Audi A3 Saloon review
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. It’s a little dull, however, and options can be expensive.
What's not so good
Audi A3 Saloon: what would you like to read next?
The Audi A3 saloon has one of the best interiors in the class. The high-quality materials and pop-up infotainment screen make for a premium atmosphere. The A3 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 Audi 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 spectacular fuel economy is better if you plan to do lots of motorway miles.
It’s not an exciting choice but the A3 feels like a cut above the competition
As a premium model, the Audi A3 saloon 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 that turn on automatically and wipers that do the same.
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 its 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.
The Audi A3 saloon is a real alternative to the hatchback. It has the same generous room in the front, as well as more rear headroom and a bigger boot – but the hatchback opening is more versatile
What might not be immediately obvious is that this saloon is longer than the A3 hatchback, which means it has more legroom in the back seats
Getting a comfortable driving position is a breeze and, if you spec the car up, it can become quite luxurious – the same quilted leather seats that are found in the A8 flagship can be specified in the Audi A3 saloon. However rear visibility is worse than in the hatchback so we recommend opting for parking sensors.
The extra length and longer wheelbase give the Audi A3 saloon a bit more legroom than the hatchback so it’s better suited to carrying adults over longer journeys – two adults can travel in comfort while three can fit if they don’t mind being short of elbow room.
Interior storage is just as impressive. The door bins are huge – big enough for a large bottle of water – and the glovebox can take a 1.5-litre bottle of water with room to spare for other bits and pieces. On top of those, you get four cupholders and an armoury of smaller cubbies.
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.
While the A3 hatchback has pulled itself up by its bootstraps to mix it with the better drivers’ cars, the A3 saloon is more about comfort than performance.
It’s comfy, reasonably quiet and handles really well but not quite as well as the BMW 1 Series
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.
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, so there’s no really slow Audi 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.
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.
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.
The Audi A3 saloon 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 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.
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.