The original Audi A3 was among the first premium hatchbacks and the current model has gone on to become one of the UK’s best selling vehicles. Its blend of smart looks, efficient engines and a beautifully trimmed cabin have all ensured the car’s success. Key to its broad appeal, however, is the range of bodystyles Audi offers.
We’re taking a look at the three most popular variants on sale – the three-door hatchback, five-door Sportback and four-door Saloon. If you’re not sold on a new A3, check out our list of Audi A3 alternatives to get a better idea of what’s available. Once you’ve chosen the car you want, put it in our car configurator to see the deals carwow could help you get.
Which model floats your boat will always come down to personal opinion, but all three are undoubtedly smart-looking choices and aren’t as polarising as some rivals including the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class. The A3 hatchback is arguably the most sporty in appearance because its three-door layout gives it a more coupe-like look akin to a Volkswagen Scirocco. The latest facelifted version comes with updated LED lights as well, helping you to stand out even more on the road.
The Sportback is unashamedly the most practical variant of the A3 and its estate-like rear end hints at its potential for luggage-hauling. Despite this, it avoids the frumpy looking appearance of similarly sized estate cars. The Saloon mimics the larger A4 in terms of appearance, and looks all the better for it. The reasonably tidy dimensions and smart looks make this one of the few compact saloons that is genuinely desirable. All three can be had with Audi’s S-Line package, which adds various sporty details and larger alloy wheels.
All three versions of the A3 share the same excellent interior design and materials. Soft-touch plastics are used throughout, handsome eye-like air vents feature on the dash and there are refreshingly few buttons with the infotainment screen handling the majority of the car’s functions. Audi’s MMI unit remains impressive, but the facelifted versions now feature the brilliant Virtual Cockpit Display as an option.
What really differentiates the A3 trio is space for passengers and their luggage. Unsurprisingly, the three-door hatchback fares worst thanks to its slightly smaller size and reduced access to the rear seats. Still, its 365-litre bay is nothing to be ashamed of, and is only 15 litres behind the Sportback’s boot area. While the Sportback doesn’t eke out much lead in the boot, it has noticeably improved space in the back thanks to the extra pair of doors.
The saloon fares even better, offering 425 litres, but its body shape limits total capacity when the seats are folded, so won’t be the best choice if you take regular trips to the DIY store. It’s also worth mentioning that if the Audi quattro four-wheel-drive system is chosen, the cars lose 40 litres of boot space thanks to the more complicated mechanical layout.
Driving and engines
All A3’s are very competent driver’s cars and are based on the same MQB platform as the Volkswagen Golf and many other products. Sharper steering than previous generations and a more compliant ride means most drivers will feel right at home behind the wheel of an A3. The brand’s quattro four-wheel drive is available with certain engines and gives extra reassurance in adverse road conditions. There seems to be little difference between the three on the road, but the extra size and weight of Sportback and Saloon models will fractionally blunt fuel economy and performance.
The engine range is comprehensive for all three bodystyles, but the Saloon misses out on the least powerful petrol engine, and the hatchback isn’t available with quattro four-wheel drive on the 1.6-litre diesel. Drivers after a fast A3 can choose any of these three in hot S3 guise, but only the Sportback is available as the even hotter RS3 and e-tron hybrid. An RS3 Saloon has been confirmed for later in the car’s life.
Value for money
If there’s one area where all three versions of the A3 fall down, it’s in terms of value for money. The cheapest versions of the three door cost from £18,865, the Sportback from £19,485 and the Saloon from £23,585 – noticeably more than similarly sized rivals including the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf. On top of that, there’s plenty of scope for those prices to rise, both with your chosen trim level and the lengthy options list that can add thousands to the price.
In terms of running costs, however, all three fare impressively well. Only the most powerful 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol returns less than 55mpg, and the most frugal 1.6-litre diesel models return up to 74.3mpg and benefit from free road tax in all three bodystyles. The variations in fuel economy between the three are minimal and, in most cases, less than a single mile-per-gallon separates similarly engined hatchbacks and Saloons.
It’s likely that you already know which Audi A3 you prefer. Those after a sportier look and who don’t need the practicality will need nothing more than the standard three-door, whereas the A3 Sportback retains plenty of kerb appeal but boasts better space for both passengers and luggage.
It’s the A3 Saloon that’s the most divisive choice because it’s priced dangerously close to the larger (and newer) A4 – possibly the reason you’ll see more hatchback A3s on the road. However, the Saloon represents an affordable alternative to larger, more luxurious models – it’s worth remembering that the A3 Saloon is essentially the same size as the original A4 of 20 years ago…
Save more on your new Audi A3
Spec up either the Audi A3 hatchback, Audi A3 Sportback or Audi A3 Saloon to see how much carwow could help you save. If you’ve not made your mind up yet, our car chooser can help you pick the perfect new car.