Full 2015 Audi A3 Review
What's New for 2015
The Audi A3 has been fully redesigned for 2015, with a four-door sedan body style that replaces the old hatchback. A new two-door convertible A3 will also join the lineup later in the model year.
Is a size 6 Manolo Blahnik inferior to a size 9? Is a caramel mocha latte any less tasty because you opted for tall rather than venti? The answer is no, and it goes to show that size isn't always an indication of an object's excellence.
In the past, cars have certainly not followed this model. Bigger was better, small was cheap and undesirable. Today, however, the 2015 Audi A3 is the best example of a new, smaller and more fuel-efficient premium car that provides a similar level of quality, equipment and driving experience to its bigger, more elite siblings. A commensurately lower price also puts luxury brands like Audi within reach of newer and/or younger car shoppers.
Although there was a previous-generation A3, its hatchback body style and overall design gave the impression of a really nice compact car done up in leather and fancy gadgets rather than that of an authentically luxurious machine worthy of a higher asking price. The all-new 2015 A3 sedan, by comparison, aligns more closely with the American definition of a luxury car. Basically, it looks and feels like an A4 or A6 that got left in the dryer on high heat. Unfortunately, there are side effects to the shrinkage, namely a cramped backseat and a tiny trunk. They are without question the 2015 Audi A3's biggest drawbacks.
Its biggest assets, though, are an impeccably constructed interior, generous standard equipment, an ample options list, nimble handling and appealing engines. Those engines consist of two different punchy and efficient turbocharged gasoline four-cylinders, plus an ultra-economical diesel engine that arrives later in the model year. There will also be an A3 convertible and the high-performance 2015 Audi S3 sedan.
In an Edmunds comparison test, the 2015 Audi A3 easily proved superior to the similarly sized, equipped and priced Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class. However, there are other alternatives. Traditional entry-level luxury sedans like the BMW 320i and 2015 Volvo S60 offer similar equipment, though they are also bigger and pricier. Meanwhile, the new two-door BMW 2 Series is sportier. You could also consider well-equipped, non-luxury compacts (for price reasons) or midsizers (for space). In the end, though, the A3 offers the most luxury-branded equipment, refinement and prestige for the least amount of money. It goes to show there's certainly no shame in getting the small one.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2015 Audi A3 is a four-door compact luxury sedan with seating for five people. There is one main trim level, Premium, which can be enhanced with the Premium Plus and Prestige option packages. All versions can be equipped with your choice of four-cylinder engine, denoted by 1.8 TFSI, 2.0 TFSI and, later in the year, 2.0 TDI.
The base Premium trim levels comes standard with 17-inch wheels, automatic xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, automatic wipers, cruise control, a sunroof, an eight-way power driver seat (with four-way power lumbar), a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, leather upholstery, 60/40 split-folding rear seats, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, the MMI electronics interface (with center console controls and dash-top rising screen) and a 10-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite and HD radio, and an SD card slot. The Cold Weather package adds heated front seats, side mirrors and windshield washer nozzles. Eighteen-inch wheels and an iPod interface are available separately.
The Premium Plus includes all those optional items as standard and adds keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone climate control and an eight-way power passenger seat (with four-way power lumbar). The Premium Plus Convenience package adds power-folding side mirrors, auto-dimming mirrors (including interior) and ambient interior lighting. Also for Premium Plus is the Driver Assistance package that adds a blind-spot monitoring system, a rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors and an automated parking system.
Optional on both Premium trims is a navigation system, which also includes a larger display screen, an enhanced touch-activated controller, voice controls and a color trip computer display. The Premium version automatically includes the iPod interface, while the Premium Plus version gets Audi connect (WiFi hotspot, various Internet-based smartphone applications).
The Prestige includes all of the above optional equipment, plus LED headlights, an "S line" exterior appearance package and a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system. The Advance Technology package adds adaptive cruise control, a lane departure warning system and a front collision warning and braking system.
