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.
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.
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.
It’s comfy, reasonably quiet and handles really well but not quite as well as the BMW 1 Series
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.
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.