Audi A3 Sportback hatchback review
"The striking Audi A3 Sportback now has the technology it needs to compete with rivals"
- Exciting new design
- Vastly improved technology
- Broad engine range
- Some rivals are more fun
- Expensive options
- Average warranty
Since its arrival in 1997, the Audi A3 has set the template for affordable upmarket cars, selling to more than 600,000 customers in the UK alone. It goes up against a host of strong rivals, most notably the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class, while the Volkswagen Golf is a slightly more affordable alternative.
For its fourth outing, the notoriously conservative A3 has a bolder, more exciting exterior design that changes quite markedly depending on which trim level you choose. The entry-level Technik is relatively sedate, while the S line trim adds a sporty body kit and sharp LED exterior and interior lighting. There isn’t a three-door model anymore but the five-door Sportback is sold alongside a four-door saloon. There's a powerful S3 model and economical plug-in hybrid versions too, plus an even faster Audi RS3 is due in 2021.
The interior is similarly radical, with analogue dials replaced by a standard Virtual Cockpit instrument display and every A3 coming with a 10.1-inch infotainment screen. Rather than sitting atop the dash, this is now integrated into the centre console, and the driver has a more cocoon like seating position than before. Quality is excellent, even in versions using upholstery manufactured from recycled plastic bottles, and technology feels two generations ahead of the outgoing model.
A small increase in width and length means passengers should find there's a little more room to stretch out, but boot space is exactly the same at 380 litres, matching most competitors.
Engines are familiar but updated, and buyers can choose between regular petrol and diesel combustion engines with mild-hybrid technology for slightly lower running costs, or a plug-in hybrid ‘40 TFSI e’ model. We expect the 1.5-litre petrol with 148bhp in the A3 35 TFSI to be a strong seller, offering 0-62mph in under nine seconds and fuel economy of over 45mpg. We even managed to better this figure over several hundred miles of driving. High-mileage drivers should also consider the A3 35 TDI, which has lower tailpipe emissions than older versions and manages up to 61.4mpg, while also feeling punchier than the petrol.
Handling is assured and secure, even in the front-wheel-drive versions we've tried so far. Quattro four-wheel drive will also be available, but our prediction is that it will be unnecessary for most drivers until much more powerful versions arrive.
Which Is Best?
- Name30 TFSI 116 SE Technik 5dr
- Gearbox typeManual
- Name40 TFSI e Sport 5dr S Tronic
- Gearbox typeSemi-auto
- Name35 TDI SE Technik 5dr
- Gearbox typeManual