Engine: 2.0L turbo four-cylinder engine with 220 hp, 258 lb-ft.
Transmission: Six-speed dual clutch.
Fuel economy: 24 MPG City, 33 MPG Highway
Price as tested: $39,495
The Audi A3 shares its powertrain and platform with the Volkswagen GTI and as a result you might be tempted to compare the two, but they serve wholly different purposes.
Audi’s new compact sedan isn’t meant to be a hard-edged vessel for driving enthusiasts. Instead it is supposed to act as an entry point to the brand for people who might like to lease something more expensive in the future. Think of its as an amuse bouche, or maybe even an hors d’oeuvre. Accordingly, it can be had with two small engines that both rely on turbochargers: a 1.8 or the more potent 2.0-liter that it shares with the GTI.
The larger four pot distributes 220 hp via Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system through a six-speed dual-clutch gearbox. That’s the same output as the GTI with the optional performance package and it feels plenty quick if not a little bit soft.
Currently the A3 is being sold exclusively as a sedan rather than the hatchback model you might remember. It also comes updated with the latest version of Audi’s MMI infotainment system along with a large, high-resolution screen that slides in and out of the dashboard.
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The A3 isn’t a handling champion, but it nails the fundamentals of entry-level luxury. All of its interior surfaces feel of quality and its buttons return a satisfying click. Not only that, but it is leagues ahead of the Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 in both driving dynamics and interior quality.
Admittedly, the A3 can feel slightly dull at times. It’s exterior styling is about as risky as buttered noodles, but it’s still it’s a particularly well executive product that ends up feeling like a shrunken A4 more than a tarted up Golf.
Is that enough to make it the 2015 AutoGuide.com Car of the Year? You bet it might be, but not until after we finish introducing the contenders.
GALLERY: 2015 Audi A3