Audi has redesigned the Audi A3 for the 2015 model year, focusing on a sedan variant for this generation. From the outside, the recast A3 is almost indistinguishable from its more expensive A4 sibling. It’s a handsome car with traditional Audi styling cues, just rendered just a little smaller. The A3 competes with other entry-level luxury cars, such as the Mercedes-Benz CLA. But unlike the disappointing CLA, the A3 is fairly representative of the brand experience.
There are three four-cylinder engines available: the base 1.8T, 2. TDI (diesel), and 2.0T. Front-wheel drive is standard, with optional Quattro all-wheel drive. Starting at $29,900, bi-xenonleather and headlights, and panoramic sunroof are standard equipment on all trims. The hatchback will return with a choice of plug and diesel-in hybrid powertrains. The rented press car we sampled has a sticker price of $37,195, and it is equipped with the 220 horsepower, 2.-liter turbo engine,navigation and Quattro, upgraded voice control, heated seats, aluminum style pack, and iPod interface cable.
If you’ve driven any recent Audis, the A3 delivers a familiar experience, having a firm-yet-compliant ride, agile handling, and ample oomph from your turbo engine. In the A3, it’s coupled to a well-behaved automated manual. My only wish would be that the A3 was available in a true stick shift. The engine is comparable to the one within the Volkswagen Jetta GLI we tested a couple of years ago. In mixed driving, the trip computer shows us getting about 28 mpg.
A compact car, the A3 shares a platform using the coming new Volkswagen Golf. The back seat is rather tight, though the cabin is roomy enough for four passengers and the front seats are incredibly comfortable.
Interior quality is nice, but some materials are hard plastic, like those more typically found in VWs. Reminiscent of the Audi TT, the vents are now surrounded by large circular metal bezels that can be twisted to open and close them-a nice touch.
Audi’s multimedia interface is about the same as it has been for several years. It’s nice that the screen stores within the dash and it is completely hidden from view when the car is off or if you choose to turn the device off. Some switches have replaced buttons; I love that change but it’s mostly superficial. The one thing that hasn’t changed and should is the fact that dial scrolls backward when you’re looking to select a radio station or possibly a phone contact on screen. That’s incorrect, even though you would assume that turning the wheel clockwise would move the selector down and counter-clockwise would move it up. The operation is only the opposite, making the selector counterintuitive. Too bad Audi still doesn’t provide USB ports and insists on using a proprietary music interface plug, which requires developing a different dongle for each plug type.
The A3 can be a genuine Audi, in a small package. It is meant to attract younger buyers whom the Audi brand has passed by due to an escalating entry price.
The A3 is just hitting dealerships now. Stay tuned as we test our own car in the weeks ahead.