Drivers who are looking to cultivate car envy on a budget will find that the compact Audi A3 offers much of what we like about the German luxury brand without the shocking price. Composed on-road demeanor? Check. Distinctively aggressive grille? Check. High-tech infotainment system? Check. Base models may be missing some luxury features, but they’ve still got Audi looks and engineering. Better yet, with optional all-wheel drive and a convertible model, the A3 can be configured to suit a variety of climates and palates.
What’s New for 2017?
Audi made some revisions to the A3’s grille and headlights for 2017, enhancing its already aggressive appearance. Still, the classic design is beginning to show its age. But the most important changes are inside, where Audi’s MMI Touch system and virtual cockpit are now available, as are several driver-assistance systems that had previously not been offered to A3 buyers.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The A3’s powertrain consists of two different versions of Audi’s 2.0T engine. In front-wheel-drive models, the turbocharged inline-four produces 186 hp and comes mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Quattro all-wheel-drive A3s get a bump up to 220 hp and drive through a six-speed dual-clutch automatic. The engine itself is masterful and enjoyable, although we had some minor quibbles with the programming of the six-speed transmission. It will come as no surprise to those familiar with Audi that the A3 feels solid and composed at speed. The ride is smooth, and the wheels rebound quickly from impacts without much jostling in the cabin. The A3 steers easily and accurately, a result that would be celebrated in plenty of lesser cars, but in this segment, it’s merely okay. So if pure driving enjoyment is your primary consideration, something like the BMW 2-series might be a better choice.
EPA fuel-economy testing and reporting procedures have changed over time. For the latest numbers on current and older vehicles, visit the EPA’s website and select Find & Compare Cars.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The A3 has one of the most spacious back seats in its class. Its interior is comfortable, well designed, and looks upscale despite the fact that this is the entry-level Audi. The two-door A3 cabriolet has much less space in the back seat than the A3 sedan, so it may not be the best choice for buyers who will frequently carry more than one passenger. Power-adjustable leather seats are standard in every A3, as are two-zone automatic climate control and a panoramic sunroof. Despite having a small cargo hold on paper, the A3 performed well in our real-world cargo tests and offers in-cabin storage that is about on par with its luxury competitors.
Infotainment and Connectivity
Audi’s MMI infotainment system is one of our favorite setups in the industry. It performed well in our testing but isn’t available in the A3’s entry-level Premium trim. Buyers who choose the Premium model will get a 7.0-inch-display audio system with 10 speakers, a CD player, an auxiliary input, and a charge-only USB port. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are available in the lowest trim as part of an options package. Higher trims get the full MMI system, which includes a touchpad with handwriting recognition, navigation, and a USB port with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability.
Safety Features and Crash Test Ratings
For more information about the Audi A3’s crash-test results, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites.
Some older vehicles are still eligible for coverage under a manufacturer’s Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) program. For more information visit our guide to every manufacturer’s CPO program.
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