2015 Audi A3 Review

Four Ring Brand For The Win

2015 Audi A3 Review

According to the automakers, entry-level luxury is the hot new segment, and the all-new A3 sedan is Audi’s entry. Audi says the A3 will offer German presence and German road manners, but with a very un-German price: $30,795, including destination charge, about what you’d pay for a nicely-equipped Honda Accord. With a price that cheap, we were eager to find out of the A3 is a real Audi or just a watered-down wannabe.

FAST FACTS

Engine: 1.8L with 170 hp & 200 lb-ft of torque. 2.0T offers 220 hp & 258 lb-ft of torque.

Transmission: Six-speed dual clutch automatic.

Fuel economy: 23 MPG city, 33 MPG highway for 1.8L or 24/33 for 2.0T.

Price: Starts at $30,795 and tops out at $45,445.

Driving Dynamics That Deserve the Audi Badge

We’ve come to love Audis for the way they go down the road and our first priority was to see if the A3 drives like a proper Audi — and man oh man, does it ever. We spent the bulk of our time in the 2.0T model, which features Audi’s two-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine and Quattro all-wheel-drive. The 220 horsepower rating is deceptive; it’s the 258 lb-ft of torque, delivered flat from 1,600 RPM to 4,400 RPM, that gives the A3 its scoot — 0-60 in 5.8 seconds according to Audi, which feels about right to us. Sadly, there’s no stick-shift available, but the A3 comes with the next best thing: the six-speed S-Tronic dual-clutch automatic, which does its usual fine job of serving up the right gears for both relaxed and aggressive driving. Unfortunately, A3s without the Sport Package lack paddle shifters, so overriding the tranny means taking your hands off the steering wheel.

2015-Audi-A3-Rear-End.JPG

And that’s something you won’t want to do, because the A3 is brilliant in the corners. The steering feels responsive and light (at least by hunkered-down German standards), body control is outstanding, and the tires seem tuned to run out of grip just a split-second before the driver runs out of nerve, transitioning to gentle understeer. We managed to confuse the center diff a couple of times, with the car bucking briefly and rapidly as power was shifted between front and rear axles, but for the most part the A3 is simply wonderful — so wonderful, in fact, that we wonder how the heck Audi is going to ramp up the experience for the upcoming 290 horsepower S3.

We also briefly sampled the less-expensive 1.8-liter version, which shares its 170 hp/200 lb-ft turbo engine with Volkswagen and comes exclusively with front-wheel-drive. It offers the same basic driving experience as the 2.0T, but dialed back a bit. The A3 1.8T is about a second and a half slower to sixty and somewhat less dynamic in the corners, but still plenty powerful and big fun to drive. Curiously, the front-drive 1.8T is slightly thirstier than the 2.0T: EPA estimates are 23 city/33 highway for the smaller engine versus 24/33 for the bigger one, with both cars requiring a diet of premium fuel. Future engine offerings will include a diesel and a plug-in hybrid.

2015-Audi-A3-Engine2.JPG

Clean, Conservative Style

Our drive-lust satiated, it was time to take in the rest of the Audi A3. We started with the shape of the body, which looks to us a lot like a downsized A4. Audi’s designers stressed the racy rake of the C-pillar (the post between the back doors and the rear windows), which they say is inspired by the TT coupe, but we found the A3’s squared-off shape to be reminiscent of the Audi Quattro hatchbacks of the 1980s (not to mention the Quattro Concept from the 2013 Frankfurt Auto Show). The A3’s conservative curves may not be as drool-worthy as the Mercedes-Benz CLA, but they pay benefits in rear-seat access and headroom.

The A3’s interior is a bit of a head-scratcher, though. At our press preview, Audi touted the importance of a high-class interior in a car like this; buyers shouldn’t feel like they are buying a cut-rate Audi (and with a $31k starting price, that’s what they have good reason to expect). True enough, Audi has loaded up the A3 with good stuff: Leather upholstery (instead of the faux-leather found in most entry-level German luxury cars), dual-zone climate control, a power driver’s seat, a sunroof, and an infotainment screen that retracts into the dash when not in use — all are standard on the entry-level model.

2015-Audi-A3-Dash.JPG

Dashboard is a Downfall

But we didn’t notice any of these things when we first plopped our well-fed rear ends in to the A3. What we saw was the broad expanse of black plastic on the dash, split only by the thinnest line of aluminum trim, and a row of blanked-off switches above the climate controls. We liked the detailed texturing on the center stack and we loved the fancy jet-intake air vents, but they only served to throw the largely unadorned dashboard into bleak contrast. We’re used to Audi’s brand of austere luxury, but we have to wonder how this will strike first-time buyers who have already sat in a Mercedes-Benz CLA or a Lexus IS — or even a Buick Verano. It’s not a great first impression.

