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Audi A3 2018 review

EXPERT RATING
7.5
The Audi A3 range offers you a lot of choices, maybe too many choices. That's why we've made this range review just for you.

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.

Audi A3 2018: 2.0 TFSI
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency5.8L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$35,990

Is there anything interesting about its design?  8/10

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.

The Sportback has a wagon-like appearance with its large (for a hatch) rear quarter windows. The Sportback has a wagon-like appearance with its large (for a hatch) rear quarter windows.

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 A3 is one of the only tiny sedans on the planet that looks fantastic. 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.

When the roof is down the A3 appears lower, sleeker, and tougher. When the roof is down the A3 appears lower, sleeker, and tougher.

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.

Or there’s BMW’s 1 Series hatch and 2 Series Coupe. The 1 Series hatch is seriously ugly, the 2 Series is stunning and looks fast standing still.

How practical is the space inside?  7/10

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. 

There are two cupholders up front in all cars, only the Cabriolet has two in the back. There are two cupholders up front in all cars, only the Cabriolet has two in the back.

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.

Leg and headroom in the back row for all body styles is limited. Leg and headroom in the back row for all body styles is limited.

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.

The Sportback offers up 340 litres, but fold those rear seats down and you have 1180 litres. The Sportback offers up 340 litres, but fold those rear seats down and you have 1180 litres.

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.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?  7/10

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.

Standard on the entry-grade $36,200 1.0 TFSI Sportback are xenon headlights with LED running lights. Standard on the entry-grade $36,200 1.0 TFSI Sportback are xenon headlights with LED running lights.

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.

The A3 is a starter on the Audi menu. The A3 is a starter on the Audi menu.

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'.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?  7/10

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.

The range starts with the 1.0 TFSI which has a 85kW/200Nm 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine. The range starts with the 1.0 TFSI which has a 85kW/200Nm 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine.

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. 

Given they are almost stand-alone models, the S3 and RS3 aren't included in this review, but you can read about them separately by clicking those links.

How much fuel does it consume?  8/10

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.

The most fuel-efficient engine is the 1.0-litre which is only offered on the Sportback. The most fuel-efficient engine is the 1.0-litre which is only offered on the Sportback.

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.

What's it like to drive?  8/10

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. 

Good visibility, steering that’s light and comfortable seating make the A4 pleasant to pilot. Good visibility, steering that’s light and comfortable seating make the A4 pleasant to pilot.

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. 

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?  8/10

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 A3 has a maximum five-star ANCAP rating from its 2013 crash test. The A3 has a maximum five-star ANCAP rating from its 2013 crash test.

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.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?  7/10

The A3 is covered by Audi’s three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended at 15,000km/12-month intervals. A three-year/45,000km service plan is available and costs $1680.

Pricing Guides

$43,880
Based on 215 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$32,990
Highest Price
$61,007

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
1.4 TFSI S TRONIC COD 1.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $48,995 – 57,900 2018 AUDI A3 2018 1.4 TFSI S TRONIC COD Pricing and Specs
2.0 TFSI S TRONIC QUATTRO SPRT 2.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $45,870 – 53,350 2018 AUDI A3 2018 2.0 TFSI S TRONIC QUATTRO SPRT Pricing and Specs
2.0 TFSI S TRONIC SPORT 2.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $48,980 – 59,850 2018 AUDI A3 2018 2.0 TFSI S TRONIC SPORT Pricing and Specs
35 TFSI (1.4 TFSI) 1.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $37,990 – 56,999 2018 AUDI A3 2018 35 TFSI (1.4 TFSI) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.5
Design8
Engine & trans7
Price and features7
Driving8
Fuel consumption8
Practicality7
Safety8
Ownership7

“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. ”

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.

Richard Berry
Senior Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$35,990

Lowest price, based on 9 car listings in the last 6 months

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