Audi A3 VS Hyundai i40
- 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
- Impressive ride and handling
- Diesel engine provides plenty of oomph
- Tiny display screen
- No AEB
- Tyre 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|
A wagon and not an SUV, eh? Respect. You see, when most people now think of a new car they think of an SUV, especially when they want something with a bit of cargo space. But not you.
So, what are the strengths and weaknesses of this Korean wagon, and should you wait or buy it now? Read on to find out.
|Engine Type||1.7L turbo|
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 i40 Tourer in the Active grade is great to drive, it’s practical, and should be low-cost to run. But you can bet the new version, due to arrive soon, will be, too. If you can wait, it's a safe bet the new i40 Tourer will have an updated look, improved safety equipment and retain all the good points of the previous model.
Would you buy the current i40, or would you be mad not to wait for the new one, coming soon? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
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.
The i40 wagon looks good, I even caught myself doing that admiring 'look back' thing you do when you walk away from your car. Thing is, the current i40 has the ‘old’ Hyundai styling that dates it compared to the new i30, Sonata and Kona, which reflect the brand’s latest look.
This brings me to something you should really know – the newer, updated i40 will arrive in Australia soon, and it will be more in line with Hyundai’s current design approach.
The i40 is also up against some hot-looking rivals. The Mondeo is gorgeous, the Passat is stately, and the Commodore also looks stunning. To be honest the i40 is the least attractive of that lot form where I’m looking. It’s also about the same size as that trio at 4775mm long, 1815mm wide and 1470mm in height.
My mum would call the interior of the i40 Active smart looking, but she doesn’t mean tech-smart, more school dance smart, and if she ever said that before you went to a school dance you’d get changed immediately.
Yes, it looks smart in a tidy, stylish way, but that tiny screen, cloth seats and ordinary plastics lower the tone compared to the Premium's more 'premium' interior.
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 i40 wagon nails the practicality category. Storage space is excellent with a deep, wide console bin under the centre armrest, and there’s another big well in front of the gear shifter.
There are large pockets in all the doors with bottle holders, two cupholders up front and another two in the fold-down rear armrest, plus another storage area in there, too.
Rear legroom borders on limo territory and even at 191cm I can sit behind my driving position with about 50mm of space between my knees and the seat back. Headroom back there is also extremely generous.
The rear doors open wide, making for an easy exit or entry, too.
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'.
There are only two grades in the i40 range - 'Active' and 'Premium'. And when it comes to engines you again have two choices - petrol or diesel. The latter adding $2600 to the price.
If you’re looking for the most affordable way into an i40 wagon go for the Active. Listing at a base price of $35,690, 'our' i40 Active Tourer diesel had one option – 'Ocean View' metallic paint, adding an extra $595.
The Active grade costs $9160 less than Premium, and as much as I’d like to say that top-spec car is pretty much the same, with some shiny bits of door trim added, I’d be lying.
The Active really does miss out on some decent stuff – the screen is the smallest I’ve seen since I wore a digital watch, at 4.3-inch (the Premium has a 7.0-inch), there’s air-con but not climate control, there’s keyless entry but not a proximity key or push button start.
The Active doesn’t get a power tailgate with a handsfree function like the Premium, or tinted rear glass, or a digital speedo, or a panoramic sunroof, or a power adjustable driver’s seat, or heated seats, all of which are standard on the Premium grade.
Yup, the Active may be as base grade as you can get but it still comes with paddles shifters, LED daytime running lights, an electric handbrake with auto hold function, front and rear parking sensors, cloth seats and 16-inch alloy wheels.
A list price nudging $36K may seem high, but don’t’ forget you’re paying more for the diesel engine. There’s good reason to spend the extra on the diesel, too – which I’ll explain below.
The i40 Active Tourer diesel undercuts the $39,040 Ford Mondeo Ambiente diesel wagon, while the Volkswagen Passat 140TDI wagon only comes in the mid-spec Highline grade for $49,990 (and is a bit ‘next level’ by comparison), while the Mazda6 wagon in Touring spec with diesel engine is $41,440.
Other rivals? Yes, the new Holden Commodore Sportwagon diesel is $38,890. So, compared to its rivals the i40 Active Tourer is a bit of a bargain.
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.
At 104kW, it may be less powerful than the petrol (121kW) but its 340Nm of torque gave it the shove to accelerate impressively from 1750rpm (idle is 800rpm).
The engine and dual-clutch combination performs beautifully; smooth even at low speed in traffic, and shifting down intuitively to make best use of engine braking.
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.
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.
A comfortable ride, impressive handling for the class, and a great engine and transmission mean the i40 Active Tourer diesel is engaging and enjoyable to drive.
The driving position is excellent, the seats are large but supportive, and the pedal feel is spot on. The i40 Tourer is way better to drive than it needs to be and would embarrass some cars from more prestigious brands.
It’s not all perfect: the cabin could be better insulated with wind noise obvious at 90km/h and tyre rumble intruding on course chip roads; visibility is hampered by those slanted A-pillars and the reversing camera image is next to useless thanks to the business card-sized screen in the Active.
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.
Hyundai’s website says the i40 Tourer scores the maximum five-star ANCAP rating. That’s true, but a bit sneaky because that ranking was given to the car back in 2013, and a lot has changed in terms of safety equipment in five years.
AEB, for example, is becoming common. So is rear cross traffic alert and blind spot warning, along with adaptive cruise control. You can’t get any of this advanced safety equipment on the current i40, not even the top-spec Premium.
Don’t get me wrong, the i40 is extremely safe with its suite of airbags, plus traction and stability controls - it’s just that the bar for safety has been raised higher.
The new i40 is expected to come armed with more up-to-date safety equipment.
If you’re fitting child seats you’ll find two ISOFIX mounts and three top tether anchor points across the rear row. It’s great to see a full-sized spare wheel under the boot floor, too.
The i40 Tourer is covered by Hyundai’s five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 15,000km/12months at a capped price of $339. A servicing plan is also available for three years ($777), four years ($1136), and five years ($1395).