Audi’s Ambitious A3

This is the new 4th generation Audi A3, the previous A3 was one of the outstanding hatchbacks of the last decade and it was because in every single area it was brilliant. It was still winning group tests against new premium rivals like the Mercedes A-class, and when you replace something as impressive as the A3 it brings a lot of pressure with it. It looks as though Audi have played it safe, the A3 is based on the same MQB platform as before which is also shared with the new Golf.

Special mention : Added agility, light, touch screens are good, Virtual Cockpit is best in class, driving modes, low seating position. Really excellent stereo .

Needs work : Low seating (not everyone likes to sit low but it really suits the A3), some material changes in the cabin, price.

Specs: As tested

Max Power 150 HPPetrol / Auto
0-100 km/h in 10.1 secondsRoad Tax €200

SE 35 TFSI S tronic

Plus options
Privacy Glass €498
Comfort Key €1,220
Park Assist €498
Storage Package €283
19″ Alloy wheels €1,632
USB Ports in Rear €72
Audi Sound System €412
Black Styling €426
Ambient Lighting €498
Black Mirrors €150
Metallic paint €995.64
LED – W Dynamic signals front & back

Boot 380 – 1,200 Litres

Generally it’s still very recognisable as an A3 and the proportions are pretty much identical as well. Although now the A3 is only going to be available with five doors whereas the previous A3 started life as a sporty three door version. At the front there are some nice sharp lines on the bonnet and at the front there are LED headlights as standard and each trim has its own signature light design. Also the honeycomb grille is bigger than before. It’s a very well proportioned car with additional lines giving it a modern athletic look.

The infotainment system is purely touchscreen now, it’s crisp, it’s clear and it’s packed with features. The functions are simply laid out but you don’t have as many rotary dials to quickly adjust settings, without looking away from the road. When you’re on the move it can be a little distracting to use, perhaps a mix of touchscreen as well as manual rotary dials would improve usability.

You do still get physical air con dials and the buttons are pretty simple to use which is good. One of the great things about the new A3 is that you get the fantastic virtual cockpit as standard. It’s a fully digital driver display, there are a couple of different views you can choose from, it’s a very crisp & clear display which is easy to read with plenty of detail. The volume dial is on a touch sensitive trackpad that’s down by the gear shift. The gear leaver has a brand new design for the A3, you may have already seen it in the new Volkswagen Golf and the Porsche 911 which is a very nice touch for A3 customers.

If you were choosing between the A3, a 1 Series or an A-Class, the 1 series is solid and the iDrive is at a stage where they’ve finally gotten it to work seamlessly. The A-Class’ build makes it a lighter car and it has the MBUX showpiece touchscreen/widescreen digital driver displays going for it. The space in the A3 and this new agility compares very favorably to the competition.

If you’re very tall, you’ll have plenty of room in the A3. There’s a lot of adjustment as well as a good amount of storage. Under the arm rest you’ve got a reasonable sized storage compartment and an interesting cup holder design where you flick up the clips and put your drinks in and they’re safely secured. You can option wireless phone charging as well and the space under the main dials is where you’ll place your phone but I wouldn’t leave it charging the full time on longer journeys as all wireless charging systems can get a little hot.

The interior looks are sleek and the design is modern, exactly as you would expect from Audi. You get a bit more headroom so now it compares very well to the 1 series and the A-Class in the back. It has a similar amount of space, the headroom is good and fitting tall adults in the back is fine for short journeys. There’s plenty of legroom and a good amount of space for your feet under the front seat as well. If you pull down the armrest you have the luxury of two cupholders and also if you’ve got 40/20/40 split folding rear seats then handily you can pull the middle seat down to give you easy access to the boot.

The boot is a very similar size to the A-Class, both cars are practical and they are also bigger than the 1 series. On the road, this is a really great car and for a number of different reasons. The first thing you notice is the ride comfort is very good. The 1.5 litre petrol gets a slightly more sophisticated rear suspension setup than the lower powered petrol and the lower powered diesel. This combination creates something that corners brilliantly, feels incredibly agile and is very very comfortable in pretty much every condition, when you’re generally driving on the motorway or when you’re around town it feels planted and very compliant.

The steering is precise and accurate, it gives you the confidence for spirited country roads plus it’s extremely easy to use around town. There are a couple of different driving modes, put it in individual mode, set the suspension to sport, with the gearbox and engine and in sport but keep the steering in comfort or just stick it in one of the alternative modes available. This engine is impressive as well, the 1.5 litre TFSI engine (also available in other VAG products) here has the mild hybrid 48 volt system which boosts its efficiency. The brake pedal is set a little higher than the accelerator, something that other VW group models also seem to have, it means it’s a little more effort to judge smooth stopping distances. Everything else about this engine is really very good, it’s light, it’s strong, smooth, quiet and the gearbox is a 7-speed S tronic gearbox with impressive quick shifts.

When you want to play, there are some lovely paddles on the steering wheel to shift manually whenever you want to. It’s slightly more expensive than a 1 Series or an A-Class but it does come with a lot of standard kit. The difference in the price is more reasonable once you factor that in and is still competitive with the rest of the class.