Audi A3 VS Audi A1
- Sedan styling looks superb
- Quattro all-wheel drive on highest grade
- AEB on all grades
- Plain standard interior
- Limited rear legroom
- Low on standard features
- Looks super cool
- All variants fun to drive
- High-tech and practical
- RIP S1
- 40 TFSI expensive
- Road noise
Audi’s A3 is one of the most affordable ways into this prestige German brand. But like some amusement park mirror maze you’ll find with so many A3 variations there are numerous, seemingly identical ways into the model.
Which one do you choose? There’s a sedan, a hatch, and a convertible with four different engines, not to mention front- or all-wheel drive.
That’s why this range review is here – to guide you through the A3 hall of mirrors, and identify the right model for you.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
After the last one hung around for a little too long, the A1 is back, bringing new life to an unloved market segment.
Seriously, when was the last time you spared a thought for the premium end of the small hatch segment? When the Mini Cooper was last updated? Maybe when the last generation of A1 launched nine years ago?
But if this new A1 doesn’t have you paying attention nothing will. What’s more, Audi is launching into this nice space with a fully-fledged range of variants and a slew of visual options to appeal to the widest range of buyers it can.
So, should you consider one? Has Audi smashed it out of the park on price for its three-engine range? And, what’s up with that triple barrelled snout?
We went to the launch of the 2020 A1 range to find the answers to these questions and more.
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded|
The Audi A3 is now five years into this current generation and it’s beginning to show its age in terms of tech and styling in the cabin, despite updates adding new equipment. It’s expensive compared to most small cars but is spot-on for a prestige vehicle.
The Sedan is, in my view, the best looking small sedan on the planet and offers the biggest boot space in the A3 range. The Sportback, however, is arguably more practical, with better legroom, headroom and cargo carrying ability (with the rear seats down). The Cabriolet has the same perfect proportions as the sedan, but like all good convertibles doesn’t make practicality a priority.
The sweet spot of the range would have to be the Sportback 2.0 TFSI quattro S Line with its $50,000 list price making it the most affordable but most 'specced up' A3 in the entire range.
You have $50,000. Do you buy an entry-grade Audi A3 Cabriolet, a 2.0 TFSI Sport Sedan or a Volkswagen Golf R? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
The A1 is fun to look at, fun to drive, and genuinely full of cutting-edge tech. While it launches into a city-car segment with few competitors in Australia, it still has an impressive specification list which no other small car can match.
What’s more is each variant is carefully crafted to a specific buyer in terms of its price, performance, and equipment. Just be aware each trim level has a distinct options list that can make a stark difference to the end product available to you.
To that end, our pick of the range is the 35 TFSI. It’s able to perform well in a wider range of road conditions while still keeping the cost well below the almost-$50k 40 TFSI. It also opens up a much longer list of optional equipment than is available on the 30 TFSI.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
The A3 comes in three body styles: a five-door hatch, which Audi calls the Sportback; the four-door Sedan, and a two-door convertible which it refers to as the Cabriolet. It may not surprise you to learn they're all different sizes, too.
The Sportback doesn’t look like the shortest of the three but at 4313mm end-to-end it’s 145mm shy of the Sedan and 110mm shorter than the Cabriolet. But those exterior dimensions don’t tell the whole story on interior space. So, which one is more practical? We’ll get to that.
But first, the looks. The Sportback has a wagon-like appearance with its large (for a hatch) rear quarter windows. If you think it looks longer than a regular hatchback, you’re right: a Volkswagen Golf is 50mm shorter even though it shares the same platform as the A3.
However, unlike the Golf, there’s something about the Sportback’s proportions which doesn’t seem balanced.
Then there’s the A3 sedan. Now this is a perfectly proportioned car. Looking like a miniature version of the A8 limo, the A3 is one of the only tiny sedans on the planet that looks fantastic.
The Cabriolet is based on the Sedan, and it too looks beautifully proportioned. Soft tops, when they’re up, never do much for a car’s profile. Be it a Bentley or an A3, they always look better down. When the roof is down the A3 appears lower, sleeker, and tougher.
