrol and rises to 70mpg for the most efficient diesel.

Sadly, these figures aren’t likely to transfer to the real world, and even in the most frugal 1.6-litre diesel 60mpg is the best return you could expect on a traffic-free commute. And that’s if driven with care and forward planning.

Road tax is low across the range, with even the least efficient A3 attracting a bill of just £130 per year. There is also a petrol-electric hybrid A3 Sportback, called the E-tron, which offers fully-electric running for a limited range, plus a petrol back-up engine for long-range drives. It’s very expensive to buy, but costs less to run in urban areas than any other A3.

Reliability and servicing

The A1 has the same basic chassis and running gear as the Volkswagen Polo and Skoda Fabia, with a few small differences. It’s a proven and relatively uncomplicated platform with a large dealer network should things go wrong. The 1.0-litre petrol engine is still relatively new, but the other two engines have plenty of miles and development under their belts.

Minor

12 months or 9,000 miles (urban); up to 24 months or 19,000 miles (motorway) – £250 est.

Major

24 months or 19,000 miles – £400 est.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Pricing:★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

2017 Audi A3

Entry prices are appealingly cheap for an Audi, with the cheapest three-door car starting at £19,825, but the reality is that the entry-level models don’t really imbue the sense of quality and luxury that higher models do. The five-door Sportback adds £620, which is well worth it for most people. The slightly more niche Saloon and Cabriolet, which miss out the cheaper trim grades and engines altogether, start from £24,710 and £27,395 respectively. The standalone Sportback e-tron model costs from £35,930.

The popular Sportback starts at £20,445 for a 1.0 TFSI petrol SE, rising to £33,345 for a 2.0 TDI 184 diesel in Black Edition trim with Quattro four-wheel drive and a dual-clutch S Tronic automatic gearbox.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Recommendations

Cost Conscious

1.0 TFSI SE – less than £20,000 will buy the entry-level Audi A3, which looks appealing to budgets

Company Car Buyer

1.6 TDI Sport: lots of technology and a low-emission engine that attracts minimal tax bills

Luxury Seeker

2.0 TFSI Quattro S Tronic Cabriolet Black Edition – all the bells and whistles make this the most pampering A3

Rivals

BMW 1 Series

Accomplished driver’s car is more fun than the Audi and has an equally impressive range of engines

Infiniti Q30

It may be a leftfield choice, but the smallest Infiniti is strikingly different and stuffed with technology

Mercedes A-Class

Feels high-quality throughout, and high-spec models have the competition beaten for outright style

Lexus CT

Not the best-looking option, but supremely refined and with a brilliant hybrid powertrain

Volkswagen Golf

The Golf’s interior quality rivals cars from a class above, and it’s a superb all-round performer

What others say

What Car?

“The Audi A3 is an outstanding car in almost every respect. It is the very definition of a well-rounded, well-priced family hatchback.”

Car Buyer

“The Audi A3 is a well-built and technology-rich family hatchback, with a well designed interior that feels like it’s from the class above.”

 

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