• As it stands, the A3 accounts for every fifth Audi registered worldwide
  • Chunky, steeply raked C-pillars are a design hallmark of the three-door A3 but they cut into rearward visibility a little
  • The reshaped headlights, with LED ‘eyebrow’ running lights, echoes the look of Audi’s bigger models
  • Rear lights are fed by LEDs but illuminated by reflected rather than direct light for a more emollient look
  • Twin exhaust tips are standard Sport model attire
  • The seats offer a low driving position for those who want one and provide plenty of adjustment and support
  • Entry and egress are awkward in this three-door car, but the amount of rear cabin space is respectable once you're settled in
  • New A3’s 365-litre boot is 15 litres bigger than the outgoing model’s and its false floor is flush with the load lip
  • There’s a lot of space in the front
  • The seven-inch motorised display is clear, bright and detailed. Points of interest database is easy to access, too
  • Intrument panel is smart and easy to read
  • In third gear, the A3 dispatches every 20mph increment between 20mph and 70mph in comfortably less than 5.0sec, which is brisk
  • We passed 60mph in 8.9sec, 0.3sec behind the time Audi says it should take to reach 62mph - a margin of no great importance
  • 148bhp 2.0-litre TDI returned an impressive 47.5mpg overall and we’d expect most owners to do even better
  • Ride is relatively compliant, even in lowered Sport trim
  • Because this is a diesel, turn-in is not as sharp as the best petrol-powered cars in the class, but it’s keen enough
  • Audi A3 outclasses the premium hatch pack on everything except the drive

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.

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week