Audi A3 Sportback (2016-2020) review
If you prefer your family hatchback to have a touch of class, then the Audi A3 Sportback will wow you with its interior. It’s spacious and tech-laden, too, but does look a little pricey.
What's not so good
Audi A3 Sportback (2016-2020): what would you like to read next?
If you want a family hatchback that makes you smile every time you climb inside, then the Audi A3 Sportback needs to be on your list. It has a fantastic, upmarket cabin, the latest technology and is decently spacious inside too. You will pay more for one than a VW Golf, Skoda Octavia or Ford Focus, though.
The Audi A3 is a very smart looking car on the outside, with a bold grille and handsome profile, as well as the sharply angled headlights. You get a similar look on the other A3 models on sale – the A3 saloon, open-top A3 Cabriolet and rapid S3 and RS3.
Inside, the materials and build quality surpass that of a BMW 1 Series or Mercedes A-Class. The highlight of the cabin is the optional Virtual Cockpit that replaces the old-fashioned speedo and rev-counter dials with a customisable digital screen that can show the satellite-navigation map, your Spotify playlist or just how fast you’re going.
The Audi A3 is practical and easy to live with, too. Front passengers get plenty of seat adjustment and a good view of the road ahead and behind. Adults sat in the rear will also be comfortable with enough head, leg and shoulder room. Boot space is on a par with a VW Golf and a Ford Focus.
The Virtual Cockpit digital driver display looks awesome and makes following sat-nav directions easier and safer because you can keep your eyes on the road. You'll love it
The Audi A3 Sportback is comfortable and confidence inspiring to drive, and there’s a range of great petrol and diesel engines – some of which are available with smooth, quick-shifting automatic gearboxes and Audi’s four-wheel-drive Quattro system that gives the car even more grip on slippery roads. The 1.5-litre petrol engine with a manual or S-Tronic automatic gearbox is the best pick, but if you do lots of motorway miles then buy the 2.0-litre diesel.
Whichever model you choose, the Audi A3 is very safe – it got a five-star rating when Euro NCAP tested it back in 2012, and it’s available with lots of the latest safety equipment.
So, the Audi A3 Sportback looks good and makes you feel great – its only drawback is that there’s a bit less room in the back seats than in similarly priced SUVs, such as the Volkswagen Tiguan.
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The Audi A3 Sportback is spacious up front, has a roomy boot and is better than any alternatives for carrying two adults in the back – that said, it’s not so brilliant with three in the back
All A3 models get comfy seats, and S Line models get fancy half-leather, half-suede ones that feel expensive
Interior space in the Audi A3 Sportback is generally good. Whether you’re tall or short you’ll find a comfortable driving position, and a front armrest is standard on all models so you can relax while driving on the motorway. All A3 Sportbacks also come with height adjustable seats for both front passengers.
You don’t get a raw deal if you’re sat in the back, either. There’s enough head and legroom, and the large rear windows avoid the claustrophobic feeling you get in the back of the Mercedes A-Class – in fact the Audi A3 Sportback is the best car of its type if you only ever carry two people in the back. It’s not all perfect though – there’s not much room for three adults in the rear because there’s a big bump in the floor that forces passengers into a game of footsie. An A-Class is actually better for space if you regularly carry adults in the back.
If you need to carry a child seat then rejoice – the Isofix child-seat anchors are clearly marked on both the outer rear seats and the wide-opening rear doors make it easy to pop the seat base into place. Only an SUV such as the Audi Q2 is fractionally easier because the higher seating positions means you needn’t stoop quite as much as you have to in the A3.
There’s a decent amount of storage space in the Audi A3 Sportback. Each of the door bins is big enough to accommodate a two-litre drinks bottle, although they’re not quite as vast as those in the Mercedes A-Class. A two-litre bottle will also fit in the sizeable glove box and there are four full cup holders – two in the centre console and two in the rear armrest.
The front armrest on the centre console opens up to reveal even more storage and charging points for your phone. It also has a handy elasticated strap to hold smaller items in place.
The Audi A3 Sportback’s 380-litre boot is a useful square shape and has a wide opening making it easy to load large items.
The boot floor on all A3 Sportback models can be raised and lowered. With the boot floor in its lowest position you get the biggest boot volume, and with it raised there’s no boot lip to lift heavy objects over when loading. With the rear seats folded down the boot’s total capacity swells to 1,220 litres, which is big enough to fit a bike without having to remove a wheel.
Not only is the boot a useful shape, but it also has a handful of touches that help make life easier. There are a number of hooks and tether points so you can secure your loads – whether it be flat-pack furniture or your takeaway curry.
The Audi A3 Sportback is a comfortable car to drive and has a great range of powerful, efficient engines, but it doesn’t have much of a fun factor
A 1.4-litre engine might not sound like much but it has plenty of oomph and gets decent fuel economy
The Audi A3 Sportback is available with a huge range of petrol and diesel engines, automatic or manual gearbox options and you can get four-wheel-drive versions for more grip on slippery roads.
In terms of engines, the best pick is the 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol with 150hp. It’s more than quick enough, is quiet and smooth, and returns a claimed 59mpg – although you can expect closer to 45mpg in day-to-day driving. Clever technology can also turn half the engine’s cylinders off when you’re cruising to save fuel.
There is also a 1.0-litre turbocharged engine with 115hp that claims to get 60mpg, but its lower power means you’ll have to work it quite hard to keep up with normal traffic, and it has a noisy thrum too. You may as well get the bigger, better and more powerful 1.5.
For a real thrill, buy the rapid S3 Sportback or the awesome-sounding RS3, which gives the A3 Porsche levels of performance. They do cost a lot more to buy, though, and aren’t exactly the last word in fuel efficiency.
Drive loads of motorway miles each year? You’ll be better served by one of the diesel options. The best choice is the 2.0-litre diesel with 150hp, which can return 66mpg. There’s also a 1.6-litre diesel that can average up to 69mpg, but it’s not as smooth and is a bit louder than the 2.0-litre when you accelerate.
A six-speed manual gearbox is fitted as standard to most A3 cars and it’s smooth and pleasant to use, but if you do lots of town driving you’re better off getting an Audi A3 Sportback with the excellent – but expensive – S tronic twin-clutch automatic gearbox. It changes gears seamlessly on the move, but can be a bit jerky at manoeuvring speeds.
Audi’s quattro four-wheel-drive system can also be specified on more powerful engines but is only really worth going for if you regularly encounter slippery country roads or live somewhere where it’s likely to snow in winter.
The Audi A3 Sportback is a great all-rounder. It’s comfortable, yet handles safely and securely on fast country roads, but some other family cars are more fun to drive, if that’s your thing – check out the BMW 1 Series, for a sportier example.
The suspension soaks up bumps around town and on motorways, and there’s very little wind or tyre noise when you’re cruising at high speed, so it’s a relaxing and comfy car for long trips. The great view out means it’s easy to drive around town, with no real blind spots to hide cyclists or pedestrians from sight.
Sport and S line cars get lower and stiffer suspension as standard that slightly worsens the car’s comfort for the sake of sportier handling and looks. Audi gives you the option to deselect this stiffer suspension for free – well worth doing if you do lots of long journeys or just want a more comfortable car to live with.
The A3 is a safe car too – it got a five-star Euro NCAP crash-test rating in 2012, although the test was less stringent than it is today. Still, it’s available with most of the latest active safety such as adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking, which should help avoid crashes in the first place.
The Audi A3 Sportback combines a stylish design with plush build quality and cutting-edge infotainment systems – so it’s a shame some key equipment is optional