2017 Audi A3 Review
Edmunds expert review
Now in its third year of production, the 2017 Audi A3 looks to continue its successful ways. It was already a top choice among entry-level luxury compact sedans and convertibles, and the updates the A3 receives for 2017 will only burnish its appeal. Don’t let the “entry-level” label mislead you — the A3 does a fine job of conveying the brand’s design acumen and performance in a size — and price — that’s slightly more approachable than its stablemates.
The A3’s crisp handling doesn’t come at the expense of a punishing ride, and its satisfying acceleration doesn't incur a big penalty at the pump. It wears its familial sheet metal like a full-fledged member of the Audi family, appearing sharp and well-proportioned despite its compact dimensions. Unsurprisingly, it’s the A3’s backseat and trunk that most feel the pinch of its more diminutive size. But if adult passengers are an infrequent occurrence and you don’t have bulky cargo-hauling needs, the A3 could be an easy fit into your life.
Certainly, those who need more space will naturally gravitate to the larger (and spendier) Audi A4, BMW 320i or Lexus IS 200t. Yet the A3 is a sound choice even if you have the means to move upmarket. Among the A3’s competitors, the most direct rival is the Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class. Though it had an uneven start, some of the CLA’s shortcomings have been addressed since we last pitted it against the Audi in a comparison test. The Acura ILX, meanwhile, is a competitor that the A3 dispatches handily. The situation changes for the A3 convertible, which is undone by the formidable BMW 2 Series drop-top. Otherwise, the 2017 Audi A3 is a top pick for those who want a legitimate taste of luxury flavor in a shrink-wrapped package.
The 2017 Audi A3 comes standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front-seat side and knee airbags, side curtain airbags, a rearview camera, a forward collision mitigation system with automatic braking and front and rear parking sensors. The Prestige trim adds lane departure intervention and blind-spot monitoring. Premium Plus models can also be optionally equipped with blind-spot monitoring (via the Technology package), and rear-seat side airbags are optional for all sedan variants.
In Edmunds brake testing, an all-wheel-drive A3 2.0-liter sedan with 17-inch wheels and all-season tires came to a stop from 60 mph in 118 feet, which is a few feet better than average. An A3 2.0 TFSI Cabriolet recorded a 120-foot stop.
In government crash tests, the 2017 Audi A3 sedan was awarded the top five-star rating overall, including four stars for total front-impact protection and five stars for total side-impact protection. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 2016 A3 sedan (we expect the essentially identical 2017 model to perform similarly) the highest possible rating of Good in its small-overlap front-impact, moderate-overlap front-impact, side-impact and roof-strength crash tests. The A3's seat and head-restraint design was also deemed Good for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
What's new for 2017
Trim levels & features
The 2017 Audi A3 is available as a four-door compact sedan with seating for five or a two-door convertible (Cabriolet) with seating for four and a power-folding fabric roof. There are three main trim levels: Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige. Trim levels for the sedan and the convertible have essentially the same equipment.
The base Premium trim level comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, front and rear parking sensors, heated mirrors, a rearview camera, automatic wipers, cruise control, a panoramic sunroof (sedan), an eight-way power driver seat with four-way power lumbar adjustment (sedan only), leather upholstery, 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, the MMI electronics interface (with a console-mounted controller and a power-retractable display), a 3.5 mm auxiliary input with USB charger, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a 180-watt, 10-speaker sound system with a CD player and satellite radio.
Premium Plus adds an S line exterior appearance package, 18-inch wheels, keyless entry and ignition, front and rear parking alerts, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, USB interface for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, heated front seats and an eight-way power passenger seat with four-way power lumbar (sedan only).
The Prestige adds an LED Lighting package (including LED headlights and LED ambient interior lighting), power-folding exterior mirrors with driver-side auto-dimming, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system and a Technology package (including an expanded Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster, mobile 4G LTE connectivity with Wi-Fi hot-spot capability, mobile app integration, an upgraded MMI system with an improved display and a touch-sensitive controller, voice controls, a navigation system with Google Earth imagery and lane departure warning).