2015-Audi-A3-Passenger-Seat.JPG

That’s unfortunate, because the more potential buyers look, we think, the more they will like. Audi poured serious money into the A3’s infotainment system. The pop-up screen is ingenious; it makes the Mercedes CLA’s fixed screen look like a tacked-on afterthought. The system is powered by an NVIDIA CPU/GPU, which provides lots of computing horsepower for crisp graphics and sharp animations (and makes it cheaper for Audi to upgrade the system in future years). The basic stereo includes satellite and HD radio; a 14-speaker 705-watt Bang & Olufsen system is optional. What it lacks is a simple USB port. You can still stream music from your phone over Bluetooth, but if you simply want to charge your device, you’ll need a $65 cable from Audi… or a $15 cigarette-lighter adapter from Best Buy.

Latest In-Car Tech Looks As Good As It Sounds

2015-Audi-A3-Google-Earth.JPG

The optional navigation system includes handwriting recognition for the MultiMedia Interface (MMI) dial controller, allowing you to program a destination by tracing letters on the top of the dial with your finger, plus next-turn directions displayed on a color screen in the dash. But the hot setup is the MMI Navigation Plus ($2,600 on the mid-level Premium Plus and standard on the top-line Prestige), which includes 4G LTE wireless Internet connectivity that provides Google Earth satellite imagery for the navigation system, Google voice searches, the ability to find a destination by uploading a photo to the car (using GPS location info embedded in the picture), and, of course, a WiFi hot spot. Wireless service is free for the first six months, and priced at $99 for 6 months and $499 for 30 months thereafter.

2015-Audi-A3-Backseat.JPG

We’ve always found the back seat of the A4 a bit tight, so we braced ourselves for the worst in the A3. But we were surprised: The A3 has only a smidge less rear-seat legroom than the A4 (a smidge measures one-tenth of an inch), and while headroom in the A3 is 14 smidges less than the A4, we still found it plenty comfortable, and much easier to get in and out of than the Mercedes CLA. Trunk room is similar to the A4 at 12.3 cubic feet — at least it is on the 1.8T. 2.0T models have a larger fuel tank; that and the bulk of the all-wheel-drive system shrink capacity to just 10 cubic feet.

Lots of Bang (and Olufsen) for Your Buck

So how much Audi do you get for $30,795? Quite a lot, actually: along with the aforementioned leather, power driver’s seat, dual-zone A/C and sunroof, the basic A3 1.8T Premium model features automatic bi-xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers and eight airbags (including driver and passenger knee airbags; thorax ‘bags for the back seat are optional at $350). The $33,695 Premium Plus model adds upgraded interior trim, heated front seats, and keyless ignition, while the $39,595 A3 Prestige gets LED headlights, MMI Navigation Plus, that earth-shattering B&O stereo, and S-Line body trim.

2015-Audi-A3-Front3:4.JPG

All three models are offered with either the 1.8T/front-drive and 2.0T/Quattro powertrains, with the latter priced $3,000 higher. Most German cars feature a raft of expensive options, but the A3 keeps things reasonable: An A3 Prestige 2.0T with all the boxes ticked (including extra-cost metallic paint, two-tone interior, Sport package, lane departure assistance and adaptive cruise control) tops out at $45,445. Compare the A3 to a comparably equipped Mercedes CLA250, and the Audi comes up around two grand cheaper.

The Verdict

The A3 is Audi at its best: a car that speaks softly with a powertrain and chassis that carry a big honkin’ stick. The sober interior styling may not win over potential Mercedes buyers, while the driving purists to whom this car appeals most will be disappointed by the lack of a manual transmission. Overall, though, the A3 delivers just about everything we want (and expect) from an Audi in a small, attractively-priced package. We’re sold.

« Back
SWEEPSTAKES – OFFICIAL RULES, TERMS AND CONDITIONS

AutoGuide.com’s Monthly Overlay Newsletter Signup – By subscribing to our email newsletter, Entrants are eligible to win one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (value of $100.00 USD). One (1) winner will be chosen every month at random and contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. *Amazon.com is not a sponsor of this promotion. Except as required by law, Amazon.com Gift Cards ("GCs") cannot be transferred for value or redeemed for cash. GCs may be used only for purchases of eligible goods at Amazon.com or certain of its affiliated websites. For complete terms and conditions, see www.amazon.com/gc-legal. GCs are issued by ACI Gift Cards, Inc., a Washington corporation. All Amazon ®, ™ & © are IP of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. No expiration date or service fees.

1. NO PURCHASE OR PAYMENT OF ANY KIND IS NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN THIS SWEEPSTAKES. AGE/RESIDENCY RESTRICTIONS, VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.

2. PRIZE: One (1) Winner will be randomly selected every month to each receive: one (1) $100.00 Amazon.com Gift Card (the “Prize Supplier”). Total approximate retail value of all prizes is approximately $100.00 USD. Prizes are not transferable and no cash or prize substitution is allowed. Prize package is awarded "as is" with no warranty or guarantee, either express or implied.

