Used 2015 Audi A3 Review
Edmunds expert review
The 2015 Audi A3 is the benchmark for a new, smaller segment of entry-level luxury vehicles. It's definitely small, which may be an issue for some, but it's no less luxurious or rewarding to drive than pricier Audis.
What's new for 2015
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, by comparison, aligns more closely with the American definition of a luxury car. Basically, the A3 sedan looks and feels like an A4 or A6 that got left in the dryer on high heat. The same is true of the A3 convertible and its mini-me relationship to the Audi A5 convertible. Much like the A5, the A3 goes with a fabric soft top instead of a folding metal roof. It may not look as modern, but the cloth top lowers quickly and takes up less space in the trunk, which is at a premium in such a small car.
Whether you go with the coupe or the convertible, the A3's biggest assets include 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. There's also the high-performance 2015 Audi S3 sedan. The car's main downsides just relate to its size. There's no getting around the fact that the A3 has a cramped backseat and a small trunk. They are without question the 2015 Audi A3's "biggest" drawbacks.
Yet, in an Edmunds comparison test, the 2015 Audi A3 sedan easily proved superior to the similarly sized, equipped and priced Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class. The A3 also compares well to other, larger sedans. Traditional entry-level luxury sedans like the BMW 320i and 2015 Volvo S60 offer similar equipment, though they are also bigger and pricier. If you're looking for a two-door alternative to the A3 Cabriolet, we'd recommend the BMW 2 Series for its sporty driving dynamics. 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.
Trim levels & features
The 2015 Audi A3 comes either as a four-door compact sedan with seating for five or a two-door convertible called the Cabriolet, with seating for four. There is one main trim level, Premium, which can be enhanced with the Premium Plus and Prestige option packages. Both the sedan and convertible can be equipped with either four-cylinder engine, denoted by 1.8 TFSI or 2.0 TFSI. The sedan also gets the option of the 2.0 TDI (diesel) engine. Trim levels for the sedan and convertible have essentially the same equipment, with the exception of the convertible's folding fabric top.
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.
For Premium and Prestige A3s, a Sport package is available that adds front sport seats, steering wheel shift paddles and adjustable vehicle settings known as Drive Select. A3 sedans can also be equipped with rear side airbags.
Performance & mpg
Every 2015 Audi A3 comes standard with a six-speed automated manual transmission and provides a choice of turbocharged four-cylinder engines named 1.8 TFSI or 2.0 TFSI. The A3 sedan gets a third engine option known as the 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 for the A3 start with the 1.8 TFSI sedan that will return 27 mpg combined (23 city/33 highway), while the 1.8-equipped convertible will get 28 mpg combined (24/35).
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 sedan accelerated from zero to 60 mph in a quick 5.8 seconds. As a four-door sedan, it essentially gets the same fuel economy as the 1.8 TFSI (27 mpg combined), though the EPA city rating is actually higher at 24 mpg. The 2.0 TFSI convertible is a bit lower at 26 mpg combined (23/32).
The TDI has a turbocharged 2.0-liter diesel engine good for 150 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque, and it's only available with the sedan. In our testing, the A3 2.0 TDI went from zero to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds. The diesel A3 returns an EPA-estimated 36 mpg combined (31/43).
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 for sedans.
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 government crash tests, the 2015 Audi A3 sedan was given a total of five stars (out of five possible) for overall crash protection, with four stars for frontal crash protection and five stars for side crash protection. During Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the A3 sedan received the highest possible rating of "Good" in the small-overlap and moderate-overlap frontal impact tests. It also earned a "Good" rating for the side impact, roof strength and whiplash protection (head restraints and seats) tests.
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. An A3 TDI with the optional (and grippier) 18-inch summer tires stopped quite a bit shorter than that at 105 feet, which is an excellent performance.
Compared with other small luxury vehicles, the 2015 Audi A3 feels more grown-up: an honest-to-goodness luxury car instead of a fancy compact. With the standard 17-inch all-season tires, 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.
If you opt for the 18-inch summer tires (as on the Edmunds.com long-term A3 2.0 TFSI), you'll find that the ride is still livable on most roads but sometimes harsh over major bumps and ruts. The summer tires also contribute to more noise in the cabin, as does the diesel engine, which is rattly when idling in traffic but quiet once you're up to speed.
Surprisingly, the A3 doesn't feel especially sprightly when driving around town, mainly because the steering is a tad too light at lower speeds. However, it perks up when driving around tight turns with more enthusiasm. This athletic character is even more noticeable on A3s equipped with the summer tires, which hasten the car's reactions to driver inputs. 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.
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. The convertible is likely to be even shorter on legroom, so don't expect to put much back there aside from some extra luggage or a child's booster seat. Even that may be a struggle.
For trunk space, pretty much any other car will have more space. Even the larger sedan has to make do with a tiny 10-cubic-foot trunk that 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).
Edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.