While all A3’s have the same grille and headlight design the rear treatment of the Sedan and Cabriolet is more refined with their blade-like tail-lights and boot lid lip, than the Sportback, even if it does have a roof-top spoiler.
Interiors are identical across each A3 grade, the cabin benefiting from excellent fit and finish and the use of high-quality materials. But if you like bling-tastic cockpits, maybe you should be looking at a Benz A-Class because even the fanciest A3 money can buy, the RS3, comes with a small display screen and a rather low-key interior design.
As for rivals, the new A-Class (which I’ve just reviewed) is a glitzy competitor in hatch form, with a soon-to-arrive sedan going head-to-head with the little Audi as well.
Don’t you think the A1 is a good looker? I do, and in the flesh, it manages to look even better.
Even the base car is quaint, with its stout dimensions and subtle lines. It’s clear the brand is making a solid effort to deviate from the phrase “all Audis look the same” which is definitely one you’ve heard before.
New design elements include the strong, more squared-off wheelarches, thick and angular C-pillar, and new more complicated front.
The LED light clusters round off the A1’s distinctive face, but somehow bring the whole thing together for a distinctive Audi look.
Fresh, but not wild. We like it.
Inside is full of nice touches and surfaces. It comes off as a bit of a polygonal assault, but the strong design theme and driver-centric design are a fresh futuristic breath.
Either the 8.8-inch or 10.1-inch multimedia screens are stunning in their resolution, fidelity, and graphics, really cementing the media system as the heart of the dash.
That’s saying a lot, too, because there are plenty of other wow moments, like the slick digital dash elements, vented passenger dash insert and the way the design spills into the door cards. You can add ambient lighting onto it further up the range.
A few weak points are easily noted, however. Having a turnkey on the base spec 30 TFSI is decidedly not 'premium' and the complete lack of an electric handbrake makes the centre console area a little clumsy. The plastics around the lower third of the dash are Polo quality, which is good for a car this size, while not quite oozing luxury.
The seats themselves are comfortable, no matter which grade you pick, but the only way to get leather is to opt for the S-Line interior package, only available on the top-grade 40 TFSI ($1100).
The Sportback and Sedan have five seats, while the Cabriolet has four. Leg and headroom in the back row for all body styles is limited. The Sportback will give you the most rear legroom, while the sedan has a few millimetres more space for your knees than the Cabriolet.
At 191cm tall I can sit behind my driving position in the Sportback with a pinkie finger’s space, while my knees brush the seatback in the Sedan, and the Cabriolet won’t accommodate my long legs back there at all.
Rear headroom in the Sportback isn’t bad with enough room for my big head to clear the ceiling thanks to that tall(-ish) flat roofline while the sedan is a tighter fit but I just make it under. The Cabriolet’s low fabric roof means only small adults or kids will be able to sit up straight back there – unless the top is down and then you have literally unlimited headroom.
Boot space varies obviously depending on the body style. The Sedan has biggest cargo capacity with 425 litres, the Sportback offers up 340 litres, but fold those rear seats down and you have 1180 litres at your disposal, plus a bigger aperture to fit stuff in. The Cabriolet’s folding roof eats into the boot space, but you’re still left with 320 litres even when it’s down.
The folding roof is automatic and can be raised or lowered at up to 50km/h, but it’s slow - I’ve timed it and it takes about 20 seconds to open or shut.
Storage throughout the cabin is limited, too. There are two cupholders up front in all cars, while the Cabriolet is the only A3 to have two cupholders in the back (they’re between the rear seats). If you want cupholders in the rear of the Sedan and Sportback you’ll have to option the $450 fold-down armrest which houses them.
All grades above the 1.0 TFSI come with storage nets in the seatback and front passenger footwell, 12-volt sockets in the rear centre console and boot, plus cargo nets back there, too. There’s a USB jack in the centre console of all A3s.
The new A1’s wheelbase has been stretched out by 94mm which doesn’t sound like much, but makes a world of difference when it comes to this car’s floorplan.
