Full 2009 Audi A3 Review
What's New for 2009
For 2009, the Audi A3 gets freshened up inside and out, and comes with more standard and optional features. This year's A3 has a new hood, redesigned front and rear fenders and Audi's new signature single-frame front grille design. Inside, all trim levels now come standard with leather upholstery, satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack. The 3.2 trims get standard bi-xenon headlights and Bluetooth phone connectivity. Quattro all-wheel drive is now optional on 2.0 T models equipped with the S tronic transmission. Manual 2.0 T models get standard hill-hold assist.
With all the hubbub surrounding some of the glamorous newer models in the Audi lineup, it can be easy to forget about the A3, Audi's least expensive car. But as more consumers turn toward smaller and more efficient vehicles, Audi's entry-level hatchback just might find itself getting a little more attention.
For 2009, the Audi A3's pricing has gone up slightly from last year, but there are more standard features for the money, including leather upholstery, satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack on all trim levels. All 2.0 T models with a manual transmission get standard hill-hold assist, which eliminates the need to manually engage the parking brake when starting on a steep incline. On all levels above the base trim, Bluetooth phone connectivity is standard. In addition, the top-of-the-line 3.2 model gets standard bi-xenon headlights. Optional features have been expanded as well; Quattro all-wheel drive is now available on 2.0 T models equipped with the S tronic (DSG) transmission.
Thanks to its small proportions, dynamic handling and versatile hatchback design, the 2009 Audi A3 competes price- and performance-wise with sporty imports like the Mazdaspeed 3 and the Subaru WRX. But the A3's fit, finish and available features put it on par with entry-level luxury cars like the Saab 9-3 SportCombi and Volvo V50. The 2009 Audi A3 could be considered an alternative to both segments, but we recommend sticking to the base 2.0 T, which gets you the A3's lively performance and high-quality interior without costing too much. Luxury buyers might prefer the feature-packed 3.2 Quattro, but with a price tag of nearly $37,000, you might as well consider more prestigious (and more satisfying to own) models like the BMW 328i, Infiniti G35 or even Audi's own, fully redesigned A4 2.0 T.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Audi A3 is a four-door hatchback/wagon offered in two basic trim levels: 2.0 T and 3.2. Features on the base 2.0 T trim include 17-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, full power accessories, cruise control, a trip computer and a 10-speaker audio system with a single-CD player, satellite radio and an auxiliary jack. Choosing the optional Premium package adds a power driver seat, Bluetooth and paddle shifters on cars equipped with automatic transmissions. The S line Package includes everything in the Premium package plus uniquely styled front and rear bumpers, a roof spoiler and special interior trim. The optional Convenience package adds an auto-dimming rearview mirror, xenon headlights and a premium Bose audio system. Audi A3 3.2 models essentially come with all of the above equipment as standard.
Options available on all trim levels include a Sport package with 18-inch wheels, summer performance tires, a sport suspension and sport seats. An enhanced Sport package offers the same seats and wheels, but adds Audi's Magnetic Ride Control suspension. A Cold Weather package offers heated seats, heated windshield-washer nozzles and heated exterior mirrors. Other options include a sunroof and a navigation system with a glovebox-mounted six-CD changer.
Powertrains and Performance
Audi A3 2.0 T models can come with either front-wheel drive or Audi's Quattro AWD system. They're powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. Thanks to a broad power band, the 2009 Audi A3 can go from zero to 60 mph in 7 seconds. Front-wheel-drive models are available with either a six-speed manual transmission or Audi's S tronic sequential-shift automated manual gearbox. The latter changes gears quickly and matches revs on downshifts, while offering all the convenience of a regular automatic transmission. Quattro versions of the A3 2.0 T are only available with S tronic. Audi A3 2.0 Ts sold in California and California-emissions states meet the squeaky-clean PZEV tailpipe emission standard.
The A3 3.2 comes only with Quattro. Its 3.2-liter V6 makes 250 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. It comes paired to the S tronic transmission only. Although the 3.2 Quattro's standard AWD is a plus for those who face slippery driving conditions, the heavier curb weight of the more powerful A3 doesn't translate to much of a boost in performance -- its 0-60 time is 6.8 seconds.
Fuel economy for a front-wheel-drive 2.0 T with a manual transmission is rated at 21 mpg city/30 mpg highway and a combined rating of 24 mpg. Opting for the 2.0 T Quattro and S tronic automatic drops highway mileage by 2 mpg. Fuel economy for the 2009 Audi A3 3.2 Quattro is 18/25/21 mpg.
Numerous safety technologies are standard on the A3, including front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, antilock brakes and stability control. Seat-mounted side airbags for rear passengers are optional. In crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the 2009 Audi A3 earned ratings of "Good" (the highest possible) in both frontal-offset and side-impact tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
Like all Audis, the A3 boats a high-quality interior with good fit and finish -- although the cabin isn't as luxurious as those of more expensive Audis. The layout of the buttons and controls on this Audi are simple and straightforward -- Audi's complex Multi Media Interface (MMI) system is not available on this car. The excellent steering wheel with its built-in S tronic shift paddles fits the driver's hands perfectly, as does the leather-topped shift knob. There's also a reasonable amount of cargo space -- a maximum of 56 cubic feet. However, many passengers will find the backseat short on legroom.
Both engines provide the 2009 Audi A3 with brisk performance. The A3's electromechanical steering does a superb job of reducing vibration without sacrificing driver feedback. In typical Audi fashion, the ride is comfortably firm and the A3's handling is just as sporty as its larger siblings'. And with the help of a well-tuned suspension, the car stays in control and on line in the turns.