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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. 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, 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 is beautifully simple and minimalist. The materials used throughout are top quality and sitting into the A3 is a special experience. This car is certainly worth the ‘premium’ tag. The virtual cockpit that replaces traditional instrument dials is now available for the first time in the A3 as part of a €2,450 tech pack that includes Audi Connect with SIM card, phone box with wireless charging and MMI Nav Plus.
The 5 door Sportback model is very practical with a 380 litre boot and the interior space is good for this size of car, with large footwells in the back. Standard equipment on Attraction models (from €28,810) includes 16” alloys, four electric windows, air con, and a folding infotainment screen with Bluetooth connectivity and a rotary controller. SE trim (from €30,160) adds 17” alloys, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, cruise control and rear parking sensors. S Line trim (from €33,460) 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.
My test car had the 1.4-litre TFSI and it’s a four cylinder turbo petrol engine with 150hp. It’s also got cylinder on demand technology, which allows it to shut down two cylinders when the engine is under low load to save fuel. It’s a real gem of an engine because it’s super quiet and ultra responsive. 0-100kmh is 8.2 seconds and even with the seven speed automatic gearbox, I returned around 47mpg over a week of driving.
On the road the Audi A3 is agile and smooth with natural and intuitive steering and virtually no body roll in the corners so it favours a sporty drive. It’s quiet in the cabin with road, wind and engine noise well-suppressed. The suspension is most of the time very supple and compliant, but the back end of the car has a tendency to bounce a bit when you hit bigger bumps at speed. You can deselect the sports suspension on S Line models, which is probably advisable because the normal suspension is firm enough to keep the car taut in the corners, while being more forgiving for passengers.
The Audi A3 is a cut above your average hatchback but it carries a price tag to match and this car can get very expensive very quickly. The test car came in at a whopping €43,792 with options. It is a delight of a car to drive however and the view from the driver’s seat is particularly special so with the right engine and spec the A3 is definitely money well-spent – just beware of the options list. The latest facelift may be minor but Audi has refined the package a little more and the A3 remains a class act.
Model tested: Audi A3 Sportback 1.4TFSI S-Tronic S Line
Price: €37,390 (5 door range starts at €28,810)
0-100km/h: 8.2 seconds
CO2 emissions: 115g/km
Motor tax: €200 per year