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
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 1.4-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 1.4.
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.
A 1.4-litre engine might not sound like much but it has plenty of oomph and gets decent fuel economy
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.