Audi has used aluminium and high-strength steel to help keep weight down, and every model comes with engine stop-start technology. These measures ensure that the A3’s fuel economy and CO2 emissions are comparable with those of its best rivals.
The most efficient is the 1.6-litre diesel, which emits less than 100g/km of CO2. The popular 2.0-litre TDI 150 diesel is very nearly as efficient despite its extra power. With front-wheel drive, CO2 emissions are still only 105g/km on the smaller wheels.
The 1.0 TFSI engine is the most efficient petrol engine and comes close to matching the diesel’s claimed fuel economy figures, while the A3 Sportback e-tron brings the cost of running down even further. Its CO2 emissions are just 38g/km, and while its real world fuel economy will be some way short of the quoted figure, it will still be very efficient. It can also run off electric-only power, if only for around 18 miles in real-world conditions.
The A3’s list prices aren’t cheap, but it doesn’t cost much more than a Volkswagen Golf – and on many PCP and lease deals, it can actually be cheaper per month. The Audi will hold its value better, too, so private buyers could also find it a slightly cheaper option over three years.
The A3 comes with generous levels of standard equipment. We’d stick with the most basic trim, SE, which still brings air-con, 16in alloy wheels, Bluetooth, xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, Apple CarPlay, cruise control as well as the neat infotainment system.
If you're buying either the 1.6 or 2.0 TDI 150 diesel, we’d spend the extra for SE Technik trim, though, because it comes with sat-nav, rear parking sensors and different 16in alloy wheels for not much more money.
Sport trim also gets sat-nav as standard, plus a host of extra kit, such as dual-zone climate control, sports seats and chunkier alloy wheels. Next up is S line, although since it’s focused on sport-influenced style more than anything else, you’re really paying for design touches as much as any extra kit.
The high-performance S3 gets a bodykit, leather upholstery, heated front seats and a host of mechanical upgrades.
Finally, the range-topping RS3 adds LED headlights, 19in alloy wheels and high-grade Nappa leather seat trim. It also has even more aggressive styling than the S3.
Audi A3 Hatchback reliability
The A3s in our latest customer satisfaction survey were from the previous generation, but the car didn’t score particularly well; owners encountered more problems than average, and the A3 was well adrift of the BMW 1 Series and VW Golf. Audi as a brand fared little better, although it was ahead of BMW.
The A3 comes with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty and three years’ roadside assistance as standard. That’s decent compared with the industry norm, but it’s some way short of the five-year cover offered by Hyundai and Toyota, and way behind the seven-year protection provided by Kia. You can pay extra to cover your A3 for up to five years or 90,000 miles for a reasonable price.
Audi A3 Hatchback safety & security
All A3s get stability control as standard, as well as a pop-up bonnet that helps to minimise injuries to pedestrians. You have to pay extra for Audi’s Pre-Sense system, which automatically brakes and primes the safety kit if it detects an impending collision.
The A3 received a five-star crash test rating from Euro NCAP, with a strong 95% score for adult crash protection and 87% for child protection. The A3 Sportback e-tron went through the test in 2014, and was also awarded the maximum five stars, scoring 82% for adult protection and 78% for child protection.
An alarm and an engine immobiliser are standard on all A3s, and the car received the maximum five stars from security experts Thatcham for resistance to being stolen, and four out of five for guarding against being broken into.
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here
Entry-level SE spec comes with air-con, 16in alloy wheels, Bluetooth, xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, Apple CarPlay, cruise control as well as Audi's neat 7.0in infotainment system. It’s our favourite trim because it’s keenly priced and includes almost everything you really need.
This trim takes the solid specification of SE and adds satellite navigation, rear parking sensors and different 16in alloy wheels. It’s clearly designed for company car choosers, because it’s available only with diesel engines, but if you’re in that market then it’s a really appealing option.
Moving from SE to Sport brings 17in alloy wheels, lowered sports suspension, dual-zone climate control, front sports seats, aluminium exterior and interior trim and a sports leather steering wheel as standard. It’s worth noting that you can specify the more comfortable SE suspension set-up on Sport editions for no extra cost; we’d certainly recommend it.
S line trim is focused on sporty looks; you get even larger wheels (18in), a bodykit, xenon headlights, part-leather upholstery and aluminium interior inlays. It’s worth noting that you can specify the more comfortable SE suspension set-up on S line versions for no extra cost; we’d strongly recommend it.
The high-performance S3 is a model in its own right, with a powerful 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine and acceleration times that wouldn’t disgrace many a supercar. It gets 18in alloy wheels, lowered and stiffened suspension, a revised steering set-up, full-leather upholstery, heated front seats, a bodykit and aluminium-look door mirrors as standard.
Available only as a five-door A3 Sportback, the e-tron is a plug-in petrol-electric hybrid. It’s really expensive on paper, although most owners will lease the car or use its incredibly low CO2 emissions to get it as a cost-effective company car. It comes with a decent standard equipment list for the money: sat-nav, dual-zone climate control, full-LED headlights and Audi Connect online connectivity are all included.
This halo model comes with front and rear parking sensors, sports seats with higher-grade Nappa leather, LED headlights and a host of performance and styling upgrades, including lowered RS suspension, 19in alloy wheels and unique RS bumpers and side skirts.