The Audi A3 always felt like the entry level Audi, even though after the arrival of the Audi A1, it no longer was. Its interior worked at a basic ergonomic level but the style and quality enjoyed by those rich enough to afford larger more expensive Audis was missing.

No longer. This A3 marks the point where Audi chose to democratise its brand values and bring them to a wider audience than ever before, a strategy of which only good can come in the long term.

Matt Saunders

Deputy road test editor
Have a look at the latches that hold the false boot floor in place and you’ll find springs that prevent it from rattling

It seems almost redundant to talk about the basics. Of course a perfect driving position is achievable for all bar the freakishly tall or short. The dials are paragons of clarity, what little switchgear there is laid out in such a simple, intuitive manner you wonder why all cars don’t follow suit. Maybe they will.

But it is the quality of the fittings that’s the real news here and the way they have been put together. It all looks so effortless that it’s tempting to think all those neat radii and millimetrically perfect panel fits just happened rather than being the result of years of blood, sweat and euros. But when you start pushing and prodding at the soft fabrics and plastics you soon realise there’s very little in here that merely looks the part.

It’s a spacious car too, at least in the front. Rear seat passengers have been deliberately denied more than adequate legroom to provide owner/occupiers with the grounds to spend more on the longer wheelbase A3 Sportback. The 365 litre boot is competitive in the class but no more.

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

    1
  • Audi A3 Sportback
    All Audi A3s feature multi-link rear suspension, denied to some other MQB-based VW Group cars

    Audi A3 Sportback

    2
  • 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

    3
  • The BMW 1-series has sold more than two million units globally since it was launched in 2004

    BMW 1-series

    4
  • The Giulietta competes in the biggest segment in Europe - rivals include the VW Golf and Ford Focus

    Alfa Romeo Giulietta

    5

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • First Drive
    3 July 2015
    Charming four-door city car gets Smart's new six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, in a bid to make the Forfour more versatile
  • First Drive
    2 July 2015
    First UK drive in the latest-generation MX-5 reveals an iconic roadster that's back to its best
  • First Drive
    2 July 2015
    Extra firepower and pared-down kerb weight conjure even greater brilliance from the Boxster's chassis. Pricey – but superb to drive
  • First Drive
    1 July 2015
    There's another BMW 2 Series variant on the horizon; we drive a late-stage prototype plug-in hybrid Active Tourer
  • BMW's prototype fuel cell concept is based on the 5GT
    First Drive
    1 July 2015
    Fuel cell-powered 5 Series GT concept previews a revolutionary storage and refuelling system which could pave the way for hydrogen to become the alternative fuel of choice