Audi A3 Review (2020-2023)
Looking for a compact car that’s family-friendly and has a premium feel? The Audi A3 is one of the best.
Published: 25 January 2023
If you’re in the market for a compact car with a premium image that’s practical enough for family use, good to drive and packed with high-tech features, the Audi A3 is definitely one to consider.
Here, we’re looking at the current, fourth-generation A3, which has been sold new in the UK since 2020. It’s available as a five-door hatchback (called Sportback) or as a four-door saloon. You can choose petrol, diesel or plug-in hybrid power, and a manual or automatic gearbox. Some models also have four-wheel drive, which Audi calls Quattro.
- Comfortable ride
- Surprisingly good value
- Very fuel-efficient engines
- Some rivals have more space
- Interior not to all tastes
- Not best-in-class for interior quality
Dashboard & tech
If you want your car to have an edgy, high-tech look inside, you’re likely to love the A3. Every version has a 10-inch touchscreen display in the middle of the dashboard that has sharp graphics and is pretty easy to use. Alternatively, you can use simple voice commands to access certain features. You can also connect your phone via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to use your preferred entertainment and navigation apps.
There are buttons below the screen and elsewhere in the interior that control other features like the air con. Every model also has a digital driver’s display that can show a range of information from speed and distance to full-screen sat nav maps. You can also operate certain features via the screen using buttons on the steering wheel.
Each trim level available on the A3 has a different type of front seat. They’re all really supportive, which means you’re less likely to develop aches and pains on a long journey. The back seats are particularly comfortable, too. Top-of-the-range models have leather upholstery and heated front seats for an extra touch of luxury, and adjustable lumbar support that allows you to fine-tune your seating position.
All models have a height-adjustable driver’s seat and steering wheel – the wheel also moves in and out for further tweaking if needed, making it easy to find a driving position that suits you. You have a good view out, although the standard rear parking sensors are useful when parking the longer Saloon models.
The latest A3’s interior is very different to the previous model’s, with a much more futuristic look. It has a similarly premium ambience and everything you use most often feels solid – like the steering wheel, gear lever, indicator stalk and heater controls. Some of the materials around the interior don’t feel as special as you might expect of an Audi, however, nor as premium as those in rivals such as the latest BMW 1 Series or Mercedes-Benz A-Class.
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Practicality & boot space
With generous head, leg and shoulder room, there’s more than enough space for four six-foot-tall people to travel together in comfort in the A3. That’s not unusual for a mid-size car like this, but it does mean the A3 is roomy enough to be used as a family car in both Sportback and Saloon forms.
To that end, there’s two sets of Isofix mounts on the back seat and it’s quite easy to install a child seat or two. The A3 is technically a five-seater, but the middle back seat is rather hard and narrow, so it’s not especially comfortable for adults on a long journey.
The A3 Sportback has 380 litres of boot space, which is the same as the latest BMW 1 Series or the Volkswagen Golf. In practical terms, the A3’s boot will accommodate a bulky pushchair or a week’s food shopping or even a family’s luggage for a week-long holiday if you pack carefully.
The A3 Saloon has quite a lot more space – at 425 litres – because its boot is about 13cm (6.5in) longer than the Sportback’s. That’s enough for a couple of extra supermarket shopping bags. However, the Saloon’s boot has a smaller opening, which makes it more difficult to load in anything big and bulky.
Both Sportback and Saloon have back seats that fold down to create more space to load things. Flatpack furniture will slide into the Saloon’s boot easily but, because the boot lid is hinged below the back window, the entry is more restricted. The Sportback’s boot lid is hinged at the roof, so it has a much bigger opening that you get big stuff through more easily.
In both cars, the back seats are at an angle when folded but there’s no ridge between them and the boot. In the Sportback, the boot floor is more or less level with the back bumper but there’s a drop of a few inches in the Saloon. Generally speaking, loading up shouldn’t be any particular hassle.
