New A3 “tailor-made dinner jacket.”
Cabin Spare But With Some Audi Touches
The styling objective inside was met too, but not with as rewarding a result. Garand says the target was a Bauhaus theme of “clear, logical and timeless” design, but with more sensuality than the sterility that architectural movement implies. But the A3’s stepped-down materials, combined with its uncluttered appearance, may be a little too sparing for some.
However, there are some Audi-like touches that dress things up a bit, such as the aluminum accent trim along the doors, dash, vent surrounds, gearshift and center console and the brand’s characteristic sport gauge/information-screen combo. Also available is Audi’s well-honed MMI system, complete with optional touchpad-based handwriting-recognition technology.
The tiered instrument panel also adds a little life, and the retractable navigation/MMI screen that rises out of a slot in the dashboard when the car is started is a clear winner. The round air vents inject a sporty flair that pairs the sedan more closely with the upcoming TT sports car than the more luxury-oriented A4 sedan.
There are myriad ways to drive the A3 further up the value chain, if you don’t mind nudging the car’s price into A4 territory. Options include pushbutton start; navigation system with voice recognition and Google Earth graphics; rearview camera; adaptive cruise control; full LED headlamps; a 705-watt, 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen premium sound system; and 18- or 19-in. 10-spoke wheels to replace the standard 17-in. 5-spoke wheels.
Safety equipment includes eight standard airbags and optional collision brake assist, lane-keeping assist and side assist. Pre-sense basic, which anticipates an impending collision and tightens seatbelts and prepares the vehicle for a crash, is standard.
One of the advantages of the A3’s infotainment system is that it is upgradable. Working with processor-supplier NVIDIA, Audi says it easily will be able to update the system with more powerful electronics over the lifecycle of the car.
The A3 also is offered with Wi-Fi connectivity via two different subscription levels: $99 for 6 months/5 GB or $499 for 30 months/30 GB.
The A3 options are grouped into a couple packages: Premium-plus, centered around upgraded wheels and trim for $2,550, and Prestige, including navigation, high-end sound system and more for $8,450, taking a fully loaded model north of $40,000.
Driving through the hills and along the coast here reveals both powertrains are adequate, but the base 170-hp 1.8L that plays so well in a lower-priced and manual-equipped Jetta (a 2014 Ward’s 10 Best Engines winner) is a bit lacking in an automatic-equipped car with four rings emblazoned on the grille.
The 220-hp 2.0L (base price $32,900) tested here with standard quattro all-wheel drive is much more suited to the entry-luxury-sedan task, although it too suffers a little turbo lag and its dual-clutch automatic, geared lower for better jump off the line, still hunts around a bit for the right gear. But slip it into manual-shift mode and punch the throttle and the A3 responds with plenty of top-end power.
Audi says the 2.0L quattro knocks 1.4 seconds off the car’s 0-60 mph (97 km/h) time compared with the 1.8L, getting you there in just 5.8 seconds. Premium fuel is recommended with either engine.
Like most Audis, the entry sedan performs a nice balancing act between ride, fuel economy and performance. What the car lacks in all-out power and top-speed handling it makes up for in fuel efficiency and ride comfort. If you are seeking something skewed more toward performance, buy the new 210-hpGTI instead.
An optional sport suspension is coming, which will hunker down the car closer to the road and presumably allow it to work its way through the twisties more quickly. An S version equipped with a higher-output version of the 2.0L (290 hp in Europe) due in the fall and potentially even available with a manual transmission likely will take that up another notch, but neither model was offered here for testing.
Overall, the new A3 comes pretty close to hitting its mark. There now are several mainstream cars that offer more room, more content and higher style both inside and out.
But if you just gotta have that luxury label, the A3 could do the trick – particularly if you can afford a few of the extras.