£24,235 - £33,435 Price range
48 - 74 MPG
The Audi A3 Saloon is the third version of the A3 along with the hatchback and Sportback. The Saloon has more rear legroom and a bigger boot and its only direct rival is the Mercedes CLA. The Lexus IS can also be considered an alternative along with the cheaper Mazda 3 Fastback.
Inside you’ll find one of the best interiors in the class. The high quality materials and pop-up infotainment screen make for a premium atmosphere. The saloon boot adds day-to-day practicality and a little more individuality but the sloping roof means headroom in the back is worse than in the Sportback.
Thanks to modern underpinnings the A3 saloon is agile and confident in corners. The optional Sport and S line suspension setups improve handling marginally but make the ride quite firm for UK roads.
The A3 Saloon gets the same range of excellent engines as the Hatchback and Sportback but two really stand out – the 1.4-litre petrol and the 2.0-litre diesel. The petrol is punchy and fuel efficient, but the diesel is better if you plan to do lots of motorway miles.
The A3 Saloon is a premium model so gets two well-equipped trim levels – Sport and S-line. Although the Sport has a generous kit list with a 5.8-inch multimedia screen, alloys and a DAB digital radio with eight speakers, we’d go for the S line for the more stylish body kit it adds. In 2016 standard equipment was increased to include xenon headlights,
Read our colours and dimensions guides to see if the A3 will fit in your life or check out our dedicated RS3 Saloon price, specs and release date article for full details on the sporty range-topping model.
There will be no complaints about the interior of the current Audi A3. It’s just as well built as any other Audi, providing high levels of fit and finish and, unlike the previous generation, a stylish and ergonomic layout. Everything is where it ought to be and the air vents can either focus or diffuse the air coming through them with a easy-to-use push-pull control.
However, it’s worth noting that to achieve a truly premium atmosphere in the interior one must go quite high up the trim levels and tick a few boxes from the options list to get the classier materials. One option we would recommend, however, is Audi’s £450 Virtual Cockpit that replaces the conventional instrument binnacle with a multi-function digital display, which in one mode forms a huge sat-nav screen. It looks very high tech and makes following the sat-nav’s directions extremely easy.
Audi A3 Saloon passenger space
Getting a comfortable driving position is a breeze and, if you spec it up, can become quite luxurious – the same quilted leather seats that are found in the Audi A8 flagship can be specified in the A3 Saloon. However rear visibility is worse than in the hatchback so we recommend opting for parking sensors.
The rear seats are no more enticing for adult occupants than they are in the hatchback, but the extra length and wheelbase gives a bit more legroom which is just enough for long journeys. Two can adults can travel in comfort while three can fit for shorter journeys.
AUDI A3 Saloon boot space
The larger wheelbase also increases the available boot space to 425 litres – way more than either of the other body styles of A3 and only a fraction less than the A4. It also thrumps the Mazda 3 Fastback’s 417 litres, but is less than what you get in the Mercedes CLA (471 litres).
Another benefit of the saloon body shape is the extremely useful square shape of the boot that is only hindered by a somewhat narrow opening.
The switch to the MQB platform and lighter weight materials results in a less nose-heavy A3 than before – but while the hatchback has pulled itself up by its bootstraps to mix it with the better drivers’ cars at last, the saloon is more about comfort than performance.
It is a breeze to drive at any pace, but never fizzes. The ride can be Audi-firm if you opt for Sport or S Line suspension, but most critics agree the A3 Saloon feels best with the standard suspension that can be equipped even on S Line cars, at no extra cost.
There’s grip to spare, the electric power steering system is fine, if not really tactile and there’s also an optional set of magnetic dampers make the car sharper to drive or more comfortable depending on your mood. Speaking of driving modes, the Saloon is the only A3 model to get three selectable driving modes that have pretty self explanatory names – Dynamic, Economy and Comfort. Each mode brings different throttle response and power steering weight.
The engine range is decent. You can pick from five options – two petrols (a 1.4-litre with cylinder-on-demand and a 2.0-litre) or three diesels (a 1.6-litre and two 2.0-litre models). The 2.0-litre petrol and diesels can also be quipped with quattro 4WD.
Audi A3 Saloon diesel engines
Even the least potent option – the 108hp 1.6-litre – takes just over ten seconds for the 62mph sprint and achieves fuel economy of 72-74mpg combined (just slotting into VED band A meaning free road tax), so there’s no really slow A3 Saloon.
At the other end of the scale, the 181hp 2.0-litre dips under seven seconds in the short sprint while still averaging 60mpg. The lower powered 2.0-litre with 150hp provides decent performance and low running costs. It can achieve 70.6mpg and 0-62mph in less than nine seconds.
Audi A3 Saloon petrol engines
The 1.4-litre petrol is an equally good choice as the 2.0-litre diesel and what it loses in fuel economy it gains in its lively character and quiet operation. The high-tech cylinder-on-demand technology helps it achieve 60.1mpg on a run and it emits 109g/km of CO2 resulting in £20 a year for road tax.
The 177hp 1.8-litre petrol can also accelerate from 0-62mph in under seven seconds but looks a bit redundant next to the equally fast but more frugal 2.0-litre diesel in 181hp form.
This is reason enough to buy it, but the engine is generally well-received anyway - it "pulls hard initially and keeps going right into the higher rev ranges", with "little or no engine noise intruding into the cabin". That makes it a little more refined than the diesel options, if not quite as punchy as the 2.0 TDI.
Stats-wise all is well with the 1.8 too. It develops 178 bhp, and a strong 184 lb-ft of torque comes in at just 1,250 rpm. Even economy is good, with a claimed 50 mpg combined. Most drivers will opt for the diesel in this car, but there's plenty to recommend the 1.8 TFSI.
There's little to complain about when it comes to performance or economy either. Manual or S-tronic auto gearboxes are available, but with 148 bhp both move down the road smartly - mid-eights to 62 mph, and a top speed closing in on 140 mph. Combined economy? 67.3 mpg, with CO2 of only 108 g/km.
The A3 Saloon has not been tested yet, but with the hatchback version scoring five stars at EuroNCAP – and in quite an impressive manner – it’s almost inevitable that the saloon will score well. It uses the same basic construction and technologies that helped the hatchback to an excellent overall score, with even its worst category being the the second highest score in the category that year. The Saloon also retains the pre-crash safety systems that EuroNCAP noted in the A3 test – autonomous braking and lane assist aids – and adds adaptive LED headlights that change according to information from the sat nav.
The basic SE in the hatchback comes with a 5.8 inch screen, manual air con, a leather four-spoke multi-function steering wheel, Bluetooth, MP3 player connectivity and a voice control system – and the Saloon starts at the next specification up, adding dual zone climate control and sports seats. It’s not stingy.
Audi A3 Saloon S line
The more expensive of the two trim levels is the one most reviewers recommend getting. Not only do you get half-leather upholstery, a flat-bottomed sports steering wheel and more storage nets and compartments, but also more aggressive body styling, larger alloy wheels and Xenon headlights.
The optional extras list is long and expensive but some worthwhile ones are the £750 Bang & Olufsen premium stereo or the £1,250 Technology Pack that adds a more modern infotainment system with a touchpad instead of the rotary dial of the standard MMI system. Cruise control is also standard from 2016.
The Audi A3 saloon isn’t many things. It isn’t the most comfortable, it isn’t the fastest, it isn’t the cheapest and isn’t the most desirable in it’s class. What it is is a shrunken A4 and while it may not be as exciting to drive or look at as some of its rivals, the A3 Saloon makes a fine case for itself over the blander hatchback. It’s a bigger rival for the A4 though, providing just as much car for a lot less money.