There’s way more space than you’d expect just by looking at the outside, which becomes evident the moment you put yourself in the driver’s seat.
My 182cm tall frame had leagues of headroom, legroom, and arm-flailing space, and I was struck by how adjustable the seating position was, featuring a low seat and a broad-reaching telescopic adjust for the steering column.
Storage is abundant too, with a massive bin under the climate controls, and three variably-sized cupholders in the centre console. It’s a bit annoying you’ll have to spec up to the 35 TFSI to get a tiny centre console box, the main use of which is as an elbow rest for the driver and front passenger.
Full marks for large bottle holders in the doors (for a car this size), too, and the addition of USB C outlets will keep tech-heads very happy. Wireless charging on the 35 TFSI and wireless CarPlay on the 40 TFSI are impressive inclusions (all without a subscription...) and the screens are bright and easy to reach thanks to the new driver-centric dash.
The back seat offers a genuinely surprising amount of room, with an inch or two of airspace for my knees behind my own driving position and enough headroom for me, but perhaps nobody taller.
All the seats sit really low to the floor. While this leads to a sporty driving position, it also brings up questions about the fitting of child seats or clambering in and out.
As if all of those dimensions weren’t improved enough, the boot is even better again. It has 335-litres (VDA) of space which is a whopping 65 litres more than the outgoing car. That’s more boot space than a Toyota Corolla or a Mazda CX-3 - for a bit of context.
There’s a catch though. The A1 has no spare wheel, with all variants shipping with an inflator kit, and the brand says there will be no all-wheel drive versions, preferring instead to make the most of the deep boot.
Price and features
The A3 isn’t great value for a small car, generally speaking, because while you are getting a high-quality prestige vehicle, it doesn’t come with a mountain of equipment that you might find on a more affordable little hatch or sedan.
Look at it this way: take $40 into a fish and chip shop and you’ll walk out with your arms full of food, take the same amount into a Michelin-starred restaurant and you’ll be lucky to get an entrée. Same with buying a prestige car – and the A3 really is a starter on the Audi menu.
Coming standard on the entry-grade $36,200 1.0 TFSI Sportback are xenon headlights with LED running lights, cloth upholstery, dual-zone climate control, a 7.0-inch touchscreen with sat nav, reversing camera, multimedia system with voice control, eight-speaker stereo, Bluetooth connectivity, CD player, front and rear parking sensors, rear view camera and 16-inch alloy wheels.
Only the Sportback comes in this 1.0 TFSI grade. The rest of the body styles start with the 1.4 TFSI ($40,300 for the Sportback; $41,900 for Sedan; $49,400 for Cabriolet) which comes with the 1.0 TFSI’s equipment but swaps the cloth seats for leather upholstery and adds paddles shifters, aluminium-look interior elements and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Stepping up to the 2.0 TFSI Sport ($46,400 for Sportback; $48,000 for Sedan; $55,500 for the Cabriolet) adds leather sports front seats, aluminium door sills, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and 17-inch alloys with a different design.
The 2.0 TFSI quattro S line ($50,000 for the Sportback; $51,600 for Sedan and $59,100 for the Cabriolet) brings in lowered sports suspension, 18-inch alloys and LED headlights.
Each grade also attains more safety equipment, which we’ll cover further on.
I’ve also reviewed Mercedes-Benz’s new A200, which is a good model comparison for the A3. At a list price of $48,200 the 1.3-litre four-cylinder A200 is pricier than the 1.4 TFSI, but offers better value than the A3 2.0TFSI with more equipment, including two 10.25-inch display screens.
As for paint colours, only 'Brilliant Black' and 'Ibis White' won't cost you a cent more. Optional colours include 'Cosmos Blue', 'Tango Red' and 'Monsoon Grey'.
The A1 comes in three variants, distinguished by their engines. We’ve found it also slots them neatly into potential buyer classes, and we’ll explain as we go along.
Kicking off the range wearing an MSRP of $32,350 is the 30 TFSI. Now the cheapest Audi you can buy, it comes packed with an eco-conscious 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine and seven-speed dual-clutch auto, 16-inch alloys, an 8.8-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, a 10.25-inch digital dash (no A1 comes with analog dials), DAB+ digital radio, front and rear parking sensors, cloth seat trim, and a turn-key ignition.
