Audi A3 VS Volkswagen Passat
- 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
- Super practical
- Easy to drive
- Great safety equipment
- Dual clutch auto isn't too smooth at low speed
- No heated steering wheel
- Halogen lights are dim
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|
I like you already. Even if you don’t end up picking the Volkswagen Passat 132TSI Comfortline wagon, the fact you’re here means you’re willing to think outside the SUV square that so many Australians may get a bit stuck in when buying a car for the family or work, or both.
See, SUVs are kind of the cargo shorts of the car world because of their practicality, but do you want to wear cargo shorts everywhere? Wagons generally handle on the road better than SUVs and can be just as practical - especially if it’s the Passat 132TSI Comfortline.
Think of this wagon as the comfortable but cool jeans of the car world that you can get away with at a dinner or a picnic, the ones that always surprise you with how much stuff you manage to take out of the pockets when it comes to time to wash them.
|Engine Type||1.8L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium 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 Passat 132TSI Comfortline wagon is a well-equipped, super practical, good looking, and easy to drive alternative to an SUV. I’d option the Luxury Package for the LED headlights if you’re doing lots of country kays, plus it brings you auto parking – making life with it even easier. Jeans or cargo shorts? The choice is yours.
Are you a cargo shorts or jeans type of guy or girl? Does a wagon appeal more to you than an SUV? 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 Passat wagon doesn’t have the flowing curves of the Mazda6 nor the killer-bee look of the Levorg, nope, but there is so much appeal in its restrained and organised design, with razor sharp lines and ridges. It’s a serious and prestige look, that’s less about bling and more about utility.
The 132TSI Comfortline and the 132TSI grade below it in the range look almost identical from the outside – both have the chrome blades on the grille, and the chrome trim around the windows, and there’s the dual exhaust. The only difference is the wheels. While both come with 17-inch wheels, the 132TSI Comfortline has the ‘London’ style not the ‘Soho’ style of the 132TSI.
The interior has the same clean design and premium feel. There’s the simple, logical layout of controls and a high-quality feel to the materials. The 132TSI Comfortline like the 132TSI below it in the line-up has a ‘Silver Diamond’ trim on the dash, the centre console and doors. I think the leather seats make the cabin with their ‘tuck and roll’ style.
You need to step up to the top of the range 206 TSI R-Line to get the fully digital active driving display as standard, but you can option it on the R-Line package which also brings bigger 18-inch wheels, aluminium face pedals and a tougher looking body kit.
Our test car didn’t have any options fitted and that 'Pure White' paint it wears is the only no-cost colour. I don’t think it shows off the Passat’s lines best, not as well as the optional 'Pyrite Silver Metallic', or 'Manganese Grey Metallic', the 'Harvard Deep Blue Metallic' and the 'Deep Black Pearl Effect'.
How big is the Passat 132TSI Comfortline wagon? Not as big as it looks in the pictures. The dimensions show it to be a bit less than 4.8m in length (the same as the sedan version), 1.8m wide and almost 1.5m tall.
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 Passat 132TSI Comfortline does the practicality thing well with a roomy cabin and good storage space.
Up front is spacious with plenty of shoulder and headroom, while rear legroom is excellent. I’m 191cm and can sit behind my driving position with about 40mm between my knees and the seatback. Headroom back there is outstanding, too.
Those rear doors are giant and swing wide like the one on a bank vault making it super easy to get in and out – look at the images.
I have a three-year-old who is now insisting on climbing in and out of every test car we have – it used to be annoying (because he takes his time) but it’s now becoming part of the car testing process. He’s fallen backwards, forwards and sideways out of SUVs because of their height and if the entry way is narrow the sloping door sill makes it harder to for him to get secure footing, (don’t judge me, I’m there to catch him…mostly).
But the Passat was low enough for him to easily step up or down from and the doorway wide enough for him to have plenty of flat door sill to stand on.
The boot opening is enormous, too, and luggage space with the rear seats up is 650 litres (more than the Mazda6 wagon and Commodore Sportwagon) and you have a cargo capacity of 1152 litres with them folded down.
