Audi A3 review

Category: Family car

The 2024 Audi A3 has an improved interior and remains comfy and good to drive

Audi A3 Sportback front cornering
  • Audi A3 Sportback front cornering
  • Audi A3 Sportback rear cornering
  • Audi A3 Sportback dashboard
  • Audi A3 Sportback boot open
  • Audi A3 Sportback driver display
  • Audi A3 Sportback right driving
  • Audi A3 Sportback front driving
  • Audi A3 Sportback front cornering
  • Audi A3 Sportback rear right driving
  • Audi A3 Sportback rear driving
  • Audi A3 Sportback front static
  • Audi A3 Sportback rear static
  • Audi A3 Sportback grille detail
  • Audi A3 Sportback headlights
  • Audi A3 Sportback alloy wheel
  • Audi A3 Sportback rear lights
  • Audi A3 Sportback front seats
  • Audi A3 Sportback back seats
  • Audi A3 Sportback steering wheel detail
  • Audi A3 Sportback infotainment touchscreen
  • Audi A3 Sportback front seat detail
  • Audi A3 Sportback dashboard detail
  • Audi A3 Sportback interior detail
  • Audi A3 Sportback interior detail
  • Audi A3 Sportback interior detail
  • Audi A3 Sportback front cornering
  • Audi A3 Sportback rear cornering
  • Audi A3 Sportback dashboard
  • Audi A3 Sportback boot open
  • Audi A3 Sportback driver display
  • Audi A3 Sportback right driving
  • Audi A3 Sportback front driving
  • Audi A3 Sportback front cornering
  • Audi A3 Sportback rear right driving
  • Audi A3 Sportback rear driving
  • Audi A3 Sportback front static
  • Audi A3 Sportback rear static
  • Audi A3 Sportback grille detail
  • Audi A3 Sportback headlights
  • Audi A3 Sportback alloy wheel
  • Audi A3 Sportback rear lights
  • Audi A3 Sportback front seats
  • Audi A3 Sportback back seats
  • Audi A3 Sportback steering wheel detail
  • Audi A3 Sportback infotainment touchscreen
  • Audi A3 Sportback front seat detail
  • Audi A3 Sportback dashboard detail
  • Audi A3 Sportback interior detail
  • Audi A3 Sportback interior detail
  • Audi A3 Sportback interior detail
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Introduction

What Car? says...

It won't be long before Audi ventures into Formula 1, and we expect the German car brand to make swift progress up the rankings. After all, the firm is nothing if not competitive – as the Audi A3 Sportback demonstrates. 

The A3 has long been comfortable, enjoyable to drive, spacious enough inside for most families and available with a decent range of engines. Yet that didn’t stop Audi treating its family hatchback to a mid-life facelift to try to stay ahead of rivals. 

A new frameless grille, sharper bumpers and updated LED headlights with configurable light signatures have been added to give the A3 a more aggressive "RS look". Inside, the driver is treated to ambient lighting and a higher grade of materials. 

The engine line-up remains more or less unchanged, although we’ll have to wait until later this year to sample the heavily revised plug-in hybrid version. (There's also a new version of the saloon A3 – to read about that see our Audi A3 Saloon review.)

So, is the face-lifted Audi A3 Sportback good enough to maintain or improve its position among the best family cars? Read on to find out how we rate it against rivals ranging from the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class to the Toyota Corolla and VW Golf...

Overview

Comfortable, enjoyable to drive and sufficiently spacious inside for most, the current Audi A3 Sportback has long been an impressive offering marred by an interior that felt somewhat lacklustre considering its premium billing. However, with a mid-life facelift that brought in a more generous array of standard features and a revised interior, the A3 better justifies its premium price tag.

  • Sharp handling
  • Excellent driving position
  • Strong and frugal engines
  • Audi's unimpressive reliability record
  • Fiddly infotainment system
  • Plug-in hybrid is currently off-sale
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Our Pick

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Audi A3 40 TFSI e Sport 5dr S Tronic review
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox

If you want a petrol Audi A3 Sportback, the best choice is the 148bhp 1.5-litre 35 TFSI. It's a highly flexible engine that feels livelier than the equivalent 118i BMW 1 Series (0-62mph takes 8.4 seconds) and pulls strongly from low revs. We've yet to try the entry-level 1.5-litre 30 TFSI.

Meanwhile, the 148bhp 2.0-litre 35 TDI diesel has more torque (pulling power) than the 35 TFSI and gets from 0-62mph quicker, taking 8.3 seconds. It’s a relaxed performer and the additional grunt is great for overtaking on a motorway, although we’d still recommend the 35 TFSI for cost reasons. If you want hot hatch performance, see our Audi S3 review.

Company car drivers will be better off waiting for the revised 40 TFSIe plug-in hybrid (PHEV). With similar running gear to the new VW Golf PHEV, its electric-only range should increase considerably over the current figure (around 40 miles).

