There’s not a lot to dislike about the A3 sedan. It looks cool with that aggressive front end, it’s quick enough with the turbo four and it comes with all of the requisite safety features like lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control and rear cross-traffic alert. That last bit comes with the $9,000 Prestige package, which comes with a lot of features that most buyers would find hard to skip. And it’s that price that keeps giving me pause. Nearly $44,000? Yikes.
The interior of this A3 is mostly plain with black, rubberized plastic, but it’s clean, without any weird styling choices. I love the pop out nav screen that hides when you shut the car off.
The A3 doesn’t feel that small from the driver’s seat, but I looked in the back an there was about 3 inches of knee room with my 5-foot, 10-inch frame in front. I didn’t need to cart the kid around but I would have had to move the front passenger up halfway just to get the seat back there. Trunk space looked decent though. It’s both deep and wide.
The turbo four is the perfect motor for this car. Shifts are smooth from the six-speed automatic and it never seemed to get hung up or pick the wrong gear. I did sense a little loss of power in the middle rev ranges, but it didn’t seem to happen all the time. It feels quick off the line and can hang at 80 mph all day. The brakes aren’t firm, but have a quick, progressive feel that kept me confident while navigating rush hour traffic on my way home.
It’s stiffer than most cars in its class. It’s a little loud and crashy over bigger bumps. This one has the upgraded 18-inch wheels though — also part of the Prestige package; smaller ones might be less harsh.
Give me a base, stripper, S3 please. It clocks in at $42,900.
–Jake Lingeman, road test editor
OTHER VOICES: The Audi A3 sedan is a David Blaine of automobiles. It’s an illusion with some incredible sleight-of-hand skills, and a few tricks up its sleeve. Everything about the A3 feels better than it should. Yes, part of that is due to the $8,950 Prestige package that adds a bunch of tech and safety features. Take that away, though, and you still have the 220-hp 2.0-liter engine and Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system. And that’s where the magic begins.
The turbo-four feels faster than the speedometer lets on thanks to the 258 lb-ft of torque delivered from 1,600 to 4,400 rpm. While acceleration does fall above that, it is still plenty peppy at highway speeds, as Jake mentioned.
Sprints off the line were enough to elicit an honest giggle of joy from my daughter in the backseat thanks to that low-end grunt — and she’s a tough cookie to please. The A3 feels quick, but a glance down at the speedometer shows you’re well within the legal limit most of the time. The six-speed dual-clutch is smooth with no hunting for gears from my experience. Manual mode was engaging with a quick response from shift inputs high in the rev range.
Over neglected Michigan roads, the A3 felt compliant. Some harshness penetrated the cabin from particularly rough pavement, but nothing I found intrusive. Corning was flat, smooth and uneventful.
I agree with Jake the A3 sedan feels large from the driver’s seat. Out of curiosity, I checked its dimensions and found it to have a smaller footprint than a Ford Focus (I know, not exactly a competitor, but is also not a car known for its roominess). I had no trouble fitting a front-facing car seat in the back with a 5-foot, 4-inch passenger in the front seat. It was tight, yes, but both were comfortable. I could see someone taller having trouble, though.
This is the first car I’ve spent time in that has had Apple CarPlay. I found it intuitive and a welcome addition. As someone who spends a few minutes every morning pairing my phone to the car through stubborn Bluetooth to a proprietary infotainment system, the plug-and-go ease is now a must-have feature.
But as nice as the A3 is, that $44,000 price tag is tough to swallow. Subtracting the Prestige package would be a deal breaker for me too, though. The A3 can play tricks on your perceptions all it wants, but it can’t fool your wallet.
–Anthony Alaniz, editorial intern
There’s something about entry-level luxury that doesn’t sit right with me conceptually. Luxury isn’t really supposed to be about cheap versus expensive; I guess in my mind it’s more of a no-compromise indulgence where, if you have to ask (as they say), you probably can’t afford it.
At the same time, anyone spending $43,900 on a car should be getting their money’s worth, and I wasn’t wowed by Audi’s US-market starting point last time around.
The 2017 A3 does a better job making a case for itself than I remember. Improvements have been made. More horsepower doesn’t hurt, but I think it’s the addition of the Virtual Cockpit, part of the pricey A3 Prestige Package, that makes the biggest difference. It doesn’t smack you across the face with THE FUTURE or anything, but the high-resolution, full-color instrument cluster, backed up by a retractable infotainment screen and an intuitive, easy-to-use interface (it’s simple to connect your phone to it, too), feels tech-forward and noticeably premium.
As to whether the rubbery dash (hey, at least it’s not hard plastic) and the minimalistic styling help or hurt the A3’s cause? That’s a matter of taste. I prefer cleaner designs, so I won’t hold the A3 cabin’s simplicity against it. I do wish the seats were a little more supportive; I’ll have to take a spin in an S3 for comparison.
So, if you can afford one of these, and you genuinely get some extra utility out of the Audi badge, it’s worth a look. I’m all for smaller cars at all price points, and the model-year changes here are incremental but noticeable — and welcome.
But if you’re scrimping and saving and worrying about which options you’ve got to shave off the top to hit that target monthly payment for your brand-new A3, and then fretting about scraping a rim or spilling something on the seat to the point where you’re afraid to put any extra miles on it, I’d say that you’re doing the whole “luxury” thing wrong. It’s not like this car is fun enough to sacrifice for.
Maybe give a Golf GTI a try — I think you’ll be impressed — or, if you want to be really sensible about it, score a used Accord until you’ve earned that big promotion and can buy that first brand-new Audi without stress. If the A3 still calls you at that point, sure, go for it.
–Graham Kozak, associate editor
OPTIONS: A3 Prestige Package including 18-inch five-spoke wheels, Audi smartphone interface, S line exterior, eight-way power front passenger seat w. four-way power lumbar, heated front seats, Audi advanced key, auto-dimming interior mirror with compass, high-gloss aluminum window surrounds, aluminum Mistral inlays, aluminum door sills, parking system plus, Audi MMI navigation with MMI touch, Audi Connect Prime and Plus, Audi side assist with rear cross traffic, Audi active lane assist, Audi virtual cockpit, high beam assist, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, power-folding exterior mirrors, driver side auto-dimming side mirror, LED interior lighting package, interior storage package, Bang & Olufsen sound system, Full LED headlights, LED taillights with dynamic turn signals ($8,950); Credit without high beam assist (-$200)
Vehicle Model Information
ON SALE: Now
BASE PRICE: $35,150
AS TESTED PRICE: $43,900
POWERTRAIN: 2.0-liter DOHC turbocharged I4, AWD six-speed automatic
OUTPUT: 220 hp @ 4,400-6,200 rpm; 258 lb-ft @ 1,600-4,400 rpm
CURB WEIGHT: 3,362 lb
FUEL ECONOMY: 24/31/27 mpg
PROS: Clean, plain interior
CONS: Expensive entry-level luxury