If you’re not already, get used to the acronym ‘MQB’. Volkswagen’s ultra-flexible, lightweight, part aluminium part high strength steel modular platform is rolling out across all VW’s mainstream brands. It’s light, it’s strong and as easy to turn into a large saloon as a small hatchback.

For Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda and Seat it brings unprecedented economies of scale. It will save them vast amounts of money over the lifetime of the platform as its engineering costs are amortised over so much time and so many other products.

Matt Prior

Road test editor
One tester said the cabin reminded him of his iPod, in that it combines technical sophistication with simpler control logic — fewer buttons and dials, not more. It’s rare in that regard — unique, even

For you, the quality hatchback prospector, compared to the old Audi A3, MQB removes 80kg from the weight of the structure, improves crash safety and liberates more interior space.

Over it, Audi has draped a shape so utterly familiar you can park a new Audi A3 next to the old and not only struggle to tell one from the other but, once your eyes have picked out the myriad differences, still not be entirely sure which is the new car.

The 2016 facelifted models received a fresh headlight and tailight configuration and a broader grille to complement the new choice of colours and wheels available, along with the opportunity to equip the A3 with the optional 12.3in Virtual Cockpit, in place of a conventional instrument cluster.

Excluding the 296bhp Audi S3, there are three petrol engines, a 113bhp 1.0-litre, three-cylinder motor, a 148bhp 1.4 with cylinder deactivation and a 188bhp 2.0-litre TFSI engine which can be had with Audi's Quattro system. There is a trio of outputs in the diesel range: a 108bhp 1.6-litre, and a 148bhp or a 180bhp 2.0-litre engine. For those who are environmentally conscious there is a hybrid called the A3 E-tron as well.

Predictably enough suspension is by McPherson struts at the front and a fully independent multi-link rear axle for all versions, rather than just the expensive models like the Golf upon which it is based. There are three states of suspension tune, standard, sport and S-Line though the last of these is available only with the top of the range S-Line trim.

Top 5 Premium hatches

  • BMW i3
    Two versions of the BMW i3 are on sale: a pure electric model or a range-extender variant

    BMW i3

  • Audi A3 Sportback
    All Audi A3s feature multi-link rear suspension, denied to some other MQB-based VW Group cars

    Audi A3 Sportback

  • Volvo V40
    The new Volvo V40 is the Swedish firm's sleek and sporty-looking answer to the VW Golf, A3 Sportback and BMW 1-series

    Volvo V40

  • The second generation 'more grown-up' Mini Clubman

    Mini Clubman

  • BMW 1 Series
    BMW 1 Series gets nip-and-tuck treatment for 2015

    BMW 1 Series


Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Car review
    21 October 2016
    Can Seat’s first SUV impress, even with the heavy burden of expectation?
  • Car review
    21 October 2016
    The last hurrah for the current Aston Martin Vantage adds the track-ready GT8 to the range
  • Audi S5 Sportback
    First Drive
    20 October 2016
    New S5 Sportback is more spacious, better to drive and offers a calmer ride than before, but rivals offer greater involvement
  • Renault Clio RS 220 Trophy
    First Drive
    19 October 2016
    Mildly revised hot hatch is enjoyable on UK roads but continues to play second fiddle to the Ford Fiesta ST
  • 2016 Smart fortwo Brabus cabrio xclusive
    First Drive
    18 October 2016
    Mechanical upgrades make the Smart Fortwo Brabus cabrio better to drive, but it’s too pricey to recommend