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Audi A3 2020 review: Sportback 35 TFSI


You wouldn't look at the size of this and think, what a great family car... we know.

But whether you need a second, runaround car, or if this is going to be your family's main mode of transport, the Audi A3 Sportback is a small car done really well - and that's always an enjoyable thing to drive.

Like most small things, the Audi A3 is adorable, but it also manages to be sophisticated and modern at the same time. (image: Dean McCartney) Like most small things, the Audi A3 is adorable, but it also manages to be sophisticated and modern at the same time. (image: Dean McCartney)

It's pricey for a small car at $43,300, before on-road costs - but gosh it's cute and zippy and just a whole lot of fun.

I test drove the A3 35 TFSI which is second up in a range of four and competes with cars like the Mercedes A-Class and BMW 1 Series. Here's how it did over a week of driving around suburbia with my family.

How does it look?

Like most small things, the Audi A3 is adorable, but it also manages to be sophisticated and modern at the same time.

The shape feels fresh with curved angles and it retains the signature Audi elegance. This particular colour on a small car is fantastic, especially when paired with the silver wheels.

The shape feels fresh with curved angles and it retains the signature Audi elegance. (image: Dean McCartney) The shape feels fresh with curved angles and it retains the signature Audi elegance. (image: Dean McCartney)

Inside, it's not your usual, super-flash Audi, but it's still designed nicely and looks good. It has leather appointed seats and a leather steering wheel - you can choose from a traditional round wheel or a flat-bottomed wheel (which I prefer, but it's a personal thing) and it feels good to touch while driving.

Other design elements include the round air vents and a matte metallic finish around the gear shifter. The multimedia screen rises up from the centre dash which is a nice touch and there is a digital dashboard in front of the driver to keep things modern.

Overall, it's a good looking car and it feels nice to drive.

Inside, it's not your usual, super-flash Audi, but it's still designed nicely and looks good. (image: Dean McCartney) Inside, it's not your usual, super-flash Audi, but it's still designed nicely and looks good. (image: Dean McCartney)

How does it drive?

The A3 35 TFSI is a zippy little thing that zooms all over town with ease. It's fun to drive, smooth on the road and handles really well. The steering wheel is lovely to turn and makes nipping in and out of traffic a breeze.

It's got a 1.4-litre turbo-petrol engine so it gets up hills quickly and while it was fine to drive along highways, I did feel rather small next to some of the bigger trucks driving long distance.

Parking is easy given the size and the way the steering wheel turns, I fit into loads of parks this week I wouldn't normally be able to. It's also got a clear reverse parking camera.

The A3 35 TFSI is a zippy little thing that zooms all over town with ease. (image: Dean McCartney) The A3 35 TFSI is a zippy little thing that zooms all over town with ease. (image: Dean McCartney)

How spacious is it?

While the size looks cute and compact, it also feels cute and compact.

Space in the front is good and there was enough leg and head space even for taller passengers this week, but it is limited. You can't put your seat back an enormous amount without impacting the passengers behind you.

The back seat fit me (161cm) fine, but it might feel tight for taller people or teenagers. (image: Dean McCartney) The back seat fit me (161cm) fine, but it might feel tight for taller people or teenagers. (image: Dean McCartney)

Still, for my young family (my children are six and eight, so still quite small), there was enough room.

The back seat fit me (161cm) fine, but it might feel tight for taller people or teenagers. My children fit easily and especially for how we used the car this week - driving around suburbia doing the school run and dropping the kids to activities - the size was convenient because my area is hard to park in and the size of this car made everything easy.

And 380L the boot is large for a small car, in fact bigger than some small SUVs. It fits the bulky CarsGuide pram so it's a good shape and it will hold school bags and groceries - just not all at the same time.

At 380L the boot is large for a small car, in fact bigger than some small SUVs. (image: Dean McCartney) At 380L the boot is large for a small car, in fact bigger than some small SUVs. (image: Dean McCartney)

How easy is it to use everyday?

This model still has manually adjusted front seats, not power, which I would like to see for $43,300 and the boot also opens and closes manually. There is keyless entry though, but you will have to apply the park brake yourself.

There are two cupholders up the front and a small shelf where you can stand your phone up in front of the gear stick. Inside the centre console storage is a Qi (chi) charger that will charge your phone if it's compatible.

There are also bottle holders in each door. Rear passengers miss out on cupholders but they do get their own air vents which is good for this category.

It's fun to drive, smooth on the road and handles really well. (image: Dean McCartney) It's fun to drive, smooth on the road and handles really well. (image: Dean McCartney)

What's the tech like?

There is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto so your phone's main apps will pop up on the multimedia screen and you can use maps to navigate or a streaming app to listen to music, but it's not a touchscreen which it could be.

The multimedia screen rises up from the centre dash which is a nice touch and there is a digital dashboard in front of the driver to keep things modern. (image: Dean McCartney) The multimedia screen rises up from the centre dash which is a nice touch and there is a digital dashboard in front of the driver to keep things modern. (image: Dean McCartney)

There is a manual knob to control the multimedia and it's probably the easiest one I've used so far, which does make up for most of it.

Our test A3 had the optional Bang & Olufsen audio system, and the sound is proper good, you can turn it right up.

How safe is it?

It comes with Auto Emergency Braking as standard but to get any further advanced safety features, you'll have to buy the 'Assistance Package' which this car I tested didn't have.

It has two ISOFIX points and three top tether points (though you won't fit three child car seats in the back) and scored a maximum five star ANCAP rating when it was tested back in 2013.

How much does it cost to own?

The Audi A3 35 TFSI costs $43,300 before on-road costs, and the stunning red paint job is an extra $1190.

Fuel consumption is a claimed 5.0 litres/100km thanks to cylinder deactivation - the car runs on two cylinders when it's not under heavy load.

It's covered by Audi's three year/unlimited km warranty and servicing is required every 15,000km or 12months.

The Audi A3 sportback 35 TFSI was a load of fun to drive around and I enjoyed being so small and nimble on the road. (image: Dean McCartney) The Audi A3 sportback 35 TFSI was a load of fun to drive around and I enjoyed being so small and nimble on the road. (image: Dean McCartney)


The Wrap

The Audi A3 sportback 35 TFSI was a load of fun to drive around and I enjoyed being so small and nimble on the road as a means of convenience, especially when driving through small inner city streets.

It was just large enough for my family of four which obviously has its drawbacks - no big road trips or camping in this car - but as a second car it really works.

It drives really well and looks great. I gave it a family rating of 7.9 out of 10, my kids gave it an 8.0 - they loved the red colour.

Likes

Exterior design
Smooth engine
Fuel efficiency

Dislikes

Advanced safety optional
No rear cupholders
Rear seat tight for taller people

Scores

Nedahl:

4

The Kids:

4

$43,300

Based on new car retail price