Audi A3 Sportback full 9 point review
The best of the engines is the 123bhp 1.4 turbo petrol. It’s punchy, smooth and affordable to buy and run. The e-tron will do 30 miles on electric power before resorting to its 1.4 petrol engine, and is also great, while the storming S3 offers rabid pace. Of the diesels, the 108bhp 1.6 seldom feels underpowered but has a smooth delivery, while the 148bhp 2.0-litre is very strong across the rev range. The 181bhp version has a bigger surge as the turbo kicks in, but is still a peach.
Ride & Handling
There are three suspension settings: SE, lower Sport and lower-still S line. For us, the SE’s standard suspension provides the best balance, and the good news is that you can specify it at no extra cost with every trim level. It’s still slightly firm, but it’s not uncomfortable and the car changes direction eagerly. There’s plenty of grip, too, and the steering is precise.
The A3 is impressively refined, particularly if you go for the petrols, because the 2.0 diesel can be a bit gruff at low revs. The e-tron is near-silent in electric mode, and is still quiet even with its petrol motor on the go. There’s just a touch of wind noise over the windscreen on the motorway, and if you don’t go overboard with your choice of wheel size, road noise is subdued, too. The manual gearshift is slick, while the clutch and brake pedals are ideally weighted.
Buying & Owning
Fuel economy and CO2 emissions are at worst comparable with the best rivals, and while prices aren’t cheap, the Sportback doesn’t cost much more than a Volkswagen Golf. The Audi will hold its value better, too, and is often available with competitive finance offers. The e-tron is a great option for company car buyers, as its low CO2 emissions make tax costs very cheap, but the normal diesel or petrol models are better value for private buyers.
Quality & Reliability
The cabin is built from the sort of high-grade materials you’d usually expect to find in an executive saloon, while beautifully weighted switchgear and a super-slim infotainment screen add to the impression that no expense has been spared. Audi’s reliability record is less impressive, but it’s far from terrible.
Safety & Security
The A3 comes with stability control as well as front, side and curtain airbags. A pop-up bonnet also helps minimise injuries to pedestrians. However, it’s a little disappointing that you have to pay extra for Audi’s Pre Sense system, which automatically primes the safety kit if a collision looks inevitable. That said, the car achieved a five-star crash rating from Euro NCAP. Deadlocks and an alarm are fitted as standard to help guard against theft.
Behind The Wheel
Audi’s Multi Media Interface lets you control most of the Sportback’s major functions via a central control dial and a small collection of buttons. It’s a pretty simple system, and some of the shortcut keys are raised, allowing you to find the one you want by touch. People of all sizes should be able to find a comfortable driving position thanks to the huge range of steering wheel and seat adjustment.
Space & Practicality
The Sportback costs hundreds more than the three-door A3, but as well as two extra doors, you also gain additional interior space and boot capacity. A 35mm increase in the wheelbase means more legroom, allowing four adults to travel in even greater comfort. You get an extra 10 litres of boot space, hiking the figure to 380 litres. The boot is also fitted with an adjustable floor that reduces the load lip and ensures there’s no step up to the rear seats when they’re folded forward.
We’d stick with the entry-level SE spec, which comes with Bluetooth, a USB socket, voice control and manual air-conditioning. Sport models add dual-zone climate control, sports seats and sports suspension (the standard SE suspension is available as a no-cost option), while sports suspension is also standard on bodykitted S line models, with the SE and S line set-ups available as no-cost options.