Introduced a decade ago in Europe and brought to the United States in 2006, the A3 is Audi's entry-level model for the North American market. Smaller and lighter than an A4 2.0T Avant Quattro, the front-drive Audi A3 presents a strong argument for buying a bargain sport wagon, provided one goes easy on the options. And just because this is Audi's entry-level car doesn't mean the company cuts corners on quality. The cabin's design and materials are up to the lofty standards Audi has set for the industry, meaning everything fits tightly, moves with precision and looks and feels top-shelf.
The A3 remains an alternative choice -- few luxury automakers bother making small hatchbacks. As such, it's an upscale alternative to more mainstream hatchbacks, a cheaper alternative to a regular luxury wagon and, with the clean-burning diesel engine, an extremely-fuel efficient alternative to hybrids. No matter how you look at it, though, the A3 offers the distinct German flavor of Audi, meaning one of engineering excellence combined with an upscale cabin.
Current Audi A3
The Audi A3 is available in Premium and Premium Plus trim levels. Slip inside and it's readily apparent that the A3 continues Audi's tradition of utilizing first-class materials throughout the cabin. Standard Premium feature highlights include 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seating and a 10-speaker sound system. Stepping up to the Premium Plus adds xenon headlights, Bluetooth and a power driver seat. Major options include a navigation system, heated seats, a sunroof and adaptive suspension dampers.
The A3 is offered with two appealing but very different engines. The first, more traditional choice is the gasoline-fueled turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. The other is a 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder (dubbed TDI) that produces 140 hp and a healthy 236 lb-ft of torque. More impressively, it returns 34 mpg combined.
Gasoline-powered A3 models are offered with either front-wheel drive or Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive system. The TDI is only offered with front-wheel drive. Front-wheel-drive gasoline models can be equipped with either a six-speed manual transmission or Audi's quick-shifting S tronic automated dual-clutch six-speed manual transmission. AWD models and the TDI are limited to the S tronic transmission.
As with the rest of the Audi family, the A3's chassis strikes an agreeable balance between athletic handling and a comfy ride. Its steering does a superb job of dampening out unwanted road vibrations and kickback without marring the sublime feedback enthusiast drivers crave. At the same time, the suspension keeps the Audi A3 buttoned down without transmitting harsh road impacts to the cabin. The most significant drawback to the A3 is its small backseat -- the lack of legroom makes it a tight fit for adults.
Used Audi A3 Models
The Audi A3 was introduced as a 2006 model in the United States. A 2.0-liter, 200-hp turbocharged inline-4 and front-wheel drive were standard. From 2006-'09 a 3.2-liter V6 engine was available that produced 250 hp. It was outfitted with Quattro (all-wheel drive) and the S tronic transmission standard. Trim levels also corresponded with engine choice (2.0T and 3.2 Quattro). The TDI engine didn't become available until 2010.
There were other significant changes made for '09. The exterior and interior were refreshed, most notably with Audi's signature larger grille and LED running lights. Leather upholstery, satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack became standard equipment, while the 2.0T could now be equipped with Quattro. Hill-hold assist was added to manual-transmission-equipped cars. The following year, the V6 was dropped from the lineup while the highly regarded "TDI" turbodiesel engine was added.
Read the most recent 2013 Audi A3 review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Audi A3 page.