Suspension and ride comfort

Sport trim has smaller wheels and softer suspension than versions higher up the A3 Sportback range, so they have the most forgiving and comfortable ride. The Mercedes A-Class is even more cushioning over potholes, but can become bouncier at times (over a series of bumps on an undulating B-road, for example).

Audi A3 image
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On S line trim or higher, the A3 has a stiffer set-up and bigger wheels (18s on S line and 19s on Black Edition) but remains impressively cushioning most of the time. Indeed, S line is slightly suppler than the equivalent BMW 1 Series M Sport, and when you do hit rough stuff, the A3 recovers its composure quickly, with little bobbing or bucking afterwards.

Audi A3 Sportback rear cornering

Handling

The A3 Sportback's handling is predictable, secure and engaging. That even goes for entry-level Sport versions, but is most evident on S line and Black Edition models with their stiffer sports suspension set-up. They grip the road really well, with a lovely balance front to rear that leaves the A3 utterly unflustered by quick changes of direction and mid-corner imperfections.

It certainly makes the A3 sportier to drive than the Mercedes A-Class – among family cars only the Ford Focus is more fun on account of its playful handling balance. The A3's steering is reassuringly weighted and responsive. If you like really quick-feeling steering, you might prefer the BMW 1 Series (which feels a little more alert to your inputs).

The TFSIe plug-in hybrids carry some extra weight, mainly from the battery pack, and are not quite as agile as other versions. That said, they're still among the best-handling PHEVs on sale.

Noise and vibration

All the A3 Sportback’s engines are impressively quiet most of the time. Higher powered versions with their standard fit automatic gearbox sometimes flare the engine revs if you’re a bit too enthusiastic with the accelerator but it’s smooth through the gears.

The A3 produces less suspension and wind noise than the Mercedes A-Class but road noise can be more intrusive at higher speeds, especially with bigger wheels fitted. It's quieter on a motorway than the BMW 1 Series though.

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

Driving position and dashboard

The Audi A3 Sportback provides a great driving position, with a standard front armrest, and loads of steering wheel and seat adjustment. Plus, following the 2024 mid-life facelift, powered lumbar adjustment is now standard on all models. It makes quite a difference on long journeys.

All the controls and screens you use frequently are clear and within easy reach, helped by the central section of the dashboard that's angled towards the driver. The A3 has simple physical switches for the climate controls, making them much easier to adjust than the touch-sensitive controls in the VW Golf and touchscreen-based controls in the Ford Focus and Peugeot 308.

The Audi Virtual Cockpit Plus digital instrument display comes as standard and shows all your driving information on a crisp 12.3in screen, with various layouts to select from. It’s so good that you don't really need the optional head-up display.

Visibility, parking sensors and cameras

Slim front pillars help provide a clear forward view out of the A3 Sportback but the rear chunky pillars and relatively small windows can make the view over your shoulder a little tricky.

At least front and rear parking sensors are included on all versions, while a rear-view camera is optional as part of the Technology Pack. You even get an ingenious parking assist feature as standard that can detect a suitable parking space and will manoeuvre you in.

Bright LED headlights come as standard, but you can option matrix LED headlights that can be left on full beam at all times without dazzling oncoming drivers.

Audi A3 Sportback dashboard

Sat nav and infotainment

The A3 Sportback's infotainment touchscreen is a good size – 10.1in – but can require some drivers to stretch forward to reach it. Some of the icons are on the small side, which makes it more distracting when you're driving than the systems in the BMW 1 Series (with its rotary dial).

On the plus side, the screen is sharp with good graphics, and the menus respond quickly. It's also packed with features, including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, a wireless phone-charger and built-in sat-nav.

You get a 10-speaker stereo, unless you upgrade to the punchy 15-speaker, Sonos surround-sound stereo that's available as part of the Technology Pack.

Quality

As part of the A3 Sportback’s mid-life facelift, the interior underwent a rather clever refresh. We say clever because the changes, though minor, have had a significant impact. Notably, the prominent plastic ledge on the dashboard has been replaced with a tactile fabric crafted from recycled polyester, lending both a refined appearance and a high-quality feel.

Audi has also incorporated additional interior lighting strips, and we particularly appreciate the new perforated door panel inserts, which allow the ambient lighting to softly illuminate the cabin in the evening. 

Those changes stop short of being completely transformative though. Cheaper-feeling hard plastics, on the centre console, for example, remain noticeable. Overall, the A3 Sportback compares favourably with the Mercedes A-Class in terms of showroom appeal but there are family cars that exude a higher sense of quality. For example, the BMW 1 Series and the cheaper Mazda 3 feel more luxurious throughout.

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

Front space

The Audi A3 Sportback has more than enough leg and shoulder room for tall adults up front, with enough head room even for someone well over six feet tall.

