Audi A3 VS Peugeot 508
- 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
- Hatch and wagon available to Aussies
- Punchy engine in top-spec model
- Some questionable fit/finish
- Ingress/egress to back seat
- Pricing unknown
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|
Peugeot reckons you shop with your eyes. That should mean the company will sell plenty of this car, the new Peugeot 508 2019 model.
The problem will be convincing the other, more brain-like parts of its potential customers that this is a vehicle worth considering. Most people want SUVs now, and Peugeot has the impressive seven-seat 5008 SUV if you want something like that.
But there are reasons that this car is more appealing than an SUV. More than just its striking design, this is a car with style and substance.
|Engine Type||2.0L 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.
So is it worth considering the 508? Well that will depend on how it's priced. We won't know that til mid-2019, but all signs point to this being a compelling option, and a nice alternative to some of those other luxury-focused European models, too.
Has the Peugeot 508 done enough to lure buyers away from the German brands? Tell us what you think in the comments section 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.
Yes, there's a lot that's interesting about the design. But the main point is that it's absolutely gorgeous.
Having spent a few days in and around 508s, I struggled to find a bad angle to the exterior styling. I don't think there is one. Even the lower-grade models look good on smaller (18-inch) wheels, while the GT on 19s looks just right.
From the sharp LED daytime running lights that drop like fangs from the maw of the front end, to the elegant lines that run side to side and the full LED headlight clusters, the front is pretty. I even like that it proudly has '508' brandished above the lion emblem on the grille.
And while Peugeot is acting like most European manufacturers in saying the car is inspired by a coupe, it actually does kind of look like a four-door coupe without being tryhard about it. Peugeot officially calls it a fastback.
Little things like pillarless doors help in that regard - they're very sporty for a mainstream model. And while it might be a convincing sedan shape to some, it's actually one of those clever liftback hatches. We'll get to the practicalities of that in the next section.
The rear end is simple in its styling; the smoked tail-light finish and black central finisher mean it's not fussy in any way back there.
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.
Yes, there'll be a Touring version; a wagon model known as the 508 SW in Europe. And yes, it'll be more practical, with a bigger boot and arguably even more kerb appeal.
But the 508 Fastback was the model we tested, and it doesn't disappoint too much for usability and practicality.
The boot is said to offer 487 litres of cargo capacity, which is pretty decent for a vehicle of this size, and the storage space can expand to 1537L with the back seats folded down. And unlike lots of Peugeots that have come before it, there's decent storage in the cabin, too.
Yep, you even get good-sized cup holders! There are two between the front seats, and the door pockets are decent, too.
More impressive than the storage, though, is the presentation of the cabin. The finishes are lovely, and at a quick glance it feels more convincing in terms of premium-ness than some other European models from more expensive brands.
The 508 has Peugeot's i-cockpit set-up, which means there's a small steering wheel that you look over the top of to see the instruments. It's polarising - some people don't like having a steering wheel sitting so low - but personally, I love it.
The 12.3-inch digital info screen itself is lovely, and offers a lot of different views and configurations depending on what you want to see. Plus there's a 10.0-inch touchscreen media system with sat nav, plus there's Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. All models are expected to get wireless phone charging as well.
The seats offer good adjustment and reasonable comfort, but the ones in our test vehicles were the sports seats in the optional Nappa leather trim, and they were are a bit hard. Hopefully the lower grade versions without leather are a bit cushier.
Another complaint in the cars we tested was some questionable fit and finish. The paddleshifters, for instance, are constructed of several parts, none of which fit together very well (why not just a single aluminium piece, Peugeot?). We also noted a squeaky, loose centre console in one car, and some uneven fitment lines across the dashboard.
What about back seat space? With the driver's seat set in my position (I'm six-foot tall, or 182cm) the room back there isn't tremendous, but I would be comfortable for a couple of hours.
There's good knee room but anyone taller than me might struggle for headroom, especially when getting in and out - that coupe-style roofline has its downsides. And people with big feet may complain about the toe room. I've got size-12 feet and they were cramped.
There are the requisite ISOFIX child-seat anchor points and top tethers, and while the new model is wider than the 508 that came before it, three-across might still be a squish. At least there are rear air vents and the seats are pretty comfy.
