Due for a refresh in the next year or so
, Audi’s gateway-to-the-brand hatchback continues to offer a unique blend of practicality, style and sport. Avoid piling on the options, and the A3 delivers a surprising amount of value as well, particularly in 2.0T Premium trim.
While the A3’s exterior hasn’t been significantly changed since the model’s 2006 debut, the car still manages to look like a fresh design. The interior, however, is beginning to look a bit dated, especially when compared the new design direction taken by recently-updated Audi models. That said, the A3’s interior is still among the best in the segment.
Buyers get a choice of either a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine, good for 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque, or a 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder rated at 140 hp and 236 pound-feet of torque. While the gasoline engine is a bit quicker on the run from 0-60 mph, commuters will find the TDI’s 42-mpg highway fuel economy hard to resist.
Audi offers the A3 with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed dual-clutch automatic, dubbed S tronic in Audi-speak. If you want Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive, you’ll need to opt for a gas-powered version and you’ll automatically get the S tronic gearbox. Despite the TDI’s lack of quattro all-wheel-drive, the diesel version made up 55 percent of Audi’s A3 sales in the U.S. last year. That makes us question the oft-heard claim from automakers that American drivers don’t want fuel-efficient diesels.
While the Audi A3
probably won’t amuse those used to sport sedans or even hot hatches, the A3 does reasonably well when the road gets twisty. Although the steering feels a bit over-boosted, the optional Sport Package stiffens the suspension, adds sport seats and includes summer-only performance tires. Handling is noticeably improved, without completely sacrificing ride comfort for highway cruising.
If you avoid hitting the option list too hard, the A3 delivers a lot of content for the money. Even in its current form, we’d be hard pressed to name a better interior in the sub-$30k price bracket, which accounts for a lot of the car’s appeal. That said, rear seat room is merely adequate, especially for those with long legs. Some feel that the A3 should do a better job of quieting road noise or softening the ride on rough pavement, but most drivers won’t find either area to be objectionable.
While it’s possible to order a stripped A3 with a sticker price just north of $28,000, most cars on dealer lots will be heavily optioned. Load up an A3 equipped with quattro AWD, and you can top the $44,000 price point, which is enough to give some buyers sticker shock.
For a complete review of the 2012 Audi A3, see our comprehensive write up on The Car Connection