There are four cupholders – two in the front and two in the back, large bottle holders in all the doors, and a deep centre console bin with USB port. There are three 12-volt outlets – one in the front, one in the second row and one in the cargo area.
Those in the back seats are the masters of their own climate with digital controls for temperature and directional vents.
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 Passat comes in three grades and the 132TSI Comfortline sits right in the middle of the range. While the sedan lists for $41,990 the wagon asks $43,990. That’s $6K more than the entry grade 132TSI wagon – so what do you get that the base-spec car doesn’t?
For starters it comes with the larger 9.2-inch screen (not the 8.0-inch) and the more sophisticated 'Discover Pro' media system with sat nav and gesture control, plus voice control for phone and the navigation.
The seats are leather, not cloth. There’s also the auto tailgate with kick-open function, 14-way power adjustable and heated front seats, electric folding door mirrors with reverse kerb adjustment, puddle lights, front fog lights, proximity key and a start button. The 132TSI Comfortline also has more safety equipment than the 132TSI, which we’ll cover below.
That was the gear that comes on the 132TSI Comfortline over the 132TSI. Here’s what they both get: there’s the LED tail-lights, roof rails, three-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors with visual display, floor mats, halogen headlights, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, eight-speaker stereo and a leather wrapped steering wheel.
Is it good value? Yes. The 132TSI Comfortline is the sweet spot for value in the range. Is there anything that should be there that’s not? Yes. A head-up display – or the option for one would be good. Ventilated seats are welcome in Australia, but not offered on the Passat, neither is a heated steering wheel.
The Holden Commodore RS Sportwagon will cost you less at $39,490, but it’s 13cm longer – that could be the difference between making it into a parking spot or not.
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.
Shifting gears for you is a seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission.
You and I know this isn’t a performance car, but a 0-100km/h time of 8.1 seconds means there’s enough oomph to move quickly if you need to with confidence, such as in overtaking situations.
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 measured our test car’s fuel consumption at the petrol pump and after 177km of inner-city peak-hour commutes in the morning and late nights on empty motorways measured 8.0L/100km when it came to fill up. That’s still good mileage.
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.
In a word: easy. The Passat 132TSI Comfortline is easy to see out of, easy to park, easy to sit comfortably in for long periods of time whether it’s in peak-hour traffic going nowhere or on the motorway at 110km/h.
The cabin is quiet, the ride is composed, and on-board tech such as gesture control for the media adds to its all-round easiness.
Easy, but not perfect. The halogen headlights are dim and while they’re fine in the city you’ll really notice on Australia’s poorly lit country roads and highways – I strongly recommended optioning the 'Luxury Package' which brings the incredibly bright LED headlights.
The dual-clutch auto transmission isn’t perfectly smooth at low speeds, either. But I feel I am just looking for problems where there really aren’t many.
If you’re after a more sporty driving experience and looks to match there’s the Passat 206 TSI R-Line – much more power and aggressive styling to go with it.
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.
Wondering what else the 132TSI Comfortline gets over the 132TSI grade below it? More standard safety equipment. Yup, while all Passats come with AEB which works at lower city speeds, manoeuvre braking (front and rear), a rear-view camera, and parking sensors, the 132TSI Comfortline also comes with blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert and lane departure warning.
Do I still need to tell you that the Passat wagon has a five-star ANCAP rating? It does.
For child and baby seats there are three top tether anchor mounts and two ISOFIX points in the second row.
Happy to report, too, that the 132TSI Comfortline comes standard with a full-sized spare wheel. That’s becoming a rarity with many car makers opting for a space saver spare, which might save weight and space, but in Australia where distances are vast a full-sized spare is an essential part of a good safety kit.
The Passat 132TSI Comfortline is covered by Volkswagen’s three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.
Servicing is recommended every 15,000km/12 months and pricing is capped.
You can expect to pay $476 for the first service, $671 for the second, $563 for the third, $857 for the fourth and $476 for the fifth.
It’s more than most Japanese and Korean brands charge for a service. Mazda for example caps servicing no higher than $341 for each service over five years for it’s 2.5-litre petrol GT Mazda6 wagon and has a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.
So, the Passat 132TSI Comfortline is losing marks here for its short warranty and relatively high servicing costs.