What's New for 2013
As we await an all-new 2014 model, the 2013 Audi A3 remains essentially unchanged.
Envy isn't pretty, but sometimes it's justified. Take the 2013 Audi A3, for instance. European drivers already enjoy a fully redesigned A3, with several body styles to choose from, including two- and four-door hatchbacks, a sedan and a convertible. In the U.S., we're limited to last year's four-door hatchback. When the redesign finally arrives here next year, the sedan will be the sole choice.
With the hatchback wagon's impending departure, 2013 marks the last chance to benefit from the A3's additional utility (though we don't put it past Audi to bring other body styles later). Along with its flexibility and cargo space, the current A3's other strengths -- an upscale yet understated interior and sporty driving dynamics -- are left intact.
Also returning for 2013 are two solid engine choices. The base, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder should appeal to drivers seeking some excitement, while the 2.0-liter TDI turbo diesel should resonate with those who prioritize fuel economy. With available all-wheel drive, the A3 also delivers more grip in wet conditions or when simply zipping through a fast, dry corner. Too bad it's not available on the TDI, though.
While 2013 might mark the end of the A3 hatchback in the U.S., a handful of alternatives are still available. We count the Acura TSX Sport Wagon as a close competitor with the added benefit of more spacious seating. The Lexus CT 200h and its hybrid-powered fuel economy should interest some buyers. And let's not forget the Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen, which shares much of the A3's underpinnings and offers even more cargo capacity, yet lacks the Audi's luxury brand cachet.
If the 2013 Audi A3's attributes strike the right chord with you, we suggest you pick one up sooner than later. Otherwise you'll be left to envy someone else's or hope that Audi eventually sends us the new hatchback.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Audi A3 is a four-door wagon offered in two trims: Premium and Premium Plus.
Standard equipment on the Premium includes 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, leather upholstery and a 10-speaker sound system with CD player, satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack. The Bluetooth Value package adds an eight-way power driver seat (includes four-way lumbar adjustment), a multifunction steering wheel and Bluetooth.
The Premium Plus package comes standard with the Bluetooth Value package and adds different wheels, xenon headlights, LED running lights, steering wheel shift paddles (with the automatic transmission), aluminum interior trim and enhanced interior lighting. The Audi Navigation System Plus package adds a navigation system, a dash-mounted Audi Multi Media Interface (MMI) and the choice of either a six-CD changer or an iPod interface. The Convenience package adds automatic headlights, automatic wipers, rear parking sensors, an auto-dimming rear view mirror and a Bose premium sound system.
Optional on both cars is the Cold Weather package, which adds heated front seats, heated mirrors and heated windshield washer nozzles. Also available are a panoramic sunroof, rear side airbags and a Sport package that includes 18-inch wheels, summer tires, a sport-tuned suspension and sport seats. The Titanium Sport package (available on the Premium Plus) adds special exterior and interior trim to the Sport package.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2013 Audi A3 is available with either a gasoline (2.0T) or a diesel (TDI) engine. The A3 2.0T is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive is standard, as is a six-speed manual transmission, but a six-speed dual-clutch, automated manual transmission (known as S tronic) is available. With all-wheel drive, S tronic is standard.
In Edmunds performance testing, an A3 2.0T with the six-speed manual went from zero to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds -- an average time among similarly powered entry-level luxury cars. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 21 mpg city/30 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined with the manual and 22/28/24 with S tronic. Adding all-wheel drive drops mileage by only 1 mpg in the city.
The A3 TDI features a turbocharged 2.0-liter diesel four-cylinder that produces 140 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. S tronic is standard but all-wheel drive is not offered. Audi estimates a 0-60 time of 8.9 seconds, which is leisurely compared to the TDI's competitors. Fuel economy is exceptional, however, with estimates of 30/42/34.
The 2013 Audi A3 comes standard with front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, whiplash-reducing front headrests, antilock brakes and stability control. Rear-seat side airbags are optional.
In Edmunds brake testing, an A3 2.0T with the Sport package came to a stop from 60 mph in 107 feet, a short distance even for a car equipped with summer tires. In crash testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the A3 received the best rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests, even without the optional rear side airbags.
Interior Design and Special Features
As with other Audi interiors, the A3's cabin adopts an understated and classy design language. Materials are generally high quality, with metallic trim for the air vents and knobs lending a decidedly upscale feel. You'll find more hard plastic elements here than in other Audi models, though they blend in pretty seamlessly and hardly suggest an entry-level compromise.
The navigation system will likely be a popular option, but operating it presents some minor challenges. The screen is large and clear, but is not touch-sensitive. Instead you'll have to use Audi's MMI dial controller, which wouldn't be a big deal if it were located in the center console. Instead you'll have to reach out and fumble with its place on the dash.
Passenger space is decent, although shorter drivers may find the seats don't have enough forward travel for shorter folks, while the rear seat is cramped for taller ones. The A3 scores better in cargo capacity, with 20 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats that easily accommodates large suitcases and golf bags. A rear seat center pass-through allows for longer items while still carrying passengers. The seats fold down but not flat, expanding capacity to 39 cubes.
The 2013 Audi A3's 2.0-liter gasoline engine provides ample power and is well matched to either transmission choice. The A3 TDI, meanwhile, feels energetic around town thanks to its ample torque, but runs out of steam -- and horsepower -- when charging up a highway on-ramp. The trade-off is exceptional fuel economy, which seems worth it to us.
As with many Audis, the A3's suspension is tuned firm to enhance performance, but allows enough compliance to soak up most road imperfections. Whether commuting in heavy traffic or cruising down the highway, the A3's cabin remains pleasantly refined and quiet.