3. ELIGIBILITY: From the time of entry through the final date of prize fulfillment, each contest entrant and selected entrant must be a permanent lawful citizen and resident residing in the 50 United States or the District of Columbia or in Canada, and be twenty one (21) years of age or older. VOID IN PUERTO RICO, THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, IN ALL FOREIGN COUNTRIES OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES, AND ALL OTHER U.S. TERRITORIES OR CANADA AND POSSESSIONS AND WHERE PROHIBITED OR RESTRICTED BY LAW. Employees, officers, directors, agents and representatives, of the Sponsor and the Prize Supplier and each of their respective parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies, promotion partners and any entity involved in the development, production, implementation, administration or fulfillment of this Sweepstakes, and the immediate family members (e.g., spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, grandparent, in-law, daughter and son, regardless of where they live) and persons living in the same household (whether or not related) of such individuals are not eligible to participate or win. Only one selected entrant per household. All decisions of the Sponsor with respect to this sweepstakes are final. The Sponsor shall have the right at any time to require proof of identity and failure to provide such proof may result in disqualification from the Sweepstakes.

4. ENTER BY INTERNET: You may enter this sweepstakes via the Internet by logging onto AutoGuide.com and subscribing to our email newsletter via the pop-up overlay.

5. SELECTION OF WINNER: One (1) Entrant will be selected by random selection who have subscribed to our email newsletter. The winner may be announced publicly on AutoGuide.com and will be contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. The winner will be required to provide a mailing address (that is not a P.O. box) to receive the prize which will be shipped free of charge.

6. ODDS OF WINNING: Odds of winning a prize are determined by the total number of eligible entries received.

7. RESTRICTIONS: The prize package consists of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card with an approximate value of $100.00 USD. If prize cannot be awarded due to circumstances beyond the control of the Sponsor or Prize Supplier, no substitute prize will be awarded due to the unique nature of the prize. Sponsor and Prize Supplier shall not be liable to the winner or any person claiming through winner for failure to supply the prize or any part thereof, by reason of any acts of God, any action(s), regulation(s), order(s) or request(s) by any governmental or quasi-governmental entity (whether or not the action(s), regulations(s), order(s) or request(s) prove(s) to be invalid), equipment failure, utility failure, internet failure, terrorist acts, threatened terrorist acts, air raid, blackout, act of public enemy, earthquake, war (declared or undeclared), fire, flood, epidemic, explosion, unusually severe weather, hurricane, embargo, labor dispute or strike (whether legal or illegal) labor or material shortage, transportation interruption of any kind, work slow-down, civil disturbance, insurrection, riot, or any other cause beyond Sponsor's or Prize Supplier's control (collectively, "Force Majeure Event"). Sponsor shall not be responsible for any cancellations, delays, diversions or substitutions or any act or omissions whatsoever by the performers/events, other transportation companies or any other persons providing any of these services and accommodations to passengers including any results thereof such as changes in services or accommodations necessitated by same.

8. CONDITIONS: By entering the Sweepstakes, entrants agree to be bound by the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions and that Sponsor has the irrevocable right to use in perpetuity entrants' names, user names, likenesses, photographs, voices, home mailing address, biographical and prize information, and entry materials, without notice to entrants and without compensation or obligation, in any and all media now or hereafter known throughout the world, in any manner whatsoever, to advertise and promote Sponsor, its products and services, the Sweepstakes, and for any other purpose except where prohibited by law. Entrant waives the right to assert as a cost of winning a prize any and all costs of verification and redemption or travel to redeem said prize and any liability which might arise from redeeming or seeking to redeem said prize. Sponsor is not responsible for fraudulent calls or emails made to entrants not by the Sponsor. If the Sweepstakes is not capable of running as planned by reason of damage by computer viruses, worms or bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical limitations or failures, any Force Majeure Event or any other cause which, in the sole opinion of Sponsor, could corrupt, compromise, undermine or otherwise affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity, viability or proper conduct of the Sweepstakes, Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend all or any part of the Sweepstakes, and to select a winner from among all eligible entries received by Sponsor up until the time of such cancellation, termination, modification or suspension, as applicable. Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any individual that (i) tampers or attempts to tamper with the entry process or the operations of this Sweepstakes in any manner, (ii) violates the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions or (iii) acts in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner, or with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other person. CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT BY AN ENTRANT OR ANY OTHER INDIVIDUAL TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THIS SWEEPSTAKES IS A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS. SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, SPONSOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK CIVIL AND/OR CRIMINAL PROSECUTION AND/OR DAMAGES FROM ANY SUCH PERSON TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW. Any expenses and receipt and use of the prize and federal, state and local taxes and fees applicable in connection with the prize awarded are the sole responsibility of the winner. An IRS Form 1099 will be issued in the name of the winner for the actual value of the prize received. This Sweepstakes is subject to all federal, state and local laws of the United States. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. Sponsor, Prize Supplier, and their respective officers, directors, parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries and advertising and promotion agencies, employees, representatives and agents are not responsible for and shall not be liable for (i) any injuries, losses or damages of any kind caused by a prize resulting from acceptance, possession or usage of the prize, or (ii) printing, distribution or production errors. Sponsor or its affiliates may rescind any promotion found to contain such errors without liability at its or their sole discretion.

9. SPONSOR: The Sponsor of this contest is VerticalScope Inc. (the owner and operator of AutoGuide.com), 111 Peter Street, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 2H1.

Subscribe to our email newsletter and automatically be entered to win.
*Restrictions apply. See offer for details

Get Breaking Automotive News, Reviews and Video in your Facebook Feed!

Already Liked