Audi pioneered the concept of a premium hatchback with the launch of the A3 back in 1996 and they’ve been refining the A3 ever since to make it a premium compact bestseller. A saloon is a more recent addition to the A3 range, but a considerably handsome one.
Now on its third generation, the latest model has had some mild styling tweaks and the addition of new driver assistance systems and engines. Available as a saloon as tested, a 3 door or 5 door Sportback, all models now have a broader single frame grille and new lights front and back. The A3’s classy silhouette is retained and S Line models look particularly good with sportier bumpers and 18” alloys.
The interior design of the Audi A3 is beautifully simple and minimalist. The materials used throughout are top quality and the ‘virtual cockpit’ that replaces traditional instrument dials is now available for the first time in the A3. It’s a €2,450 option but comes as part of a tech pack that includes Audi Connect with SIM card, phone box with wireless charging and MMI Nav Plus. It adds the wow factor and it is very simple and intuitive to use.
The interior space in the A3 saloon is competitive for a compact saloon of this type, though rear headroom is more accommodating in the hatchback. The boot is 425 litres, which is actually larger than that of the hatchback, but the space is more difficult to access because of the narrow opening.
The A3 range kicks off with the 3 door priced at €27,810, the five door at €28,810 and the saloon at €29,810. Standard equipment includes 16” alloys, four electric windows, air con, and a folding infotainment screen with Bluetooth connectivity and a rotary controller. SE trim adds 17” alloys, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, cruise control and rear parking sensors. S Line trim includes sportier bumpers, LED lights front and rear, 18” alloys, Audi Drive Select, and a flat bottomed steering wheel.
There are petrol and diesel engines with power outputs from 110 to 184hp and Audi has just added a new three cylinder 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine to the A3 range. The best for economy is the 1.6TDI that’s capable of returning up to 74mpg. On the road, the refinement of this engine is impressive and the 110hp is plenty to confidently cruise and overtake. The Audi A3 is a smooth and agile drive, with virtually no body roll in the corners. It’s quiet in the cabin with road, wind and engine noise well-suppressed. You can deselect the sports suspension on S Line models, which is probably advisable because the normal suspension has a firm enough edge to it.
The Audi A3 saloon is Audi’s first compact saloon but it’s a great addition to the A3 range. If an Audi A4 is out of reach price wise, the A3 saloon is definitely worth a look. The car is not cheap to buy and can get very expensive very quickly, but the quality and refinement is top notch – it’s a class act.
Model tested: Audi A3 Saloon 1.6TDI S-Tronic S Line
0-100km/h: 10.7 seconds
CO2 emissions: 98g/km
Motor tax: €180 per year