2016 Audi A3 review
Alex Rae’s refreshed 2016 Audi A3 review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: Audi is keen to hold onto its lead in the premium small car segment and a light freshen up and new 1.0-litre three-cylinder TFSI should help it achieve that.
2016 Audi A3
Audi A3 1.0 TFSI Sportback $35,900 (+ORC)
Audi A3 1.4 TFSI COD sedan $41,500 (+ORC)
Audi A3 2.0 TFSI sedan $47,500 (+ORC)
Audi A3 2.0 TFSI quattro sedan $51,100 (+ORC)
Audi S3 2.0 TFSI quattro Sportback $62,900 (+ORC)
Warranty: Three year, unlimited kilometre warranty
Safety: 5 Star ANCAP
Audi A3 1.0 TFSI Sportback 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol 85kW and 200Nm
Audi A3 1.4 TFSI COD sedan 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol 110kW and 250Nm
Audi A3 2.0 TFSI sedan 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol 140kW and 320Nm
Audi A3 2.0 TFSI quattro sedan 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol 140kW and 320Nm
Audi S3 2.0 TFSI quattro Sportback 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol 213kW and 380Nm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch or six-speed manual
Drive: Front-wheel drive or quattro all-wheel drive
Dimensions: 4313mm (L); 1785mm (W); 1426mm (H)
Turning circle: 10.2 metres
Kerb weight: 1385kg (depending on variant)
Fuel tank: 55 litres
Audi A3 1.0 TFSI 4.8L/100km
Audi A3 1.4 TFSI 5.0L/100km
Audi A3 2.0 TFSI 5.8L/100km
Audi S3 2.0 TFSI 7.1L/100km
AUDI’S THIRD-GENERATION A3 has been something of a shooting star for the brand with rocketing sales in the last three years elevating A3 to the best-selling model in the premium small car segment. Audi hopes its latest update to the model, which is approximately half-way through its current life-cycle, will help continue its success in the segment.
What is it?
Heading the updates is a refreshed design inside and out, added safety assistance, new technology, improved levels of specification and a revised engine range that sees the previous entry-model 1.4-litre TFSI four-cylinder powered A3 replaced by a smaller and slightly less powerful 1.0-litre TFSI three-cylinder.
The A3 three-cylinder is the first time the engine has been mated to Audi’s seven-speed automatic, and if our short evaluation on the test loop is anything to go by, the package should prove a winner for budget conscious buyers. Sharp pricing by Audi places the $35,900 three-pot Sportback as the most affordable premium small car when compared to its German rivals, with Mercedes-Benz’s A 180 starting at $38,400 and BMW’s 118i at $36,900.
The test location for the five vehicles we drove was the Yarra Ranges in Victoria, and the drive loop consisted a mixture of highway, back-roads and twisty hill sections. All vehicles were equipped with an automatic transmission except the Audi S3, which was mated to a six-speed manual.
What do we think of the looks?
The changes to exterior styling include redesigned headlights, new wheels and new front bumper and grille design. The changes are subtle but the sharper design works well to freshen up the A3.
What’s it like inside and how practical is it?
Across all models the updated interior design is simple and practical, with enough class to define itself as premium when compared to small segment vehicles starting in the sub-30k bracket. The A3 1.0-litre TFSI on test was equipped with a $1400 leather-appointed upholstery option and, although it bumps the price up to $37,900, the heightened interior comfort, look and feel of the leather, and improved resale, should be seriously considered by potential buyers. The interior in the entry model was otherwise similar to the other more expensive models.
Ergonomic support provided by the seats is also good, and finding a good seating position is possible, however smarter tilt adjustment on the steering wheel so that the wheel could face straight on to a taller driver such as myself would be welcome, especially when sitting in a sportier position in the S3 model. The seat bolstering on lower models wasn’t as supportive as the S line and S3 vehicles.
All cars we tested lacked electronically adjustable seats, however they are available for driver and front passenger as part of the Comfort Package ($2500 for 1.4 TFSI and $2300 for 2.0 TFSI and 2.0 quattro).
In the rear there’s enough space for adults to get by on shorter trips, but a lack of knee room will have passengers calling ‘shotgun’ for the front seat on longer trips, otherwise seat comfort was good.
The boot space in both the Sportback (380 litres) and sedan (425 litres) is ample, although there’s a lack of smart cargo holding options which will mean potentially spilling groceries if you’re testing the S3’s sharp cornering ability on the way home from the shops. The seats split-fold 40/60 and the provided space looks good enough to fit a short surfboard or bike into.
What the infotainment and communications system like?
The highlight of the updated interior is the addition of Audi’s Virtual Cockpit to the A3 range, a 12.3-inch screen that replaces the standard analogue gauges on the dash. The display can be customised to display of variety on information to the drivers such as navigation, audio/media control and vehicle information. Standard on the S3, it is available as part of the $2900 technik package on all other models.
Layout of controls in the interior is clever, too, with the centre-console switch-gear, climate control and infotainment all within easy reach and proving simple but intuitive to use. All windows are electric and feature automatic up-and-down winding. Infotainment is controlled via buttons and a rotary dial that can be used as a sort of ‘touch mouse’ by moving a fingertip across its top surface. Although it works, it’s a little frustrating at times and it still feels simpler to use the dial the old fashion way.