The minimalist dashboard design doesn’t conceal many cubbyholes, but there are storage areas ahead of the gearlever and under the central armrest, plus a couple of cupholders in the centre console. The front door bins are each big enough for a large water bottle.

Rear space

If you're more than six feet tall, you should have room to get comfy in the back of the A3 Sportback but you won't exactly be sprawling out in luxury. You'll find a similar amount of space in the back of the Mercedes A-Class and a little bit more in the BMW 1 Series. The cheaper Ford Focus and Seat Leon – and even more so the Skoda Octavia – are a lot bigger in the back.

A middle passenger will have to sit with their legs on either side of a tall hump on the floor, while the slightly raised seat base means they’ll sit with their head bruising the roof lining if they’re close to being 6ft tall.

There's not much storage space in the back for odds and ends, door pockets that can hold a small drinks bottle and a pair of cup holders in the fold down armrest on S line trim and above. You can make your A3 more versatile by adding the optional Storage Pack. It's not drastically expensive (and includes a lockable glove compartment and a luggage net in the boot), but it feels a little stingy that you have to pay extra in order to get map pockets on the back of the front seats.

Audi A3 Sportback boot open

Seat folding and flexibility

The A3 Sportback’s rear seatbacks split in a flexible 40/20/20 arrangement on mid-level S line trim and above.

However, the seats don’t move back and forth to allow you to prioritise between passenger and boot space, or recline for added comfort (features you get on some family SUVs, including the Audi Q3).

The front passenger seat is manually adjustable, including for height, but it gets powered lumbar support as standard.

Boot space

The A3's tailgate opening is a decent size and the square space it reveals is similar in size to the 1 Series' boot. Both can fit five carry-on suitcases under their parcel shelves. A non-PHEV A-Class can go one better than that with six, but that's still miles off the family car load-lugging champ, the Skoda Octavia.

If you fold down the rear seats, they lie at a slight angle, but not enough to cause major issues with loading bulky items. You get an adjustable boot floor, which can be raised to reduce the load lip at the boot entrance and ensures there’s no step caused by folding down the rear seats.

The new PHEV version of the A3 Sportback is likely to do without the adjustable boot floor and lose some storage volume but that's yet to be confirmed. The previous PHEV could take five carry-on cases (matching the Mercedes A250e) but with more of a squeeze.

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2

As part of the A3 Sportback’s 2024 mid-life facelift, Audi has increased the levels of standard equipment, but it still works out to be slightly cheaper than equivalent versions of the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class.

The A3's engines deliver fuel economy and CO2 emissions in line with its family car rivals.

However, company car users should wait until the revised 40 TFSIe plug-in hybrid is released. We expect to see the official electric-only range increase from around 40 miles to beyond 60, which – combined with a low CO2 output – should put it in one of the lowest benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax brackets.

Equipment, options and extras

The entry-level A3 Sportback is so well-equipped that we find little reason to upgrade to the S line or Black Edition trims. Standard features include cruise control, three-zone air conditioning, heated front seats, power-folding door mirrors, 17in alloy wheels, automatic lights and wipers, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror.

For those seeking a sportier aesthetic and driving experience, the S line trim is worth considering. It includes 18in alloy wheels, sports suspension, S line front and rear bumpers, rear privacy glass, stainless-steel pedals, a flat-bottom steering wheel and customisable multi-colour interior lights.

Black Edition trim is steeply priced considering its offerings. It primarily adds a black exterior styling package, 19in wheels and door-mounted LEDs that project the Audi logo on to the ground as you exit the vehicle.

Audi A3 Sportback driver display

Reliability

The A3 comes with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty and three years’ roadside assistance, which is the industry norm. You can pay a little extra to extend your A3 Sportback's cover for up to five years or 90,000 miles.

We’d be tempted to do so, because the pre-facelift A3 finished in last place in the family car class in the 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey – below the BMW 1 Series in fifth, and the petrol and diesel versions of the Mercedes A-Class in 24th and 26th. Audi as a brand performed a little better, finishing 26th out of 32 manufacturers.

Safety and security

Every A3 has automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane-departure warning and traffic-sign recognition as standard.

In common with most family cars, the model received a five-star rating after safety testing by Euro NCAP although the Seat Leon found to be better at preventing injury to adults up front and children in the rear. The 1 Series and A-Class were given five stars too, but were tested under earlier, less stringent criteria, so it's difficult to compare their results directly.


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FAQs

At a glance
New car deals
Save up to £2,610
Target Price from £27,527
Save up to £2,610
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Nearly new deals
From £23,110
RRP price range £28,920 - £52,400
Number of trims (see all)8
Number of engines (see all)6
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)petrol parallel phev, diesel, petrol
MPG range across all versions 217.3 - 57.6
Available doors options 5
Warranty 3 years / 60000 miles
Company car tax at 20% (min/max) £509 / £3,751
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £1,018 / £7,503
Available colours