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Audi hasn’t felt the need to reinvent the wheel with the latest A3 – its subtle exterior revisions and slightly larger footprint only accentuate the premium look of the stylish family hatchback. 

Where the German manufacturer has made decisive change is with the on-board tech and interior design, offering an up-to-date digital environment with the typical Audi focus on quality materials throughout the cabin. The A3 remains as desirable as ever, but will still have its work cut out to win customers away from the equally capable Mercedes, BMW and Volkswagen rivals.

Priced from around £24,000, Audi will offer the A3 as a five-door Sportback or a four-door Saloon model, with no room for a three-door hatch or Cabriolet version. 

Engines, performance & drive

The A3 initially comes with a choice of two petrol engines or a diesel unit with two separate power outputs. The petrol cars use either a 109bhp 1.0-litre (30 TFSI), or a 148bhp 1.5-litre (35 TFSI) powerplant. The larger capacity unit also employs a 48-volt mild hybrid system, which helps to save fuel and supplies an extra 50Nm of electrically-generated torque.

The 2.0-litre diesel engine is available in 114bhp 30 TDI and 148bhp 35 TDI forms. We’ve driven the more powerful version and found it a hard engine to fault. With a smooth, strong delivery of torque, it remains refined even under hard acceleration.

We feel sure the petrol A3 35 TFSI model will prove to be a popular choice, and it also benefits from Audi’s decision to offer multi-link rear suspension, rather than the torsion beam set-up of lower-spec cars. Audi has wisely chosen to keep the A3’s driving dynamics largely unchanged, which results in a family hatchback that provides a great mix of comfort and control, although the S line versions still err towards a firmer ride.

If you want a bit more steering feel we’d recommend toggling through the drive select modes to the Dynamic setting, which provides a bit more weight to the naturally light set-up.

Equally, the six-speed manual ‘box has a light throw and is easy enough to get along with, although the transmission is prone to low-speed jerkiness, making driving around town in stop-start traffic harder than it needs to be.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

The sporty S3 and RS 3 models will provide the real performance thrills, but the lower-powered versions in the A3 range still deliver enough shove for most drivers. 

The entry-level 1.0-litre 30 TFSI petrol model has 109bhp and 200Nm of torque, enabling it to reach 0-62mph in 10.6 seconds and onto a 127mph maximum. 

Those looking for an extra power boost could consider the 1.5-litre 35 TFSI petrol unit with 148bhp and an extra 50Nm of torque over the base 30 TFSI car. 0-62mph is dispatched in a lively 8.4 seconds, while the top speed increases to 139mph.

The diesel-engined 30 TDI produces 114bhp, while the 35 TDI variant has a 148bhp output, but it’s the extra torque on offer which makes for decent acceleration and easier overtaking when on the motorway. The 30 TDI has 300Nm of torque, while the 35 TDI adds a further 60Nm, resulting in sprint times to 62mph of 10.1 seconds and 8.4 seconds, respectively.

With A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid versions available sometime in the future, it’s left to the more than capable petrol and diesel models to show that they can deliver competitive running costs and low emissions.

The 30 TFSI petrol unit, with a six-speed manual ‘box, returns an impressive maximum of 51.4mpg and emits 124g/km of CO2, while the 35 TFSI manages a creditable 47.9mpg and CO2 emissions of 133g/km. The 35 TFSI seven-speed S tronic auto is actually more efficient than the manual version, delivering 49.6mpg and 129g/km of CO2.

If you’re looking for the best return from a tank of fuel, the A3 30 TDI is not a bad place to start. Even under stricter WLTP regulations, it’ll provide a maximum of 64.2mpg and just 115g/km of CO2. The more powerful 35 TDI is only slightly less efficient with a claimed 61.4mpg and 120g/km of CO2.

Insurance groups

The petrol-engined A3 versions sit in insurance groups 17-27, while the diesel cars will attract slightly more expensive premiums as they range from groups 20-29. 

By comparison, a 107bhp Mercedes A 160 petrol in AMG Line trim is in group 15, while an A 180 diesel with 114bhp and the same AMG Line equipment level starts from group 18 – both lower and therefore probably cheaper to insure than the equivalent A3.

Depreciation

Data suggests that the A3 will retain around 46% of its original value over three years and 36,000 miles, with the more expensive Vorsprung models losing the biggest chunk of money over the average ownership period.

The Mercedes A-Class holds onto a similar amount of its value over three years, although the BMW 1 Series appears to be a stronger performer on the used market, holding onto 48%.