This is great spec, especially for a premium car, and surprising for Audi’s most affordable model. Another way of looking at it, is that you can get a lot of the same spec from a mid-grade VW Polo ($24,990), but it doesn’t look near as good as the A1, and Audi says it expects this car to draw a lot of buyers out of non-premium options.
Importantly, it should be drawing buyers from the not-quite as well equipped entry-level Mini Cooper ($34,000).
Next rung in the A1 range is the mid-grade 35 TFSI ($35,290). Offering a balance of spec and price, on the face of it, the 35 only offers buyers a few extra tidbits for a little extra cash.
You get 17-inch wheels, keyless entry and push-start, ambient interior lighting, auto-dimming rear vision mirror, armrest centre console, and a wireless phone charging bay. On top of that, the 35 TFSI is able to be specified with a more comprehensive list of option packages.
The 40 TFSI is the top-grade A1, and takes a significant jump from the rest of the range in terms of price at $46,450. The 40 TFSI has a more powerful 2.0-litre engine, and increases the specification to include 18-inch alloy wheels, S-Line pack which significantly ups the visual ante, dual-zone climate control, adaptive suspension, heated and auto-folding rear vision mirrors, Audi’s fully-fledged 'Virtual Cockpit' digital dash, built-in sat-nav and internet connectivity, as well as wireless CarPlay via a larger 10.1-inch screen.
It’s true the 40 TFSI is expensive, easily beyond $50k once you add a few options, but it stands in place of the discontinued S1 hot hatch.
Engine & trans
Now on to the engines. Yes, I’m doing this in what may seem a strange order, but trust me, it’s to guide you safely through the A3 range without anybody getting lost. We don’t leave anybody behind here, not on my watch.
The grades indicate the engines in the A3 line-up – the higher the grade, the more powerful the engine. So, the range starts with the 1.0 TFSI which has a 85kW/200Nm 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine, and steps up to the 1.4 TFSI which has a 110kW/250Nm 1.4-litre four-cylinder with cylinder on demand (COD) letting it run on two cylinders when not under load). Both are front-wheel drive (FWD) cars.
Next rung up is the 2.0 TFSI Sport and that has a 2.0-litre four making 140kW/320Nm with drive going to the front wheels. The top of the range is the 2.0 TFSI quattro S line which has the same engine but is all-wheel drive (AWD).
Those are all turbo-petrol engines – yes, no diesels and no manual gearbox option either. All have a seven-speed dual-clutch automatics shifting the gears.
If you’re after something more hardcore in the same package, there are two halo ‘models’ that sit above the A3 range: the S3 with a 213kW/380Nm 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four and the RS3 with its 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo-petrol making 294kW/480Nm.
Each of the three A1 trim levels is defined by its engine.
The base engine in the 30 TFSI is a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol. It produces a city-car appropriate 85kW/200Nm.
Next up is the 35 TFSI which offers a bit more power, good for buyers who will use the freeway a bit more often. It’s the most recent engine here, a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo which produces 110kW/250Nm. It’s worth noting this engine is fitted with an emissions-reducing petrol particulate filter (PPF) in Europe, but this component had to be removed for the Australian version as our lax fuel standards could have caused problems.
This engine does get ‘cylinder-on-demand’ technology, which can shut down two of the four cylinders when cruising to save fuel.
The top engine available in the 40 TFSI is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo producing 147kW/320Nm. It’s a far punchier unit, offering a clear driver’s choice in the A1 line-up, especially now it’s unlikely we’ll ever see a proper hot-hatch S1.
The 1.0-litre and 1.5-litre engines are both mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, while the top-spec 2.0-litre has a six-speed dual-clutch instead. A five- or six-speed manual version, available in Europe, will not make it to Australia.
Fuel usage depends on the engine and body style, with weights varying across the range. The most fuel-efficient engine is the 1.0-litre which is only offered on the Sportback, and Audi says over a combination of urban and open roads you should see it use 4.8L/100km.
