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 Autocar

Matt Saunders

Chief tester
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. For those looking for a more futuristic feel, then parting with an additional £450 will get you Audi's fabulous Virtual Cockpit, which is configurable to show a wealth of information, including becoming your sat nav display.

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.

There are seven trim levels available with the three-door A3 - starting with the SE and going all the way up to S3 Black Edition. Opt for an entry-level SE A3 and you'll find 16in alloys, xenon headlights, , cruise control, rear parking sensors and auto lights and wipers fitted as standard on the outside. Inside, there is air conditioning, an auto-dimming rear view mirror, and Audi's MMI infotainment system complete with a 7.0in display, DAB radio, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, and smartphone integration. Upgrading to the SE Technik trim adds sat nav and a three-month trial to Audi's online connected services.

Opt for Sport trim and the A3 gains 17in alloys, dual-zone climate control, front sports seats and touches of aluminium, while S-line cars get LED headlights, a sporty bodykit, lowered, firmed up suspension, ambient interior LED lighting, a part leather upholstery and 18in alloys. Topping the standard range is the Black Edition models which get 18in alloys, an improved audio system and lots of gloss black exterior styling.

Those craving the 305bhp S3 will be pleased to know it gets its own trim level, with all the equipment found on an S-line A3, plus sports suspension and steering, a quad-pipe exhaust system, an aggressively-styled bodykit, a Nappa leather upholstery and heated front seats included in the bundle. Those wanting a little bit exclusivity added to their S3 can get the Black Edition version which includes the stylish, 5-arm turbine alloys, lots of gloss black exterior trim, rear tinted windows and a Bang and Olufsen audio system.

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