Interior, design & technology

Following the success of the previous third-generation model, Audi hasn’t sought to conjure up a radically different exterior for the A3. Instead, the design progresses the Audi family look with the large honeycomb front grille, alongside more aggressive side vents and angular LED headlights. 

There are prominent crease lines set low along the doors and the rear end is totally new – but the overall effect is still unmistakably an A3.

It’s inside the cabin of the A3 where Audi has clearly focused much of its attention. The dash is full of angles and is not so conservative as in the previous model, while the fascia is now trimmed in faux-aluminium – still of typical Audi quality, but a definite change in stylistic direction.

Standard equipment levels are good, with entry-level Technik cars including 16-inch alloy wheels, electrically-adjustable power-folding mirrors, air-conditioning, sat-nav, Bluetooth and a DAB radio. Upgrading to Sport specification brings 17-inch alloys, Audi Drive Select, leather upholstery, climate control and matt black exterior trim. 

Moving further up the range brings progressively larger wheels, sports seats, enhanced leather upholstery, privacy glass and a
flat-bottomed sports steering wheel, as well as a black styling pack.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

There has been a far-reaching swing to a more digital environment in the A3. Every version of the car now gets a 10.25-inch digital instrument panel as standard, with the larger 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit system available as an option on S line trim. All UK cars also come fitted with a 10.1-inch central touchscreen.

The infotainment system is a known quantity, given its application across most of the Audi line-up. It’s a little slow to load when you start up, but is pinpoint sharp in presentation and operation, and feature-packed. It’s a real slice of big-car tech in a compact hatchback. Our only bugbear is that it relies solely on touch inputs, with no MMI rotary dial or other controls for ease of use on the move.

Practicality, comfort & boot space

With no three-door or convertible models available, the A3 range consists of the more practical five-door Sportback and the four-door Saloon versions. Factor in the efficient engine line-up and a choice of fine manual or auto gearboxes, and the A3 not only offers premium luxury, but is also a functional, family-friendly proposition.

The Audi A3 has always provided premium levels of comfort, even if you opt for the stiffer sports suspension that comes with S line-spec models. The seats are comfortable and the cabin is well insulated from road noise, making the A3 a particularly pleasant place to be. 

The lack of wind noise and impressive mpg figures have been helped by the  introduction of movable air inlets and a smoother underbody, which help to improve the airflow and reduce unwanted fuel-sapping drag.

Specifying a car in Sport trim or above brings a useful split-folding rear bench seat – folding fully, or in a 40:20:40 configuration. It also includes a centre armrest with cup holders.  

Size

The A3 is 4,343mm long, 1,984mm wide (including mirrors) and stands 1,425 tall. Mercedes’ A-Class is a little longer at 4,445mm, slightly wider at 1,992mm, but has a lower roofline with an overall height of 1,412mm. 

Leg room, head room & passenger space

The fourth-generation A3 is slightly longer and wider than its predecessor, and this brings the advantages of increased head and legroom throughout the cabin. Four passengers can sit in complete comfort, with the rear middle seat best used for shorter journeys.

Boot

Storage space for the A3 is pretty decent – the Sportback model offers 380 litres of load capacity with all the seats in place, while the boot is well-designed with a wide opening and no awkward lip to get luggage over.

The A3 Saloon has a 425-litre boot, which is five litres up on the four-door A-Class.

Reliability & safety

Reliability shouldn’t be an issue with the latest A3 model. It’s based on the Volkswagen Group’s ubiquitous MQB architecture and the TSI petrol engines are also known quantities.

Euro NCAP awarded the previous A3 a full five-star rating, and we wouldn’t expect anything less for the fourth-generation car. The A3’s closely-related stablemate, the Volkswagen Golf, has already achieved top marks for safety, with an additional ‘Advanced’ seal of approval, which recognises the car’s superior safety technology.

All A3 versions include Audi’s ‘Pre Sense Front’ safety system which uses a radar-based warning to alert the driver to potential hazards. It also has the ability to initiate automatic emergency braking if required. The on-board safety kit adds a Collision Avoidance Assistant (which actively assists the driver in steering around an obstacle), a lane departure warning system, cruise control and rear parking sensors.

Warranty

Audi’s standard warranty is three years and 60,000 miles, which is unlimited mileage for years one and two, with the 60,000-mile cap coming into effect in the third year. You can also upgrade to a four or five-year warranty for an extra fee.

Servicing

Audi offers two types of service schedule: fixed servicing should take place every 9,300 miles or annually, while the flexible option is up to 18,600 miles and every two years. 

Audi recommends a flexible schedule for those who drive longer distances, usually on motorways and main roads, while a fixed schedule is more suited to lower-mileage drivers who do more urban driving.

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Source: ADI News

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