Audi A3 VS Hyundai Ioniq
- 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
- Good electric range
- Updated cabin is nicer than before
- Quiet and refined (mostly)
- Plasticky interior still a bit plasticky
- Hefty price rise
- No spare and smaller boot
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|
Eighteen months ago, Hyundai had no electric vehicles on sale. Zip. Zero. Nada. A month ago they had four - three Ioniqs and the Kona EV. Okay, "only" three of them can run purely on electricity only, with the cheapest Ioniq operating as a Prius-style series hybrid.
It's been a busy year for electric cars, or should have been, because after much promise, the Mercedes EQ only just materialised and the Audi e-tron still isn't here. And Tesla's Model 3 orders are just now dribbling onto the road.
To pick up on the 18 months bit, just a month or so later, Hyundai launched their electrified assault with the three Ioniqs. They were each a solid start, even if the styling was a bit dull and they weren't much chop to drive.
The PHEV and BEV were both realistically priced and had a good electric range. Sadly, that wasn't enough to set the world on electric fire, was it? As a result, Hyundai has already launched a pretty decent update of the Ioniq, with the PHEV scoring new styling, pricing and an updated feature list.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
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 plug-in hybrid version of the Ioniq is the best balance for those who want electric propulsion without range anxiety or, as my father insists on putting it, the ability to "drive to Bourke" when you want to.
Most people's daily commute, according to the usual figures, is a 30km round trip. Even if it's double that, the Ioniq PHEV will deliver a huge chunk of electric running, ensuring zero tailpipe emissions and almost zero fuel cost if you've got solar panels to charge it with.
It seems odd, then, that's it's the least popular Ioniq of the three options. Either way, they're all good value and now, in 2020, with a price rise to pay for it all, there's more gear, slightly better looks and a very solid ownership experience, particularly if you're a city-dweller.
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 Ioniq's update includes new headlights, taillights, grille treatments and wheel designs. The new front end looks much, much better. Despite the headlamps looking like a set of lolly teeth in isolation, they work really well and the new grille has a cooler look and texture to it. It's still a fairly ho-hum design - for some reason - but when you put it alongside a knock-kneed, slab-sided Prius, it's a veritable oil painting.
The cabin is now dominated by Hyundai's biggest-ever touchscreen, a 10.25-inch monster perched over a new set of climate-control switchgear. In one hit the car suddenly feels a bit more futuristic. The rest of the dash is a fairly conventional sort of design but it's particular to the Ioniq rather than lifted out of another model.
Most of it feels pretty good but there are a few cheap bits and pieces throughout that let things down a little. To be fair, it's nothing major. The leather trim of the Premium probably isn't real leather, either, but it doesn't matter because it looks and feels nice.
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.
It doesn't look like a big boot - the plug-in's is smaller than the other two - but it swallows 341 litres (446 when filled to the roof) with seats in place and if you drop the rear seats, the space jumps to an impressive 1401 litres.
Front and rear rows each feature a pair of cupholders and each door has bottle holders, for a total of four.
Front-seat passengers have plenty of room, commensurate with a car the same size. The rear is a little tight for my 180cm frame when I'm behind my own driving position, but I'd be fine for a short to medium trip because my feet fit under the front seat. Three across is a distant dream and there isn't a lot of headroom, either.
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'.
As with the BEV and Hybrid, the PHEV comes in two flavours, Elite and Premium, the latter being the car I drove for the week. The PHEV itself is a plug-in hybrid, meaning the car is capable of running purely electric, in combination with an internal-combustion engine and on the ICE alone when the battery runs out.
For the 2020 update, prices are up - the Hybrid's increases by $800, the BEV by a whopping $3500, with the PHEV landing a $1000 whack. Hyundai justifies the price increase with more equipment, but the BEV's electric range boost not translate to the PHEV. Even a few kilometres extra range wouldn't have gone astray. Selfishly, EV pricing should be going south not north to lure customers.
