The latest-generation A3 debuted in 2015 and marked a departure from the generation it replaced, eschewing the hatchback body style for sedan and convertible body styles. It then received a modest face-lift in 2017.
The A3 debuted just one year after the debut of the Mercedes CLA-Class, marking the dawn of a new entry-level era among German automakers. BMW has yet to introduce a sedan in the vein of the others, instead doing battle with its rear-wheel-drive 2 Series coupe.
The A3 Cabriolet models lose the roof but gain reinforcements elsewhere to shore up the structure. In the bargain they gained about 250 pounds compared to their sedan counterparts. The power-folding top is fully lined, but its narrow rear window and large, unbroken swaths of fabric obscure visibility.
Under the skin, the A3 is closely related to the Volkswagen Golf. That's no bad thing, as both are quite accomplished compact cars. Be aware that it's possible to option up an A3 to an eye-watering degree. At some point, buyers might consider an A4 over a heavily optioned A3.
trim levels & features
The 2018 Audi A3 is offered in four-door sedan and two-door convertible (Cabriolet) body styles. Both are available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The trim levels are named Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige in Audi speak, which are listed in order of increasing content.
Front-wheel-drive A3 models have a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (186 hp, 221 lb-ft) and a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission. These models have a fuel economy edge over their all-wheel-drive brothers to the tune of 2 mpg (EPA combined). All-wheel-drive variants (Quattro) have a similar engine, but a few changes elevate its gumption to a more robust 220 hp and 258 lb-ft. Perhaps paradoxically, Quattro variants have one fewer gear in their dual-clutch automatic transmissions than do front-wheel-drive models. Despite this and their inevitably heavier weights (160 pounds for sedans; 200 pounds for convertibles), Quattro models handily out-accelerate their front-wheel-drive counterparts. No manual gearbox is available on any flavor of A3.
The base Premium is well-equipped, sporting features such as leather upholstery, a backup camera, dual-zone climate control, a panoramic sunroof, forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, a 10-speaker sound system, heated front seats and an eight-way power driver seat with power lumbar adjustment. Cabriolet models are similar but have a power-folding soft top, a nine-speaker sound system and six-way power front seats with lumbar.
For a reasonable sum, Premium Plus adds a mix of cosmetics and worthwhile convenience features such as 18-inch wheels, an eight-way power passenger seat with lumbar, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, keyless ignition and entry, parking sensors, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. These models also gain a dose of exterior appearance items such as revised bumpers, side sill extensions and illuminated aluminum front door sills.
The Prestige goes all out with power-folding mirrors, LED headlights, an expanded Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster, navigation, a Bang & Olufsen premium audio system and a host of driver assistance features (including lane departure warning, adaptive cruise, automatic high beams).
Some of the features found on the Premium Plus and Prestige can be added to the lower trims as options.
Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2015 Audi A3 2.0T Quattro Sedan (turbo 2.0L inline-4 | 7-speed dual-clutch automatic | AWD).
NOTE: Since this test was conducted, the current A3 has received some revisions, including a host of new driver assistance and cabin features. Our findings remain applicable to this year's A3, however.
noise & vibration
ease of use
getting in/getting out
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.