Also available is Apple Carplay, which works very well, and changes the front inputs from one USB and one auxiliary input to two USB sockets. There’s also one 12v upfront and one 12v in the rear for plugging in adapters.
What’s the performance like?
The first drive from Melbourne to the Yarra Ranges was through peak hour traffic in the A3 1.4 TFSI sedan, and in the disorder of Melbourne traffic the automatic stop start works well and without obtrusion. The seven-speed automatic works well enough too, although at times it is a little lazy to engage gear quick enough and doesn’t perk up much by using semi-automatic mode.
Further out of the city the 110kW and 250Nm 1.4-litre was able to open its legs a little more and when appropriate utilise the cylinder-on-demand (COD) system to help lower fuel consumption towards its claimed 5.0L/100km. COD automatically engages when coasting between 1400 and 4000rpm and in reality it’s hard to discern when COD is turning on or off. At our final destination fuel consumption was 6.5L/100km, a reasonable result considering the combined work duties and occasional overtaking on the drive.
The A3 1.0-litre TFSI three-cylinder Sportback surprised with its performance, and even though engine in spec isn’t great – just 85kW and 200Nm – on the road it has enough power for most duties and, as the most affordable Audi, it provides a good value proposition.
Moving up the food chain the 2.0 TFSI and 2.0 TFSI quattros have more power to play with from the 140kW and 320Nm turbocharged four-cylinder petrol enigne. The seven-speed automatic works well, a little snappier than in the 1.4 TFSI, and gives confidence shifting in semi-automatic mode. As per the 1.4 TFSI, the stop start is unobtrusive and effortless.
On the road the extra power in the bigger engined A3 2.0TFSI variants was great for overtaking manoeuvres and when driving in a sportier manner, providing effortless driving. It is a little thirsty though, returning 7.2L/100km, a bit higher than its claimed 5.8L/100km.
The A3 2.0 TFSI quattro sedan with added $4200 S line sports package provides proper performance handling with tuned sports suspension and a better cockpit for the driver with an added flat-bottom sports steering wheel and paddle shifters.
The final car we drove, the S3 Sportback with six-speed manual transmission, is considerably more powerful, producing 213kW and 380Nm from its turbocharged 2.0-litre engine. Easily the hottest looking car in the line-up, the S3 proved itself to be a proper hot hatch in the hills.
What’s the ride and handling like?
Ride and handling for the A3 1.4TFSI was comfortable, absorbing minor corrugations and road imperfections well, although road noise is a little high on certain surfaces, and fitting different tyres than the standard Goodyear EfficientGrip may help to lower the noise somewhat. Driving further into the Yarra Ranges and up a twisty road the car persists to provide a comfortable posture and soft suspension tuning upfront means the car isn’t well suited to driving towards to the limit on such roads, but there’s not much point being overly critical as that’s a job reserved for the S3. For the most part the 1.4 TFSI provides the comfort most buyers will expect from a car in the premium small car segment.
Most notable on the short test drive was how the automatic felt better in the 1.0 TFSI than the 1.4 TFSI, shifting more assertively and seeming to always be in the right gear at the right time. Overtaking power is good, if far from exciting, and the 200Nm of torque provides enough oomph to keep the car feeling alive through the twists. Fuel consumption as tested is 5.7L/100km, which isn’t too far off Audi’s claimed 4.8L/100km.
Ride and handling feels similar to the 1.4 TFSI, with suspension tuning geared toward comfort, not performance, and providing good road absorption. Road noise is also similar to the 1.4 TFSI, which is a little noisy, and the automatic stop start isn’t as refined; a result of higher cylinder compression. For all intents and purposes though, the 1.0 TFSI performs on a level similar to that of the higher priced 1.4 TFSI.
The A3 2.0 TFSI quattro sedan felt better planted compared to the 1.0, 1.4 and 2.0 TFSI due to its improved suspension tuning and wider tyres, and isn’t easily unsettled mid-corner. At higher speeds in connecting corners the car holds higher levels of grip though the corner while smothering mid-corner bumps. The stiffer suspension is not as supple but ride comfort is still good.
Pushing the S3 a little harder than the other cars in the twisty sections, the Sportback quattro provides similar suspension tuning to the 2.0 TFSI S line but its extra power provokes the quattro system to shuffle more power to the rear. Without entering into any oversteer shenanigans the S3 feels more playful through corners without being a handful. Great pedal placement and a sure shifting gearbox without much slack in its gate contribute to a more immersive drive than the others.
How safe is it?
The current generation A3 was ANCAP tested in 2013 and scored a five-star rating. We shouldn’t expect much of a difference in this mid-life cycle update. It also runs the same active and passive safety systems, including traction and stability controls, include adaptive cruise-control, Audi pre-sense front, active lane assist, side assist, high-beam assist and hill-hold assist. There’s also quattro all-wheel drive on some variants.
Why would you buy one?
Our short time with the updated A3 models shows that Audi is keen to hold onto its lead in the premium small car segment and the new A3 1.0-litre TFSI should help it achieve that. Expect a comprehensive run down and review in our week-long test.