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 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.

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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. 

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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Comments
29

22 July 2020

Come on Audi, time to get a bit more radical, Audi's are starting to look like posh VW.

22 July 2020
Peter Cavellini wrote:

Come on Audi, time to get a bit more radical, Audi's are starting to look like posh VW.

To me that's how they've always looked.

This is a handsome looking saloon, far nicer than the equivalent SUV.

22 July 2020
si73 wrote:
Peter Cavellini wrote:

Come on Audi, time to get a bit more radical, Audi's are starting to look like posh VW.

To me that's how they've always looked.

 

Zakly

28 July 2020

I think hansome is a bit OTT boring more like is a 1or a  4 or even 5 all look the boring Audi same . Classy no  !their designs just dont move on do they 

28 July 2020

I also detect a Honda Accord  look  in the side profile and that ceased production when colour

T V first  started !!!

22 July 2020

What have they done?  They have way-overdone the bulging curves over the front and rear wheel arches, and the more fussy front and rear lamps - like a perfectly attractive person who has injected collagen into their lips and had fillers in their cheeks and chin.  The dashboard is also much more busy with all those layers and different visual textures.  

Audi has lost that self confidence to be restrained and elegant, to go with less is more.

22 July 2020

Is that top speed of 144 mph correct?  If so I think that's damn good for a 147 bhp car.  The Fiesta ST which has close to 200 bhp has an identical top speed

22 July 2020

As Audi's styling gets more & more elaborate and less & less coherent, in the case of this A3 it's the interior which for me is the biggest let down.

I find the air vents on either side of the instrument binnacle particularly awful. The two added 'wings' have no formal relation to anything else. The designer didn't even bother to line up the air vent next to the door panel. 

22 July 2020

Have we come to this where a perfectly fine vehicle fulfilling its mission gets 3.5 stars. It was never built to do records at the `ring. As time goes on I feel that reviews are being done just after the reviewer steps out of an AMG, M car or RS vehicle and are judged accordingly. Could be a case of reviewer fatigue. And do not get me started on the buttons vs. multi menu infotainment systems. Concientious reviewers have realized that it has gone too far in the techno-screen direction and it is a lazy reviewer who does a knee-jerk comment against buttons..... phew, thanks for letting me unload my frustrations.... :)

22 July 2020
GeToD wrote:

Have we come to this where a perfectly fine vehicle fulfilling its mission gets 3.5 stars. It was never built to do records at the `ring. As time goes on I feel that reviews are being done just after the reviewer steps out of an AMG, M car or RS vehicle and are judged accordingly. Could be a case of reviewer fatigue. And do not get me started on the buttons vs. multi menu infotainment systems. Concientious reviewers have realized that it has gone too far in the techno-screen direction and it is a lazy reviewer who does a knee-jerk comment against buttons..... phew, thanks for letting me unload my frustrations.... :)

Nothing to do with all that you wrote, deffo nothing to do with performance stuff, its cos its a flairless, boring, anodyne pile of badge engineered sh*te from an emissions cheating company that specialise in flairless, boring, anodyne piles of sh*te cars. VW Group is the new cars as appliance manufacurer, the second biggest purchase you make in your life should be better than that.

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