The 1.4 TFSI Sportback uses 5.0L/100km, while the Sedan uses 4.9L/100km, but the heavier Cabriolet drinks more at 5.1L/100km.
My most recent A3 test car was a 1.4 TFSI Sportback and the trip computer reported 7.6L/100km over a mix of city and country kays - not bad.
The 2.0 TFSI Sport Sportback uses 5.9L/100km, the Sedan needs 5.8L/100km, the Cabriolet a bit more at 6.0L/100km.
The 2.0 TFSI quattro S Line Sportback uses 6.2L/100km, while the Sedan will go through 6.1L/100km and the Cabriolet again is highest with 6.4L/100km.
That raises the question of how much more does the Cabriolet weigh? About 170kg more than the Sedan and Sportback thanks to the extra reinforcement needed to strengthen the body to compensate for the rigidity it loses by not having a fixed metal roof.
How much of that 95 RON fuel you’ll consume will obviously depend on which engine you choose. We didn’t have time to give you a fair indication of real-world figures on our drive program, so we’ll be working with official, combined cycle numbers.
The 1.0-litre 30 TFSI has a claimed, combined cycle fuel consumption figure of 5.4L/100km. It’s surprising to see it come in as higher than the five-door automatic three-cylinder Mini Cooper, which is rated at 5.0L/100km despite producing more power.
Stepping up to the 1.5-litre four-cylinder 35 TFSI puts the official combined consumption number up to 5.8L/100km, and the 2.0-litre four-cylinder 40 TFSI will consume an official combined 6.4L/100km.
The best estimate I can give you on real-world consumption for now is the 7.0L/100km I scored on the three-cylinder Polo which the 30 TFSI shares its engine with.
I’ve driven all A3 variants from the 1.0 TFSI to the 2.0 TFSI quattro S Line, plus the S3 and RS3, but most recently I tested the 1.4 TFSI Sportback, which I’ll focus on here.
Our car was fitted with two optional packages – the 'Style Package' which adds LED headlights, 18-inch alloys and sports suspension, and the 'Technik Package' which brings a virtual instrument cluster, an 8.3-inch display and sports steering wheel.
Those larger 18-inch alloys wearing low profile 225/40 Hankook Ventus S1 Evo2 tyres look great, but like thin-soled shoes you’ll feel every imperfection on the road giving a harsher texture to the ride, plus they can be noisy on course-chip bitumen.
I’d stick to the standard 16-inch wheels. Sure, they don’t look as racy, but the ride from those, on 55 profile tyres, is a lot more cushioned.
Despite that grittier feel from the tyres the sports suspension is excellent and manages to soften bigger bumps well. Handling is good too, thanks to that suspension keeping the body well controlled.
Good visibility, steering that’s light but offers decent feel, and a comfortable seating position make the A4 pleasant to pilot, but not hugely engaging. If you're after more of a driver’s car, the S3 and RS3 will deliver – trust me.
Acceleration isn’t bad from the 1.4-litre, with 0-100km/h claimed to be 8.2 seconds. That dual-clutch transmission is a quick shifter and smooth even in bumper-to-bumper traffic, but only if you turn off the stop-start engine system (jerky and hard to tolerate).
I’m also not a fan of the way the stop-start system switches the engine off as you coast to a stop at traffic lights and intersections. For me, that borders on a safety issue, particularly when needing to turn on an amber only to find you momentarily lack steering or power.
As mentioned in the engine/transmission section, the 1.4 TFSI Sportback is a FWD car. Put it on a steep hill, as I did on our test incline, and even in dry conditions it’ll lose traction under hard acceleration. Traction control reins the slippage in, but AWD 'quattro' cars won’t struggle for traction in the same circumstances.
We had a chance to sample all three A1 variants at the launch, and we’re happy to report each one slots into its target category nicely.
All cars benefit from an adjustable and sporty driving position, which is comfortable, even over long periods, and genuinely pleasant steering.
It’s really light at low speeds, but stiffens up to offer responsive and direct feedback at speed.
