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 four trim levels to choose from for all A3s except the S3 and the E-tron which both get model specific equipment. Opt for the entry-level SE A3 and it will come with 16in alloys, xenon headlights, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors, cruise control and auto lights and wipers. Inside there is air conditioning, 7in Audi MMI infotainment system complete with DAB, Bluetooth, two USB ports and Audi's smartphone mirroring software. Upgrading to the SE Technik trim adds sat nav, rear parking sensors and a three-month trial to Audi Connect, which includes access to Google Earth, Maps and StreetView via a 4G data sim.

Audi A3s decked in Sport trim will include 17in alloys, adaptive damper control, dual-zone climate control and sat nav inclusive of traffic updates, while the range-topping S-line cars will get LED headlights, a sporty bodykit, sports suspension and front seats and 18in alloys.

If you decide the ordinary A3 is too docile and you prefer the hotter S3 then expect to find it adorning a S designed body kit and sports suspension, which is 25mm lower than the S-line's sport suspension, progressive steering and heated front seats. The e-tron A3 gains a range of energy-saving technology including brake regeneration, a bespoke dynamic setting for maximum fuel efficiency, a dedicated EV mode and energy efficient dual-zone climate control. Other features include a charging cable and LED head and rear lights.

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