Audi A3 Sportback Review
The Audi A3 Sportback has a neatly styled interior with advanced tech, although some of the trims feel a bit cheap. It’s also a little more expensive than alternatives.
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Lamborghini-inspired design, super-advanced tech, and a luxury interior… the big guns have definitely been rolled out to tempt you into the new Audi A3.
Its traditional alternatives are fellow posh Germans the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class, but the A3 actually shares plenty of parts with the new VW Golf, SEAT Leon and Skoda Octavia. As a result, these brands’ family hatchbacks are a bit like four children who all turned out very differently.
If the Skoda Octavia is the sensible one, the Seat Leon the sporty one and the Volkswagen Golf the easiest to get on with, the Audi A3 is the one who took a job in the city, likes expensive clothes and has a designer watch on the wrist.
In fact, the new A3 comes with the sportiest Audi interior you’ll see this side of the R8 supercar. It looks striking, and has been inspired by the one in the Lamborghini Urus, but while it feels decent for the most part, some of the materials don’t quite feel supercar-posh in places.
It feels decently upmarket if you go for a high-spec model with the larger widescreen digital driver’s display and built-in sat-nav. Thankfully, it’s all dead easy to use and even entry-level cars get a cool 10-inch touchscreen and all the smartphone mirroring features you could want as standard.
It isn’t just more tech that sets the new A3 apart from the old car – it feels sportier to sit in too. You sit lower than before and the sports seats you get in S Line models come with plenty of support and some lovely Alcantara trim. Unfortunately, if you set the steering wheel into its lowest setting, the rim obscures part of the instrument display.
Space in the back isn’t quite so good, so tall adults might find their heads touching the roof, but at least there’s plenty of knee room to go round. The dark headlining you get in S Line models can make it feel a bit dark and dingy back there, but there’s always the option of a panoramic glass roof if you want to let a little more light in.
There’s a decent amount of space in the Audi A3’s 380-litre boot – that’s the same size as the boot in a 1 Series – and it’s easy enough to flip down the back seats to carry very large stuff.
The Audi A3's interior has always won people over in the showroom. It looks like this new one might do the same on the test drive too.
You can have your Audi A3 with a range of engines, including a 1.0-litre petrol with 110hp and a 1.5-litre petrol with 150hp. There’s also a 1.4-litre plug-in hybrid model that’s both faster and more efficient than the standard petrol models – although it’s quite a bit more expensive, too.
If you do lots of long drives, you’ll want to consider a diesel engine instead. There are two to choose from; a 2.0-litre 115hp engine and a 2.0-litre 150hp model that’ll make a great motorway cruiser.
If you want even more sportiness, you can opt for an S3 model. It comes with a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine that produces more than 330hp. It feels stronger than the old car yet it’s every bit as smooth and comes complete with a characterful exhaust note. Tap the video below to watch our full review on the S3.
Generally, the A3 is quiet and comfortable to drive, though S Line cars have a lower suspension set-up than the rest of the range – to make them feel more sporty – so these will feel firmer over potholes and rough roads. Also, versions with more than 148hp get a more advanced rear suspension set up which should make them better over bumps than the lower-powered cars. A BMW 1 Series is sportiest posh hatchback to drive, but the A3 isn’t that far behind should you want to have fun down a twisty road.
Take a look at the latest Audi A3 deals…
… Or if you’ve not quite made up your mind yet, see how the Audi A3 compares with its likely alternatives – the BMW 1 Series, Mercedes A-Class and the VW Golf – in our video review.
Loads of space for four people, or even five at a push. The boot will even take most of their stuff.
The good news is that the new Audi A3 has decent space for four full adults. There’s decent legroom in the front and rear, and headroom’s definitely better than in some rivals.
The issue comes when you want to carry a fifth person, because while the central rear seat is comfortable enough, carrying three in the rear is a bit of a squeeze. In addition, the shape of the rear headlining means the two outside passengers will likely end up having to keep their heads canted to one side.
