2016 Audi A3 Sportback 1.6 TDI review
Audi's class-leading, plush family hatchback has been given a new look and more equipment for 2016. We see if it still deserves to rule the roost...
Audi has brought its A3 into line with the rest of its range for 2016, giving it the latest Audi family look, adding and improving engines and increasing the A3's standard equipment and technology.
As such, all A3s now have Audi's latest grille design and a new headlight shape, as well as new alloy wheel designs and colour choices. A new three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol has joined the bottom of the range, a new 2.0 TFSI petrol has been added in the middle and the hot hatch S3 has been given more power.
Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights are now standard on every A3, and so too is cruise control, plus the latest smartphone integration and automatic headlights and wipers. Options, such as Audi's Virtual Cockpit digital instruments and Matrix LED headlights, are also now available.
What’s the 2016 Audi A3 Sportback 1.6 TDI 110 like to drive?
Audi's 109bhp 1.6 diesel has never been a firecracker, and it stays that way. Performance is perfectly adequate in town, and it's more than capable of hauling an A3 Sportback containing four passengers and their luggage briskly up to motorway speeds if worked hard. Audi's quick-changing seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox doesn't hinder its progress, either.
Unfortunately, it's the noisiest of the A3's engines, becoming increasingly vocal at high revs and sending vibrations back through the controls. At least it settles at a cruise, and you don't hear too much road and wind noise.
Our Sport model rode on 17in alloy wheels and the A3's standard and most comfortable suspension setting, helping it stay thoroughly compliant over most bumps and rough surfaces, if a little noisy and fidgety over the worst our German test route had to offer.
With this softest of the suspension options, the A3 doesn't offer the most thrilling drive in this class, but its steering is still precise and grip levels are high, so it’s enjoyable to drive briskly. Even so, it doesn’t steer as keenly as a BMW 1 Series.
What’s the 2016 Audi A3 Sportback 1.6 TDI 110 like inside?
New multifunction steering wheel and redesigned air vents aside, there have been no changes to the A3's interior, so it remains as spacious and luxurious as ever.
Two tall adults won't feel cramped in the front seats, while the driver will find it easy to manually adjust the steering wheel and the nicely supportive seat to their desired position.
Like its closest rivals, the A3's rear seats are best at catering for two adults rather than three. Those two passengers will find good shoulder and head room, and good knee room as long as those in the front aren't unusually lanky. Boot space is unchanged at a competitive 380 litres; it remains easy to access and is practically shaped.
The A3's party piece, though, is its interior quality, and it's still class-leading in this respect. Dense, soft materials, beautifully damped switches and cold-to-the-touch metallic surfaces give it real class-above appeal.
Our car's brilliant Virtual Cockpit can now be added as part of a pricey £1395 Advanced Technology Package (on Sport and S line models only), but we'd say it's worth the extra if you can afford it. Vitally, it's clear and easy to use, but is also visually superb.
Once you consider the pack also includes Audi's larger-screened Navigation Plus infotainment system, advanced online services and wireless smartphone charging (if yours supports it), it looks fairly good value.
The A3's standard 6.5in colour screen MMI infotainment system has had menu revisions as part of this facelift. It works well enough, even if it still isn't quite as simple to navigate as BMW’s iDrive. That said, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto apps, which enable you to use your smartphone via the screen, are now standard across the range.
Spending £495 upgrades you from entry-level SE trim to SE Technik, adding sat-nav, rear parking sensors, different 16in alloys and three months’ of online map and app services, so it's worth doing.
Should I buy one?
The A3 still deserves its place in our five-star hall of fame. It's every bit as spacious, luxurious and pleasant to drive, and although its price has risen by around £500 across the range, the extra equipment on all trims means you're actually quids-in.
We'd say SE Technik is the pick of the range, and although a similarly equipped VW Golf or BMW 1 Series are slightly cheaper to buy, the A3's slicker interior and better resale values (in most versions) make it worth the extra initial outlay.
This automatic 1.6 TDI is currently the cleanest A3 of the range, emitting 99g/km of CO2 when fitted with 16in wheels and making it a company car favourite. It sits one tax band lower than the equivalent automatic 1.6 TDI Golf, although a BMW 116d Auto and Skoda Octavia 1.6 TDI auto sit in the same bracket.
Of course, a Skoda Octavia is bigger still inside and comes with an even longer equipment list for less money, warranting its own five-star rating. However, it can’t match the A3's interior quality, greater refinement and stronger resale values.