From £22,7307
Premium compact saloon arrives on a similar theme to before: some choice materials and conspicuous tech adorned over competent dynamics

What is it?

The Audi A3 Saloon is what happens if you go from 17 models to 58 models in 19 years. There are niches to fill and, oh boy, has Audi (and BMW and Mercedes) set about filling them.

This latest A3 Saloon is, obviously, the booted version of the new A3 Sportback (a five-door hatchback), arriving on the Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform but, unlike some of its MQB cousins, coming with fully independent rear suspension across the range. 

At 4495mm long and with a 425-litre boot, it does a job that the Audi A4 would have once done. Prices start at £28,380 and head to £40,000 before options. 

This one is a 35 TFSI, in left-hand-drive and not quite to any definitive UK specification. It has 18in wheels, like sporty-looking S Line models, but an interior more like that of the pricier Edition 1 launch variant. 

Either way, we’re looking at a price in the low-£30,000s for an A3 Saloon in this engine specification, which means a modest 147bhp output from a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol. Equipped with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, as our car is, the engine also gets a 48V very-mild-hybrid stop-start system. Pick a manual and it remains conventionally powered.

What's it like?

Even the base Sport model comes comprehensively equipped, with dual-zone climate control, a digital instrument display and a 10.1in central infotainment touchscreen with smartphone interface. Thankfully, Audi still separates actual climate buttons from the touchscreen, although annoyingly the lane-keeping assistance control is buried in there and defaults to on. 

The upshot of putting Audi’s Multi Media Interface (MMI) on a touchscreen, though, is that it removes a degree of interior clutter. Ditto replacing a big gear selector with a wee stalk on the central tunnel. I still think some kind of rotary controller is more useful, and I’m not sure that saving all that button space is worth it if all you’re going to do is place a piece of shiny trim that reflects bright sunlight into your eyes instead, but still. It’s an interesting interior, nonetheless – more angular than A3s of old and apparently inspired by the Lamborghini Huracán’s. 

Ergonomics and roominess are good for driver and front passenger (both are apparently improved slightly over the old A3 Saloon), but tall rear occupants will find head room limited. But then if you want more practicality, go for the Sportback. 

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To drive, the A3 Saloon is the modern Audi distilled to a professional blandness: there’s nothing outstanding but nothing to complain about. 

The 18in alloys of this car are clothed in 225/40-profile tyres (the range starts with 17in rims, S Line models get 18ins and higher-spec cars get 19ins), and the ride is good enough, whichever button you push to harden or soften the adaptive dampers.

Stability is strong on a motorway, agility is adequate on back roads and the steering wheel… turns the front wheels. Only when the lane-keeping assistance kicks in does the steering alter from its anodyne but perfectly accurate and responsive line.

Otherwise dynamically, the A3 Saloon is the automotive equivalent of a media-trained public figure giving an interview. It’s all entirely reasonable, professional, slick and totally expected. You can’t complain about it, but you’re not really learning anything new.

The drivetrain is good. It’s not briskly responsive, but it is smooth. The integrated starter-generator (ISG) allows brilliantly seamless restarts when the engine has stopped, which it will even do when you lift off the throttle at high speeds. 

That the ISG is absorbing power and can torque fill too means it never feels like you’re ‘coasting’ in the old-fashioned, clutch-down, not-in-control sense. Early reports said there was some wooden brake feel as a result, but it didn’t bother me. Not much did. 

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Should I buy one?

The A3 Saloon is a solid car that does what Audis do: impresses with material choice in the most visible spaces (there are some hard plastics lower down in the cabin) and with conspicuous technology on top of everyday mechanicals before being given a dusting of not one premium halo but four.

Audi A3 Saloon 35 TFSI Edition 1 specification

Where Surrey, UK Price £32,490 On sale now Engine 4 cyls in line, 1498cc, turbocharged, petrol, plus 48V starter/generator Power 147bhp at 5000-6000rpm Torque 184lb ft at 1500-3500rpm Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic Kerb weight 1395kg Top speed 144mph 0-62mph 8.4sec Fuel economy 47.1mpg CO2/tax band 136g/km, 32% Rivals BMW 2 Series Gran Coupé, Mercedes-Benz A-Class Saloon

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sportnewsng 26 July 2020

Download Great Video

I like this car. I will recommend it

Rich boy spanners 23 July 2020

I like small saloons like

I like small saloons like this, but I can never make a rational reason to buy one. When I look at VW Group I can't see any real objective reason to spend more on a VW or Audi than a Skoda. And I can't fit any bikes or an old fridge in the back of it. Make a nice 2nd car at the right price though.

Jimbbobw1977 23 July 2020

maniobra de esquiva - this is

maniobra de esquiva - this is a channel on YouTube where they subject new cars to the moose test i.e an evasive manoeuvre time avoid an object in the road in your lane and the ability to steer round and back into your lane safely. 

Most MQB VAG cars perform poorly in the test in comparison to comptrtitors the SUV's seem to bounce around on the rear suspension, the larger estate Skodas and Passat seems to swing the back end out violently and the latest Golf is quite poor with its understeer ploughing straight only completing the test with a low speed. The Peugeot 3008 is far far better in the test - this is the difference t between ploughing head into a car in another lane or not...