The all-new entry-level three-cylinder engine makes its debut in Audi’s classy A3. We test it to see if it can provide a premium feel
What do we have here?
The Audi A3 is now in its third iteration following its launch back in 1996 and this is the mid-life facelifted version of the latest model.
You can pick from four body styles including a three-door hatch, five-door Sportback, four-door saloon and a two-door convertible.
There are three petrol and three diesel engine variants to choose from. The petrol lineup consists of a 1.0 TFSI 116PS, 1.5 TFSI 150PS and 2.0 TFSI 190PS while the diesel options includes 1.6 TDi 116PS, 2.0TDI 150PS and 2.0 TDI 184PS.
Most models are front-wheel driven and fitted with a manual gearbox, however, an S-Tronic auto is available across much of the range while you can opt for Quattro all-wheel drive with these power units: 2.0 TFSI, 2.0TDI 150 PS, 2.0 TDI 184PS.
The A3 comes with a choice of five main trims; SE, SE Technik, Sport, S-Line and Black Edition, while at the opposite ends of the eco-sensitive scale are the petrol hybrid e-tron and the tarmac destroying S3 and RS3.
All models get 16in alloys, cruise control, Xenon headlights, auto wipers and headlights, dynamic suspension, air conditioning and a 7.0in colour screen.
SE Technik adds MMI navigation, rear parking sensors, and a different alloy wheel design.
Sport brings 17in alloys, dual-zone electronic climate, front sports seats, exterior sport styling, aluminium interior trim, Audi Drive Select, option for free upgrade to sports suspension.
S Line models get 18in alloy wheels, LED head and taillights, 15mm lowered sports suspension, flat-bottomed steering wheel, matt-brushed aluminum inlays, half leather sport seats and S line styling.
Black edition brings with it unique alloys, black exterior styling pack, privacy glass and Audi sound system.
The Sportback range starts from £20,985 rising to £36,040 before getting onto the S3 and RS3.
We’re testing the 1.0-litre TSFI 116PS in Sport trim with a six-speed manual gearbox which costs £22,535.
Our test car is fitted with plenty of optional extras, including: Tango Red metallic paint £550; Black Front Sport seats with leather / Alcantara £1,000; adaptive cruise control including pre-sense Front with pedestrian recognition £475; LED exterior lighting pack £995; storage pack £175; technology pack advanced £1395; aluminium roof rails £250; Door mirrors (folding) £200; rear parking sensors £425; Audi sound system £255, giving our car an on the road price of £28,850.
How does it drive?
There’s some roll into bends if you are driving enthusiastically but generally, it holds the road well, limiting the majority of body lean, while the grip is excellent.
It steers well and feel remains consistent throughout. It’s got a light to medium weighting unless you select dynamic mode where it becomes a little too heavy. The A3 can be a little hesitant to turn it.
On the majority of roads the ride is compliant, however at lower speeds and on less well-maintained roads it can become a bit harsh and jerky.
The 1.0-litre engine is well suited to the A3. Despite its small size, it copes well in the majority of situations, however, select your gearing wisely if you’re planning to overtake as the engine has to be worked hard to get the most out of it.
Otherwise, it delivers its performance in a smooth and classy manner yet when pushed makes a pleasant engine note.
The six-speed manual gearbox has a precise and quality feel to its movement and is accompanied with a medium weighting clutch.
Refinement is excellent as the interior remains hushed at speed.
Visibility to the front is hindered slightly by chunky roof pillars while the rear pillars are rather large and cumbersome. It’s disappointing that reversing sensors are an additional cost on this model.
What's it like inside?
The Audi has a simplified cabin with stylish touches including four round air vents, toggle switches and 12v socket plug that looks like the heating and music dials.
Rising like the morning sun out of the dashboard is a 7.0in MMI infotainment screen. It’s controlled by a large dial between the seats with shortcut buttons for nav, radio, media and phone, plus four further buttons to control the system. There’s a scratch pad on top of the rotary dial.
Our model was fitted with the 12.3in optional vertical cockpit, which is excellent and has an array of changeable screens from shrinking or enlarging dials to having a full Google Earth map display.
There are aluminium trim inserts abound, complimented with chrome touches on most controls and around the air vents.
The sports seats are comfortable and supportive, have a pump lever to adjust height and a rotary dial for backrest. In the lowest position, there’s loads of head room.
You feel like you’re sitting slight on the interior rather than being part of it like in a BMW 1-Series or Volvo V40.
Storage compartments include large door bins which have a tight opening, an under-seat compartment housing a hi-viz vest, there’s a small anti-slip tray ahead of two cupholders. Between the front seats is an adjustable height and reach central armrest with two UBS, 1 aux port and phone wireless phone charging (if specified), in the storage box underneath.
The glovebox is well sized.
Climbing into the rear is mildly hindered by a tight opening. The rear bench is tiered so gives the feeling of being high up with a good view out.
Once in, leg, knee and foot room is average while headroom is excellent.
Rear passengers get a 12v socket between the front seats while there’s a deep door bin but access is awkward. There’s a hidden compartment in the middle of the bench with a hi-viz vest but there’s no central armrest.
The rear seats fold 60/40 and provide a level threshold with the boot floor, however, they do rise slightly so don’t lie fully flat.
There’s an excellent wide opening to the boot with a low lip height and little step to the boot floor. It offers 380-litres of capacity which is 20 more than a BMW 1-Series but 11-litres less than a Volvo V40.
Inside, there are two bag hooks, a small side compartment while the floor height is adjustable and can be lowered.
On an official combined cycle, the A3 1.0-litre TFSI is claimed to return 60.1mpg, however, during testing we averaged just 40mpg.
It emits 107g/km of CO2.
This model falls into insurance group 15E.
The A3 gets a three-year 60,000-mile warranty.
The A3 is a classy all-rounder that provides a premium feel for those after a family sized car.
The new 1.0-litre engine is refined but needs to be worked hard to get the best from it, however, it doesn’t feel entry-level.
With a wide range of engines, trims and the choice of four-wheel drive, there’s an A3 out there for all tastes.