New Audi A3 review

Category: Family car

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

Blue Audi A3 Sportback front left driving
  • Blue Audi A3 Sportback front left driving
  • Blue Audi A3 Sportback rear left driving
  • Audi A3 Sportback interior dashboard
  • Audi A3 Sportback boot open
  • Audi A3 Sportback driver display
  • Blue Audi A3 Sportback front left driving
  • Blue Audi A3 Sportback front driving
  • Blue Audi A3 Sportback front left driving
  • Blue Audi A3 Sportback rear driving
  • Blue Audi A3 Sportback front left static
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  • Blue Audi A3 Sportback front detail
  • Blue Audi A3 Sportback alloy wheel detail
  • Blue Audi A3 Sportback rear detail
  • Audi A3 Sportback interior back seats
  • Audi A3 Sportback interior front seats
  • Audi A3 Sportback front seats detail
  • Audi A3 Sportback infotainment touchscreen
  • Audi A3 Sportback interior detail
  • Blue Audi A3 Sportback front left driving
  • Blue Audi A3 Sportback rear left driving
  • Audi A3 Sportback interior dashboard
  • Audi A3 Sportback boot open
  • Audi A3 Sportback driver display
  • Blue Audi A3 Sportback front left driving
  • Blue Audi A3 Sportback front driving
  • Blue Audi A3 Sportback front left driving
  • Blue Audi A3 Sportback rear driving
  • Blue Audi A3 Sportback front left static
  • Blue Audi A3 Sportback left static
  • Blue Audi A3 Sportback rear right static
  • Blue Audi A3 Sportback front detail
  • Blue Audi A3 Sportback alloy wheel detail
  • Blue Audi A3 Sportback rear detail
  • Audi A3 Sportback interior back seats
  • Audi A3 Sportback interior front seats
  • Audi A3 Sportback front seats detail
  • Audi A3 Sportback infotainment touchscreen
  • Audi A3 Sportback interior detail
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Introduction

What Car? says...

It won't be long before Audi ventures into F1, and we expect the German car maker to make swift progress up the rankings. After all, the brand is nothing if not competitive – as the Audi A3 Sportback demonstrates. 

The A3 is comfortable, enjoyable to drive, spacious enough inside for most families and comes with a decent range of engines, but that didn’t stop Audi treating its family hatchback to a mid-life facelift in an effort to keep 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.

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 as disparate as the BMW 1 Series, Mercedes A-Class, Seat Leon, 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

OurPicksRRP £36,400
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

At the time of writing, if you want a petrol Audi A3 Sportback, your only choice is the 148bhp 1.5-litre 35 TFSI. Fortunately, it's a highly flexible engine that feels livelier than the equivalent 118i BMW 1 Series (0-62mph takes 8.1 seconds) and pulls strongly from low revs.

The 1.0 30 TFSI will rejoin the A3 line-up later. We weren’t overly enamoured with the pre-facelift version, which felt rather breathless at motorway speeds.

That’s not a criticism you can level at the 148bhp 2.0-litre 35 TDI diesel. It 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 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.

Blue Audi A3 Sportback rear left driving

Handling

The A3'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 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 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’s engines are impressively quiet most of the time. The standard fit automatic gearbox sometimes flares 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 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 1 Series though.

Driving overview

Strengths 35 TFSI feels lively enough for most; all models have a plush ride; S line and Black Edition models are sharp in the bends

Weaknesses Ford Focus has more feelsome steering

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 A3’s 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.

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 pillars and large windows ensure that the A3 provides a good all-round view out, and front and rear parking sensors are included on all versions. 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 interior dashboard

Sat nav and infotainment

The A3's infotainment touchscreen is a good size – 10.1in – but you have to look directly at the screen to find and hit the icon you need. That makes it more distracting when you're driving than the systems in the BMW 1 Series (with its rotary dial) and the Mercedes A-Class (a touchpad).

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 six-speaker stereo, unless you upgrade to the 15-speaker, Sonos surround-sound stereo that's available as part of the Technology Pack.

Quality

As part of the A3’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 compares favourably with the A-Class in terms of showroom appeal, but there are family cars that exude a higher sense of quality. For example, the 1 Series and the more affordable Mazda 3 feel more luxurious throughout.

Interior overview

Strengths Great driving position; Audi's Virtual Cockpit has class-leading functionality; decent visibility; A3's infotainment is good for a touchscreen

Weaknesses iDrive system in the BMW 1 Series is less distracting to use on the move; 1 Series just has the edge for interior quality

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, 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, Seat Leon and Skoda Octavia are all a lot bigger in the back.

There's not much storage space in the back for odds and ends, although the door pockets can hold a small drinks bottle. You can make your A3 more versatile by adding the optional Storage Pack. It's not drastically expensive and among its tally adds map pockets, rear cup holders and a lockable glove compartment.

Audi A3 Sportback boot open

Seat folding and flexibility

The A3’s rear seatbacks split in a flexible 40/20/20 arrangement regardless of which trim you opt for. 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).

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 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 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.

Practicality overview

Strengths Plenty of space up front; rear seatbacks split in a flexible 40/20/20 arrangement; adjustable boot floor as standard

Weaknesses Boot isn't that big; rear passenger space is average for the class

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2

As part of the A3 Sportback’s mid-life facelift, Audi increased the levels of standard equipment, which explains why it now carries a slight price premium over equivalent versions of the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class.

Officially, 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 hope 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 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, 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, stainless steel pedals, a flat-bottom steering wheel and customisable multi-colour interior lighting.

Black Edition trim is steeply-priced considering its offerings. It primarily adds a black exterior styling package, 18in wheels and door-mounted LEDs that project the Audi logo on to the ground when exiting 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'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.

Costs overview

Strengths Generous standard equipment levels; A3's typically hold on to their value well

Weaknesses Relatively high price point; pre-facelift model wasn't very reliable; company car drivers will have to wait if they want the PHEV


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FAQs

  • No – you can no longer buy a drop-top A3 new. To read about the convertible version of the previous-generation car, see our 2014-2020 A3 Convertible buying guide.

  • It hasn't – you can still buy the Audi A3 new in the UK and elsewhere. For the latest prices, see our New Car Deals pages.

At a glance
New car deals
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Target Price from £26,530
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From £21,999
RRP price range £28,085 - £52,400
Number of trims (see all)11
Number of engines (see all)10
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)diesel, petrol, petrol parallel phev
MPG range across all versions 217.3 - 60.1
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