- Decent boot space
- Plenty of onboard technology
- Good range of engines
- Optional front sports seats weren’t that comfortable
- Noisy cabin at higher speeds
It can’t be denied but Audi’s current model lineup has everything for all sorts of buyers, from the compact A1 to the enormous Q7, the stonking RS4 to the refined A8, there is a lot of choice for those wanting to buy into the German manufacturer.
Their SUV ‘Q’ range is growing too, but what about those wanting a compact model without the SUV style?
Audi’s A3 model has been around since 1996 and still continues to prove popular in the small family car segment as an alternative to the rugged, off-roading wannabes.
On The Road
We drove the A3 Sportback which came with the 35 TFSI engine which produces 150PS with 250NM of torque, has a top speed of 136mph and gets from 0-62mph in 8.2 seconds.
The turbocharged, four cylinder 1.5-litre has plenty of go even in Eco mode and it comes mated with a 7-speed S tronic automatic transmission, which is fairly seamless and should you put it into Dynamic mode then there are steering wheel paddles to make the whole experience a bit sportier.
There are other engine options for the A3 including a 40 TFSI Quattro with 190PS and three diesel versions: a 30 TDI with 116PS which comes with a six-speed manual gearbox, a 35 TDI with 150PS that comes with either a manual or automatic transmission and a 40 TDI Quattro that has 184PS.
For those looking to cut their emissions then there is an A3 e-tron hybrid which will let you drive purely on electric up to 20 miles, ideal as a city runaround.
The A3 Sportback has decent, responsive steering that isn’t too heavy when driven on a host of different roads and it does makes you feel at ease with the car on demanding routes, at times it can be a fun little drive with plenty of grip if you want to push it.
The ride though can be a bit firm and cumbersome with the sports suspension and less than perfect roads weren’t absorbed so well by the car, which made it slightly uncomfortable. The 18-inch wheels also made for noisy trips out in the car, especially at high speeds so the cabin wasn’t the relaxed space you wanted it to be on long journeys.
The A3 Sportback comes with Audi’s Drive Select system so at the flick of a button you can change the driving characteristics of the car from Eco to Dynamic to Comfort.
The Audi A3 Sportback has lost the smooth curves and lines of the previous generation to be replaced by a slighty more aggressive styling, not as emphatic as the latest A1 but visually still quite different.
There are lashings of chrome around the window surrounds and the grille and it’s no suprise that Audi have described it as the little car with a big personality, as it’s external design is striking.
There are four trims for this model: entry level SE Technik, Sport, S Line and top of the range Black Edition which all come with plenty of equipment.
We had on test the S Line which included LED headlights front and rear, embossed ‘S’ leather and cloth seats, Bang and Olufsen music player, aluminium plated pedals and an illuminated interior.
Options included 18-inch matt titanium look alloy wheels at £650 and metallic Floret Silver paint colour at £575.
In The Car
Behind the Wheel
The front sports seats were a struggle to get in the right position to be comfortable, for the price they weren’t electronically adjustable and a long journey wasn’t great which was disappointing.
The car comes with plenty of technology, the instrument panel now features Audi’s high resolution screen rather than analogue dials so you have all information at the touch of a button on the sporty steering wheel.
A centre display screen is operated by a scrolling dial and buttons, the former can be used impressively as a touch pad when inputting details for navigation, and information such as media, car and phone settings are visible on the display.
For technology users there are two USB sockets in the centre armrest along with a wireless charging port, which is handy - no need to scramble for cables when your phone battery is low and there's onboard internet.
Space & Practicality
The good thing about the A3 model is that it’s available in a range of sizes: a saloon, cabriolet and the Sportback are on offer but gone is the three-door option which was the only version when it first came out all those years ago.
The A3 Sportback is over 4 metres long so there is more space than you’d expect in this model, the boot holds 380 litres increasing to 1,220 litres with seats folded flat, and there’s some extra space under the boot floor for small items and also side netting to stop items rolling around the boot, including a first aid kit.
There is good room up front and although it was practical enough to get a child seat in the rear, it’s more of a four-seater than five as three people in the back would find it a bit of a squeeze, as there’s also a reduction in headroom.
The Audi A3 Sportback is priced from £25,015 for the SE Technik trim, with the car we had on test £33,110 with all the options. Is it a bit pricey for such a model?
If you’re looking for a premium compact model then you can’t go wrong with the A3 Sportback, it’s practical enough to have as a family car, it comes with plenty of technology and there’s a wide range of engines to choose from.
Plus, if you’re looking to stick to the A3 range the choice of different body styles is a bonus and if you want even more grunt then there are the stonkingly quick S3 and RS3 options to go for.
Quality & Reliability
It’s an Audi so expect high levels of quality, long lasting materials in the A3 Sportback with additions such as the illuminated interior lights, a rimless mirror, the cool looking vents and the digital climate control adding some premium-ness to the cabin.
The A3 Sportback hasn’t had any major reliability issues but do expect to pay a premium for having your car fixed at an Audi dealer if any do arise.
The model was the 2014 World Car of the Year beating off rivals the BMW 4 Series and the Mazda3 and this year the saloon version took the Whatcar? Best Executive Car award so it has the accolades under its belt.
Safety & Security
There’s lots of safety technology on the A3 including adaptive cruise control, active lane assist, rear cross traffic assist and park assist while Audi’s Pre-Sense Basic was an extra £200 on this car and the Parking System Plus was £300.
The A3 model was last tested in 2012 in the Euro NCAP ratings taking the full five stars with an impressive 95% for adult occupant protection and with the range of advanced technology since that time on Audi’s cars, it’s highly doubtable that it wouldn’t score the same. Audi along with Volvo really have set the bar with their safety and driving aid technology.