Available on all A3s are rear side airbags and a Sport package that adds front sport seats, steering wheel shift paddles and adjustable vehicle settings known as Drive Select.
Powertrains and Performance
Every 2015 Audi A3 comes standard with a six-speed automated manual transmission and provides a choice of four-cylinder turbocharged engines named 1.8 TFSI, 2.0 TFSI and 2.0 TDI. The numbers indicate engine displacement; the letters indicate whether it's powered by gasoline or diesel.
The front-wheel-drive A3 1.8 TFSI produces 170 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque. Audi estimates that it'll go from zero to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds. The EPA estimates it will return 27 mpg combined (23 city/33 highway).
The 2.0 TFSI produces 220 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, and comes standard with all-wheel drive. In Edmunds testing, an A3 2.0 TFSI accelerated from zero to 60 mph in a quick 5.8 seconds. It essentially gets the same fuel economy as the 1.8 TFSI, though the EPA city rating is actually higher at 24 mpg.
Official figures on the TDI have not yet been released, but expect it to produce about 148 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque, and return around 35 mpg combined.
Every 2015 Audi A3 comes standard with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front knee airbags, front side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and automatic seatbelt tightening and window closing (Audi Pre-Sense) in the case of a potential frontal collision. Rear side airbags are optional.
Standard with the Prestige and optional on the Premium Plus is the Driver Assistance package, which includes a blind-spot warning system, a rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors, and an automated parking system. Optional on the Prestige is the Advance Technology package that adds lane-departure warning, frontal collision warning and frontal collision mitigation (with automatic braking) systems.
In Edmunds brake testing, an A3 2.0 TFSI with 17-inch wheels and all-season tires came to a stop from 60 mph in 118 feet -- a few feet better than average.
Interior Design and Special Features
While the 2015 A3's exterior closely resembles that of other Audis, the interior establishes a new course and leaves a more lasting impression. Though some may prefer flashier cabins adorned in swaths of wood or metal, the ultra-modern A3 is beautiful in its simplicity. Yet when you look deeper beyond its broader, minimalist look, you begin to appreciate its top-notch materials and intricate details like its ornate, jet-engine-inspired air vents, finely crafted switchgear and the fluid action of the MMI display as it rises from and lowers back into the dash.
Every A3 includes that screen, but its display size depends on whether you opt for navigation. So, too, does the rotary controller. Without nav, it's just a knob. With it, there is a pad on top that allows you to write letters with your finger when entering a destination. It's cool and it works. Regardless of MMI version, however, controls for the stereo and other audio systems may take some time to get used to (especially if you're used to a car with traditional dash-mounted stereo buttons), but they eventually become second nature.
Space is likely to be an issue with the A3. The front seat is mounted a bit high and lacks lateral support, but a more significant issue is the backseat. Though more spacious than the rear seat of a Mercedes CLA-Class, headroom and legroom are limited. You'll find more space in compact cars like a Honda Civic, let alone bigger entry-level luxury sedans like the BMW 320i.
You'll find more trunk space in almost any car, as the tiny 10-cubic-foot trunk struggles to fit a golf bag or a weekend's worth of luggage for four passengers (that's if they could all fit in the cabin).
Compared with other small luxury sedans, the 2015 Audi A3 feels more grown-up: an honest-to-goodness luxury car instead of a fancy compact. The ride is composed and comfortable, the cabin is quiet and the turbocharged engines provide a solid wallop of low-end power that provides confidence around town and on the freeway. Superb fuel economy helps as well.
Surprisingly, the A3 doesn't feel especially sprightly when driving around town, mainly because the steering is a tad too light and numb at lower speeds. However, it perks up when driving around tight turns with more enthusiasm. Particularly when equipped with the 2.0-liter engine and all-wheel drive, the A3 can feel like a lithe running back in bankers' clothing. Just because the A3 is the smallest Audi doesn't mean that you're getting less of a luxury sport sedan.