Whatever type of road and no matter how long the journey, driving the A3 is an enjoyable experience. The first thing you’ll notice when you get behind the steering wheel is how light and nimble the car feels. That makes it easy to thread down narrow streets and it can be quite good fun on a winding country road. The A3 feels very safe and solid, too.
The ride is generally very smooth. It can feel a bit firm in sportier models with bigger wheels, but it’s always comfortable. Unusually, the more powerful models have different rear suspension that contributes to a more engaging driving experience and an even smoother ride.
Even the least powerful engines available in the A3 provide perfectly adequate acceleration in most situations. They can get away from a junction smartly if needed, but feel a bit strained if the car is heavily loaded. The most powerful models are very quick indeed, but aren’t as fuel-efficient.
The most popular models slot into the middle of the performance spectrum; they can accelerate rapidly up to the motorway speed limit, even with a full complement of passengers, yet still give very good fuel economy.
Fuel economy & CO2 emissions
The A3 is very fuel-efficient, even by the high standards that mid-size cars generally achieve. According to official figures, average fuel economy is 38mpg to 51mpg for petrol models and 56mpg to 64mpg for the diesels. The plug-in hybrid is the most efficient by far, achieving 256mpg, but to get close to that you need to regularly recharge the battery to maximise use of its 41-mile pure-electric range.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are also fairly low, ranging from 125g/km to 159g/km for petrol models, 115g/km to 131g/km for diesel versions and 26g/km to 31g/km for plug-in hybrid models.
Value for money
Surprisingly, a new A3 costs less than some other mid-size cars made by non-premium brands. However, if you compare a particular A3 model with a rival that has the same kind of engine, gearbox and standard features, the difference in price can even out. Regardless, the A3 offers good value for your money, especially for a premium-brand car.
Reliability & Warranty
This generation of A3 was introduced after the most recent J.D. Power UK Vehicle Dependability Study was published in 2019, so we have no data that shows how reliable it is. However, older versions of the A3 proved to be generally reliable.
If anything does go wrong, you have Audi’s three-year or 60,000-mile (whichever comes first) warranty to fall back on. That’s the same level of coverage most car manufacturers provide.
Safety organisation Euro NCAP awarded a full five-star safety rating to the A3. It received good marks for protecting passengers in a crash and is fitted with useful advanced driver assistance safety features including automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assist.
Trims & Engines
There are five trim levels to choose from – Technik, Sport, S Line, Edition 1 and Vorsprung. They have broadly the same features included as standard, such as sat nav, air con, cruise control and rear parking sensors. But they are set apart by their interior and exterior styling details including different wheels, bumpers, rear spoilers and front seats. The top three trim levels look particularly sporty and have more advanced LED headlights. Top-of-the-range models also have electrically adjustable, heated front seats and leather upholstery.
The A3 is available with a petrol or diesel engine, plus plug-in hybrid power. Audi assigns each engine a number that indicates how much power it has. So its ‘30’ engines have around 110bhp, ‘35’ engines have about 150bhp and ‘40’ engines have 200bhp-ish.
Let’s look at the choices in a bit more detail. There are three petrol engines to choose from: 30 TFSI, which has a 1.0-litre engine with 108bhp; 35 TFSI, which has a 1.5-litre engine with 148bhp; 40 TFSI, which has a 2.0-litre engine with 187bhp. The 35 TFSI is the most popular because it gives much brisker acceleration than the 30 TFSI without sacrificing fuel-efficiency. The 30 and 35 engines are available with a manual or automatic gearbox; the 40 has an automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive as standard.
Looking at the diesels, again there are two choices. Both are 2.0-litres in size; the 30 TDI has 114bhp and a manual gearbox; and the 35 TDI has 148bhp and an automatic gearbox.
The plug-in hybrid – called 40 TFSI e – has a 1.4-litre petrol engine and a battery-powered electric motor which can drive the car separately or together. There’s 201bhp in total. An automatic gearbox is fitted as standard.
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