The exterior of a blue BMW 1-Series

Audi A3 review

Classy, well built and practical, the Audi A3 exudes quality. There’s plenty of standard equipment, lots of safety kit and it’s great to drive with powerful and efficient engines.

Pros

  • Beautifully designed interior
  • Great to drive
  • Spacious and practical

Cons

  • There are lots of cheaper rivals
  • Popular S-Line suspension option spoils the ride
  • BMW 1 Series is more fun to drive

Summary

“The Audi A3 was one of the first premium hatchbacks around, and although it’s been joined by plenty of rivals, it’s still one of the best.”

Boasting a stylish upmarket exterior, the A3 looks great with its prominent Audi grille and bright Xenon lights. The three-door version can be a compromise if you use the back seats a lot, but it’s still spacious and practical. It’s also available in saloon and convertible models.

With an extensive options list when new, it’s possible to find used A3s fitted with upgrades, such as adjustable suspension and parking assistance.

The latest trim levels are SE Technik, Sport, S-Line and the luxurious Black Edition. Specifications are good across the board with standard spec including, xenon headlamps, air con, cruise control and Bluetooth with a touchscreen infotainment system.

Close up of an Audi A3 with grille

What's the interior like?

“The Audi A3 is an easy-to-drive car that provides a satisfying sense of wellbeing.”

It exudes cool confidence and has a beautifully set-up interior. Some A3s have the Virtual Cockpit dash set-up, which is a digital display that’s a major advance on traditional dials. The standard dash is stylish with a tablet-style display.

The A3's front seats are extremely supportive and have a wide range of seat adjustment options, for a comfortable drive. It’s perfectly roomy for two adults in the back, but three is a squeeze. The ISOFIX child seat mountings in the rear are expected in cars these days, but the A3’s seats are low which means bending awkwardly to access them. Boot space is better than the Mercedes A-Class and is similar to the BMW 1 Series.

The interior of an Audi A3 with steering wheel and dashboard in shot

What's it like to drive?

“The Audi A3 Sportback feels quite grown-up with sophisticated handling, all the performance you need and a quiet, comfortable ride.”

Most drivers will find it hard to fault the A3 driving experience, although some will insist a BMW 1 Series is more fun to drive.

As standard, the A3 is front-wheel drive and feels stable, turning into corners with little body roll. You can also get four-wheel drive quattro versions, which is a worthwhile performance option with punchier engines, but most owners will be quite happy without it. Front-wheel drive cars can provide better traction and improved fuel economy. 

Ride comfort is very good, but the bigger alloy wheels and the S-Line lowered suspension settings can noticeably upset the ride smoothness. The standard suspension set-up is a good choice.

Engine ranges start with a three-cylinder entry-level 1.0 TFSI which is perfect for town and local driving. But even that is quite powerful. The 1.5 TFSI petrol offers a more relaxing motorway performance, while the 2.0-litre TFSI is seriously punchy.

Diesel engines have always been an A3 strong point, offering great efficiency.

Rear external shot of an Audi A3

Is the Audi A3 cost-efficient to buy and run?

“Quality costs more, but the Audi A3 should hold onto its value and it’s generally very efficient.”

A new Audi A3 is more expensive than a VW Golf or similar mainstream compact hatchback. Its desirability means it retains that price premium on the used car market. Although you may pay more, you can expect to keep more of your money when you sell on.

Running costs are a little higher than mainstream rivals such as the Golf. Insurance costs are also higher and you can expect to pay a bit more for official Audi parts and repairs.

Boot space shot of the Audi A3

How reliable and safe is it?

“Great independent crash test scores and lots of safety kit make the Audi A3 a good bet.”

The Audi A3 boasts a full five-star safety rating from independent crash test experts Euro NCAP. There’s a range of safety features built-in, particularly on post-2016 cars. You can expect head, body and knee airbags for front seat occupants, as well as brake lights that flash during heavy braking. Options to look out for include, adaptive cruise control with automatic steering and braking assistance.

Engine shot of the Audi A3

Which one is best for you?

Best for economy - 35 TDI SE Technik  

Best for family - 30 TFSI SE Technik      

Best for fun - 35 TFSI Sport      

While the diesel engines in the Audi A3 are efficient and great to drive, they’re also usually more expensive. Diesel fuel is less favoured now for environmental reasons, but the latest TFSI petrols are also very efficient and offer a smooth ride.

The well equipped SE Technik entry-level trim is also a great choice, although upgrading to Sport is possibly the sweet spot on the used market. It has added benefits, such as dual-zone climate control, better seats and leather steering wheel trim.

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