For the Premium Plus, the LED Lighting and Technology packages and Bang & Olufsen stereo are optional.
The Premium has an optional Convenience package that includes keyless entry and ignition and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Heated front seats and 18-inch wheels are available as stand-alone options.
A Sport package is available for all trim levels that adds front sport seats, a flat-bottom steering wheel with shift paddles and adjustable vehicle settings (Drive Select). A lowered sport suspension is available separately on all three trims.
Additional options include 19-inch wheels (except Premium) with summer tires and, for the sedan only, a black cloth headliner and rear side airbags.
The 2017 Audi A3 comes with a new seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission in front-wheel-drive models, replacing the previous six-speed. All-wheel-drive variants continue with the six-speed, dual-clutch automatic. There is one engine: a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that pumps out 186 hp and 221 pound-feet of torque in front-wheel-drive models, while in all-wheel-drive variants it is tuned to produce 220 hp and 258 lb-ft.
In Edmunds testing, an all-wheel-drive A3 sedan with the 2.0-liter engine accelerated from zero to 60 mph in a quick 5.8 seconds, while the heavier convertible needed 6.2 seconds.
The EPA rates the front-wheel-drive A3 sedan at 29 mpg combined (26 city/35 highway); all-wheel-drive versions achieve 27 mpg combined (24 city/31 highway). The convertible rings in at 28 mpg combined (25 city/34 highway) in front-wheel-drive models and 25 mpg combined (22 city/30 highway) with all-wheel drive.
The 2017 Audi A3 brings a genuine luxury vibe to the entry-level class. In contrast, others in the segment feel more like a dressed-up compact. The A3's turbocharged engine delivers good thrust and commendable fuel efficiency, and its ride quality with the standard 17-inch all-season tires is very well composed. Another sign of its refinement is that cabin noise levels remain pleasantly civilized on the highway. Opting for 18-inch or 19-inch tires (as we did on the Edmunds.com long-term A3 2.0 TFSI) results in more noise and a busier ride.
Though its available steering-wheel shift paddles give the driver more control, the dual-clutch automatic transmission is suitably responsive when left to its own devices. And when the fun's over, the A3's tidy size makes easy work of parking in tight spaces.
Its steering effort at low speeds is overly light but feels appropriately weighted and precise when the A3 is driven with spirit. Its athleticism is magnified with the larger summer tires, which deliver more cornering grip and sharper reactions to driver inputs.
Despite being the lowest rung on the automaker’s ladder, the 2017 A3's styling inside and out bears unmistakable resemblance to its bigger and more expensive brothers. In the cabin, precise-feeling knobs and buttons, unique air vents and leather touchpoints set the tone for the experience. Unlike in other entry-level luxury sedans, there's little in the A3’s cabin that looks or feels low-rent.
The optional navigation system comes with a larger central display screen and a revised, touch-sensitive control knob. This allows you to enter commands by simply scribbling them with your finger. Though it sounds odd, the touchpad works surprisingly well in practice. This system also includes Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, an expanded, configurable instrument cluster that can display map data with brilliant clarity. Other controls for the stereo and other systems might take some time to get used to, especially if you're used to a car with traditional dash-mounted buttons. Fortunately, the addition of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay for 2017 makes smartphone integration that much easier.
Front seat occupants will enjoy an agreeable amount of space and comfort. Though average-sized adults will fit in the backseat, they won’t find a lot of wiggle room. Sure, the A3’s backseat is more accommodating than the Mercedes CLA-Class' but it pales in comparison to those of the Acura ILX or other slightly larger sedans, such as the A4. Things get even more squeezed back there in the A3 convertible. It’s a place best left for children.
Cargo space is also limited. The sedan has a puny 10-cubic-foot trunk when equipped with all-wheel drive (the front-wheel-drive A3 offers 12.3 cubic feet), and it manages to hold a golf bag or a couple pieces of luggage but not much else. The rear seats do fold down flat to help with loading of longer items, though. The convertible's trunk is essentially the same at 9.9 cubic feet.
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.