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 exact pricing and specifications are still to be confirmed for the new Peugeot 508, but we can make some educated guesses.
It is expected that the target zone for the range is between $45,000 and $55,000, meaning it'll compete with upper-end versions of mainstream rivals like the Mazda6 and Skoda Octavia, and under the likes of the Volkswagen Arteon. You might also consider it a more affordable alternative to the likes of the Audi A5, Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class or BMW 4 Series GranCoupe.
It is possible that there'll be three grades offered, and the Fastback hatch and Touring wagon of each. But we'd bank on a more simple line-up, with maybe three or four versions of the 508 to choose from.
We sampled the GT-Line and the flagship GT. Full specifications will follow closer to the local launch of the 508 range in the second quarter of 2019.
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.
The difference is the power outputs. The low-spec model has a 180 horsepower rating, which translates to 133kW, and it has 250Nm of torque.
The flagship drivetrain in the GT model has 225 horsepower, or 168kW, and 350Nm. This model has a zero-100km/h claim of just 7.3 seconds. The other version claims 7.9sec.
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 official European claimed fuel consumption for the high-spec engine is rated at just 6.5L/100km, while the less powerful engine uses a touch less fuel at 6.0L/100km. I saw displayed fuel use on test - with a mix of freeway, traffic-snarled highway, back road and spirited driving - of 8.9L/100km.
Fuel tank capacity is 62 litres. It requires 95RON premium unleaded fuel.
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.
Having spent time in both variants, it's fair to say you probably don't need the GT with the extra grunt, but it is a nicer car overall.
That's because the GT gets the additional 35kW and 100Nm - increases of 15 and 40 per cent, respectively - which translates to a considerably more urgent response under hard throttle. It's a quick car, let down a bit by the eight-speed automatic transmission which has a tendency to hang on to gears if you decide to back off the throttle, letting the revs linger higher than you might want.
The lower-output engine is suitable for meeting the requirements of the vast majority of buyers in this part of the market, with decent pulling power and rolling response, but there's a bit of low-rev lag to contend with.
The 508's drive mode system allows you to choose between Sport, Normal and Comfort modes for the steering, transmission and throttle calibration, and the GT's version also adjusts the car's adaptive dampers. You can notice it more at higher speeds on bumpy roads - in Sport mode, the GT's 19s can be a touch terse, where comfort allows a little more in the way of bump-soak through the suspension.
The GT-Line on 18s felt reasonably judged in terms of suspension, with a slightly firm edge to the ride. I'm very intrigued as to how each will cope with Australia's, ahem, poorer road surfaces.
I like the small steering wheel and it feels pretty agile for a car of this size, with pretty nippy steering at higher speeds. It is a little lifeless in terms of feel, though, so enthusiasts may be left wanting more.
One thing that stood out was how quiet it was. Admittedly our drive wasn't on coarse-chip roads like those so prominent in Australia, but the cabin was nicely muted at freeway pace, rather well insulated from road and wind noise, and the engine - which sounded pretty snarly under hard throttle - was hushed enough in more sedate moments.
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.
At the time of writing, the new-generation version of the Peugeot 508 hadn't been tested by Euro NCAP or ANCAP, so we can't vouch for its safety rating. But the brand says it "offers a wide range of latest-generation driving aids that notably meet EuroNCAP criteria, which are ever more demanding".
Every model globally is fitted with autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection (up to 140km/h), a reversing camera, plus there are available advanced items like a Night Vision system (infrared camera), a 360-degree camera with parking sensors all around and semi-autonomous parking assist.
Other tech items expected to be offered include: adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, driver fatigue alert, high-beam assist, speed limit recognition, and active blind-spot monitoring (with intervention). There are six airbags, too.
Because we don't know what we'll get in Australia, and what will be standard or optional, we've gone with an 8/10 here.
The warranty period offered by Peugeot is now five years/unlimited kilometres, and you get the same cover for roadside assist, too.
The brand also has a capped-price service program, known as its Service Price Promise, which covers up to nine years/180,000km. The service intervals for the current 508 model are every 12 months or 20,000km, which is nice and generous.
While service pricing isn't confirmed yet for the new model, it is expected that the costs will be higher than some of the mainstream competition. The existing model averaged $605 per service - double some rivals. So unless it's considerably more affordable for the new model, we're lopping some points off for that.