The door pockets in all four doors are capable of accommodating a large bottle. However, the new design of cupholders between the front seats is less successful, because it allows a normal 330 ml bottle to flop around, with the attendant risk of sticky spillage ever present.
There are two rear cupholders in the A3’s central armrest, but it’s somewhat annoying that there’s no cover for them when they’re not in use, because they’re sited exactly where you’d want to rest your elbow. Smacks of cost-cutting to us.
Beneath the controls for the climate system there’s a central storage area, which is big enough for even the largest phones, and there’s another decent cubby beneath the front armrest, which will doubtless get filled with lots of stuff that you’ll forget about. Down by the driver’s knee, there’s a flip-down storage box that will easily carry stuff that’ll rattle annoyingly.
The glovebox looks to be a reasonable size, although its capacity is slightly compromised by the presence of a fusebox.
The boot area is a perfectly acceptable size, neither class-leading nor class-trailing. In fact, it’s the same size as that in a BMW 1 Series.
Practicality is enhanced by the presence of a height-adjustable floor, so you can have it in its lowest setting for maximum boot space, or you can raise it and have a perfectly flat loading area with no lip to lift things over.
Better still, in this configuration there’s a hidden area beneath in which you can store valuable items out of sight. This lower area can also accommodate the parcel shelf, should you need to remove it to carry larger loads.
The rear seat is split 40/20/40, allowing you to carry a long object in the middle with a passenger either side, and a quick press of a button on each rear seats lowers them in a trice to reveal a perfectly flat loading area.
When you need to carry day to day stuff such as shopping, there are hooks for carrier bags, and lashing points for larger items.
The Audi A3 has great engines and is comfortable to drive, although if you’re looking for maximum fun from your posh hatch, a BMW 1 Series feels a bit sharper.
The Audi A3 Sportback is available with a comprehensive range of engines, starting with a 1.0-litre petrol with 110hp that’s linked to a six-speed manual gearbox (no auto is available). Then there’s a 1.5-litre petrol with 150hp that comes with a six-speed manual or for a bit extra a DSG automatic gearbox. There’s also a 1.4-litre plug-in hybrid model that’s both faster and more efficient than the standard petrol models, but it’ll cost you a fair bit more initially. Keep it charged so you mainly use electric power and it’ll save you loads in fuel.
If your motoring life is spent mainly on the motorway, then diesel is the way to go. There are two; a 2.0-litre 115hp engine and a 2.0-litre 150hp model. Add an auto to the latter and it’ll be tremendous on long trips.
If you want even more sportiness, you can opt for an S3 model. It comes with a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine that produces more than 310hp. It feels seriously punchy yet it’s smooth and has the sort of exhaust note to make you nod with appreciation. Tap the video below to watch our full review on the S3.
Generally, the A3 is quiet and comfortable to drive, though S Line cars have a lower suspension set-up than the rest of the range – to make them feel more sporty – so these will feel firmer over potholes and rough roads. We reckon this is probably a sacrifice worth making. Also, versions with more than 150hp get a more advanced rear suspension set-up which should make them better over bumps than the lower-powered cars. A BMW 1 Series is sportiest posh hatchback to drive, but the A3 isn’t that far behind should you want to have fun down a twisty road.
The A3 has steering that feels light and accurate, and the pedals don’t tax your thigh muscles unduly either. Large windows mean good visibility all round, so parking is really easy, made even more so by the presence of parking sensors.
On a twisty road, the A3 handles tidily, so isn’t going to do anything to upset your equilibrium. It grips really strongly, too.
As efficient as the petrol models are, they’re not going to be setting the road alight with their performance. The 1.5-litre’s pace is best described as ‘enough’, although the car is extremely quiet as it goes about its business. You’ll need to stir the garbox a bit if you want a sudden injection of pace
The A3 interior looks striking and features the very best tech Audi has to offer, but some of the materials feel a bit cheap.