Switching schools stinks, breaking up with your significant other is hard and dealing with a disagreeable decision someone else made is never easy. Change is challenging, but sometimes it’s a good thing.
|Engine: 2.0T four cylinder engine makes 220 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque.
Transmission: six-speed dual-clutch.
Fuel economy: 24/33/27 MPG city/highway/combined.
Price: Starts at $33,795 for the 2.0T or $43,850 as tested.
For the better part of two decades, anyone looking for a small luxury hatchback could turn to the Audi A3. I use “could” because for 2015, Audi axed one of the doors and made the A3 a sedan.
I wasn’t ready for that to happen. The old A3 looked good and its fifth door made it practical despite the small footprint. Believe it or not, Audi doesn’t ask me before making major decisions, but did they throwing the baby out with the bath water or is the four-ring brand on to something better than ever before?
What Makes it Tick?
The A3 comes with one of two turbocharged inline four-cylinder engines. There’s a 1.8-liter mill that makes 170 hp and 200 lb-ft of torque in base models or the model I drove with the same 2.0-liter powerplant in Volkswagen uses in the MK7 GTI.
Unlike that car, Audi doesn’t leave you any choice in transmissions. Instead, you’re saddled with a six-speed S-Tronic dual clutch gearbox and that’s it. No more manual transmission model for the A3 line. Sorry “save the manuals” fanatics, but this is a losing battle.
Fitted with the larger, more powerful engine, Audi says you can expect to see up to 24 MPG during city driving, 33 on open roads or 27 MPG spread between the two.
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Best Looking of the Bunch
As you might already know, the A3 is based on Volkswagen’s MQB modular platform, which means this car shares its architecture with the Volkswagen Golf and little pieces of that show through in the A3. For example, the dual exhaust tips look the same as the MK7 GTI.
Its basic equipment list includes 17-inch aluminum wheels while you can opt for 18’s or even 19-inch versions should that strike your fancy. Prestige models like the car I drove also come with a more aggressive front fascia and side skirts. In fact, the A3 really just looks like a shrunken version A4 and that can hardly fall in the strike column.
Keep in mind, the A4 sold more than five times for every A3 in 2012, so why wouldn’t Audi want to let its smallest product ape bigger and better selling cars? After all, there’s more competition than ever in this segment with the Mercedes CLA 250 on the market. Maybe that was the key point behind giving a heave-ho to the hatch. But that can’t be the whole story. After all, there’s the interior and, of course, the actual experience of driving the car.
First things first; as a sedan, the back seat’s got to be much worse, right? Well, you sacrifice almost an inch of headroom over the hatchback, but you actually get a little more legroom. Like the Golf, the A3 is larger this time around and it’s apparent from the driver seat.
This car is also brimming with all the bells and whistles that Audi offers. You get adaptive cruise control, sport seats and brushed aluminum inlays… if you’re willing to pay more for them. Even if you aren’t, the basic design is pretty damn attractive. For example, you still get leather seats, a panoramic sunroof and dual zone automatic climate control without paying a dime above MSRP. High-five Audi!
Even though this is their baby car, it does a good job of avoiding one of the worst pitfalls common in its price range: feeling cheap. There are some hard plastic surfaces, but for the most part it looks and feels like costlier products you will see it sitting beside at a dealer showroom.
More importantly, its cabin is way ahead of the Mercedes CLA 250. Sadly, it feels like Mercedes rushed the CLA-Class to production. Certain panels don’t fit very well and the cabin materials generally feel cheaper than they look, but that really isn’t the case here, but I digress.
There’s one more thing to touch on: the new infotainment interface. Instead of the little dial from before, you get a big wheel with a pad that lets you enter addresses by writing with your finger. It requires acclimation, but before long you’ll be punching addresses in without looking away from the road.
Saves “Sporty” for Other Models
This car is bigger than the last generation and you might assume that means it’s also heavier, but it’s actually about 100 lbs lighter. Married to the 2.0-liter turbo four with 220 hp at 4,500 RPM and 258 lb-ft of torque blasting forth at only 1,600 RPM, slow is not a word I would use readily to describe the A3 in this guise.
With that engine, it’s supposed to hit 60 mph in 5.8 seconds and that seems accurate. Better still, the bigger engine only costs an extra $3,000. For that price, you get 50 extra hp and 58 more lb-ft of torque that would be a shame to skip.
Sure Audi offers its drive select system that lets you program faster shifts, stiffer steering and sharper feedback from the gas pedal, but it just feels so much softer than the GTI. It’s designed to be comfortable over cracked pavement and it really is. Speed bumps and potholes are a non-issue and the cabin is well isolate at high speeds.
Audi doesn’t even offer a “sport” suspension in the A3 and that would be disappointing were it not for the fact that we’re also getting the S3 and I’ve got to applaud them for separating the performance and luxury models.
Pricing for the two-liter model starts at $33,795 including delivery although the car I drove costs roughly $10,000 more than that at $43,850.
With looks that are right at home in the Audi line and Benz-beating interior quality, the new A3 is a standout product. Yes, it loses some of its old five-door pragmatism, but it’s hard to care when the rest of the package such a big step forward.