The entry-level three-cylinder kicks along nicely at city speeds, with its peak torque being available at a low 2000rpm.
It certainly feels like it punches above its weight, but that doesn’t stop it from feeling a little weak on the freeway, for more high-speed overtaking maneuvers. There just isn’t much power left in reserve.
The 30 TFSI has the least road noise of the trio thanks to its smallish wheels and spongey rubber.
Stepping up to the 35 TFSI brings a welcome power upgrade (adding 35kW/50Nm). It feels like the engine most suited to this car, with great performance at all speeds.
It’s far from a hot-hatch, but the efficiency technologies gained here should help buyers save a bit of extra fuel in the long run.
Power is much better at freeway speeds, and that’s perhaps what will sell this car over the three-cylinder which seems like a better fit for a predominantly city-slicking buyer.
Road noise picks up a bit, with the 35 TFSI’s extra wheel size and slim profile tyres.
The top-spec 40 TFSI seems to be an S1 hot-hatch in everything but name. The 2.0-litre engine with its relatively massive power outputs is more than enough for something this size, and it comes with some genuine performance enhancements too.
These include adaptive dampers (with three modes), paddle-shifters, and a seemingly more sporting six-speed dual clutch – which has more clearly defined ratios to play with.
While I was expecting the ride to be unduly harsh on the 40 TFSI just by eyeballing its big wheels, the experience behind the wheel blew me away with how comfortable those active dampers make it.
Even in ‘dynamic’ sport mode, the 40 TFSI is comfortable, while also being even more confident in the corners than the two cars below it. It also tightens up the steering and transmission response for a proper driver’s experience.
Driving on the paddle shifters was a good laugh, as they are instantly responsive, and having just six ratios proved immensely satisfying on country back roads.
The main downside of each variant was the road-noise, but other than that I only found the stop-start system to be a tad clunky in T-junctions. Combined with a dual-clutch auto, it can take a full second for everything to get going again, potentially costing you a gap in traffic.
Overall, every A1 is great fun behind the wheel, and each one slots nicely into a bracket suited to a particular target audience, be it someone who wants a city runabout or even someone looking for a luxury-tinged hot hatch.
The A3 has a maximum five-star ANCAP rating from its 2013 crash test, which applies to the Sportback, Sedan and Cabriolet.
While the Sedan and Sportback have seven airbags, the Cabriolet has just five, missing out on the head-level curtain bags.
The amount of advanced safety equipment increases as you step up through the grades, but AEB is standard across the range. Lane keeping assistance, blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert becomes standard from the 2.0 TFSI Sport upwards, while the lower grades can attain these with the optional $1500 'Assistance Package'.
For child seats there are two ISOFIX mounts and two top tether anchor points across the back seats in the Sedan, Sportback and Cabriolet.
The A1 hits the market with a fresh maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating. This is largely thanks to its camera-and-radar based auto emergency braking system (AEB – works up to 250km/h for other vehicles or up to 65km/h for pedestrians), and lane departure warning with lane keep assist.
There is no blind-spot monitoring, or rear cross traffic alert available on the A1 range, however active cruise control can be optioned to the 40 TFSI as part of the ‘Premium Plus pack’ ($2990).
Freeway speed AEB is impressive for any city-sized hatch, let alone a premium one and on our test we found the lane keep assist tech to be subtle but reassuring.
All A1s now have a reversing camera as well as front and rear parking sensors. The expected refinements like six airbags, stability control and brake controls are also all present. The lack of a spare will be a let-down for long-distance drivers.
The A1 soldiers on with a three-year/unlimited kilometer warranty, which is standard among premium automakers – but still miles behind the mainstream industry standard of five year’s warranty.
Service intervals for all A1 variants are set at 15,000km or 12 months, whichever occurs first.
The best news is in the A1’s service pricing which is most efficiently pre-paid as a pack at the time of purchase (and hence, can be added in on finance). The service packs are priced at a very-cheap-for-a-premium brand $1480 for three years or $1990 for five years.
The A1 is built in Spain.