For $46,490 you'll score 16-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control (with driver-only energy-saving option), an eight-speaker sound system, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors, electric driver's seat with memory, sat nav, auto LED headlights, auto wipers, heated windscreen, heated and powered mirrors, ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel and a tyre-repair kit instead of a spare tyre.
The huge new 10.25-inch touchscreen hosts a very impressive multimedia system that displays a lot of information about the car's electric drivetrain while also running Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and DAB+ digital radio.
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.
No real change for the 2020 PHEV - it packs a 1.6-litre naturally aspirated engine developing 77kW and 147Nm. Crammed into the chassis with it is an 8.9kWh battery powering a 44kW electric motor. When the engine is turning the wheels, power reaches the front ones via a six-speed twin-clutch transmission.
Once those figures are put together and all the usual mechanical losses accounted for, the total power available is 104kW and 265Nm, shifting 1550kg. The 0-100km/h experience is, shall we say, relaxed.
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.
The combined-cycle fuel figure for the Ioniq PHEV is a measly 1.1L/100km. I've always found Hyundai to be pretty close on the claimed figures, but this one is obviously skewed by the testing regime and I'm pretty sure the company will concede that. For most of the week I had the car, it got around on purely electric power, with the petrol engine kicking in on the last couple of days, resulting in 3.2L/100km, which is still pretty good.
The PHEV will charge in a six or seven hours from a domestic power socket without drama. Even with just a 43-litre tank, the indicated range nudges over 900km with a full battery and tank.
If you want to know where the nearest fast(ish) charge station is, the big touchscreen keeps a little bar active telling you. From home, the nearest one to me was nearly 12km away. If you've got range anxiety and nowhere to charge, it's both handy and sobering to know this figure.
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.
Electric cars are great. I know this isn't a full electric, but even PHEVs are handy when you put your foot down. Instant torque blast to get you going... nope. Not in the Ioniq PHEV.
The Ioniq is a far more gentle experience. You don't get that giant's-hand-shoving-you feeling, but you do get a steady stream of power and torque. Sometimes the engine will cut in, accompanied by a few bumps and whirrs from under the bonnet.
That's fine, though, because not everyone is after that whoosh experience, nor needs it. It's really a bit of a party trick. Where Hyundai has got the PHEV right is that it's a nice, smooth, predictable drive.
The steering wheel-mounted paddles aren't for gearshifts but to choose the level of energy recovery when you lift off. If you're not familiar, electric cars use what is effectively engine braking to much greater effect, sending charge back to the battery. You can choose three levels of regeneration, meaning that when you lift off, the braking effect is stronger and more power goes back to storage.
It's exceptionally useful to be able to change that, and you soon learn the delicate art of one-pedal driving, with the brake pedal used as a full stop.
The first time I drove the Ioniq PHEV, I appreciated the hybrid drivetrain's range on electric-only running. This time, in the new version, I got nearly 60km before the engine came on full time, a decent improvement either in my driving or the car itself.
I don't recall being all that impressed with the handling before, but the ride was pretty good. Either the Premium has better tyres or the suspension has had a bit of a tweak. It's not an excitement machine, but it feels a bit flatter in the corners than before and a bit more positive when you turn the wheel.
When the engine has taken over, the transmission can be a little indecisive and it misses the torque fill of the electric motor as the battery goes into a sort of energy-saver mode until it's back up to a reasonable level. You still get electric assistance when you move off from a stop, which helps keep fuel use down, however.
Overall, this Ioniq is very nicely set up and friendly to newcomers.
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 Ioniq arrives from South Korea with seven airbags, stability and traction controls, forward AEB, auto high-beam, rear cross-traffic alert and lane-keep assist.
Two ISOFIX and three top-tether anchors take care of the baby seats.
In a December 2016 report, the Ioniq scored a five-star ANCAP rating (it was released in NZ a year earlier than we got it).
As with the rest of the Hyundai range, the PHEV comes with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. The capped-price servicing regime lasts for the same period of time and will hit you for just $1525 over five years, or just over $300 per year.
Roadside assist starts with 12 months and with every service at Hyundai, you get another 12 months.