Available as a three-door hatchback, five-door ‘Sportback’, a smart saloon or a classy cabriolet, the Audi A3 is the German brand’s most popular model.
There’s a vast array of derivatives to choose from including a plug-in hybrid e-Tron model that was one of the first such cars to come to market, and which has a strong following as a result.
Roughly the same size as a Volkswagen Golf, the A3 is a more premium package, with an emphasis on stylish design and upmarket build quality, as well as assured driving dynamics, particularly in S-Line models.
It is built on VW Group’s ‘MQB’ mid-size platform, which uses a combination of steel and bonded aluminium to retain stiffness and keep weight down, helping performance and emissions.
The A3 is particularly well liked for its handsome, timeless styling, and as a result is one of the most searched-for used cars in the UK.
The A3 is an instantly familiar shape, whichever body style you go for, with Audi styling hallmarks such as its distinctive twin radiator grille, sharp, angular headlamps and a sloping side profile giving it a purposeful stance.
The styling isn't overly fussy, but the simple-but-effective lines make it a car that ages very gracefully, and one that permanently exudes an air of quality.
The hatchback is the most common body style, but the saloon has established a niche of its own - the market for small saloons may be quite small, but the A3's mini-exec styling lends it a unique appeal, allowing it to pretty much dominate the sector.
The A3 convertible is also a sharp looker, with a seamlessly integrated power folding roof.
Audi has always known how to make a beautiful interior, and the A3’s cabin is just as design-led as some of the company’s more famous models.
All A3s have a domed three-spoke steering wheel and soft red backlighting, which combine to make the cabin a very enticing place to sit.
The seats are firm but comfortable, and the dashboard clean and simple. There’s no shortage of switches and buttons, just intuitive to use essentials. Add in a near-perfect driving position, and it’s easy to see why the A3 has such a strong feel-good factor.
Some model as also come with Audi’s optional ‘Virtual Cockpit’ - a multi-configurable digital display which replaces the standard dashboard.
Rear legroom is okay but nothing special, and the same can be said for the luggage space, though saloon models are blessed with a capacious boot.
It’s the quality that really shines, though. The plastics and fabrics have a tactile feel to them, while everything feels solidly screwed together.
Driving and Practicality
With the exception of the wild S3 performance model, the A3 is no sports car, and while it’s still a good car to drive, it can’t match the BMW 1-Series for overall dynamic performance.
But if you want an upmarket, refined and comfortable compact hatchback or small saloon, the A3 is still a compelling companion. The handling is decent enough and the ride comfort is much better than Audis of old, which were renowned for being over-firm.
There are three different suspension set-ups: standard, sport and S-Line, the latter of which is firmer and aimed at more sporting performance, but at the expense of ride quality.
Engine choice consists of four petrol units (1.0, 1.4, 1.8 and 2.0 - all turbocharged) and three diesels (a 1.6 and two 2.0-litres), along with the plug-in hybrid e-Tron. All offer decent performance, though it’s the 15 turbo petrol that’s the most versatile all-rounder.
Diesels offer excellent fuel economy, while the top spec 181bhp 2.0-litre diesel is a real wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Another feather in the A3’s cap is its refinement. Whichever body style you choose, the cabin is well insulated and quiet, with very little intrusion from either wind or road noise, all of which adds to the car’s feel-good factor - you spend money on a good quality car, but the quality never ceases to surround you.
If you’re after a car that screams high quality and has a distinctly premium image, then the A3 could well be it. Compact, affordable to own and run and stylish both inside and out, it’s a hugely satisfying car to own.
It’s by far one of the best choices in the premium hatchback market, but with the additional saloon and cabriolet body styles it manages to go one step further, defining itself as more than just a posher alternative to a VW Golf. Upwardly mobile younger drivers, in particular, are drawn to it for those very reasons.Search Audi A3