2009 Audi A3 Review

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Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
July 20, 2009

The 2009 Audi A3 is more than a spruced-up VW hatchback, thanks to the fabulous interior, S-tronic transmission, and V-6 bark.

TheCarConnection.com's editors have driven the new Audi A3 in order to give you an expert opinion in this quick Bottom Line summing up all the important points. Then for even more detailed information and to include opposing viewpoints, the experts at TheCarConnection.com have researched available road tests in a comprehensive full review.

The lineage of the A3 Audi can be traced to the Volkswagen Rabbit, but the A3 sports tighter styling, a sleeker roofline, and most importantly, a big Audi four-ringed grille up front.

For 2009 Audi restyled both the exterior and interior of the A3. Inside, designers gave the A3 a sportier atmosphere with air vents that have an aluminum look and audio controls that also receive a modern makeover. It's one of the best interiors Audi currently makes: ergonomically flawless and exquisitely crafted. Never really a good-looking vehicle in a conventional sense, the Audi A3 is striking enough to make you do a wide-eyed double take if you saw one on the street. The new exterior features mirrors with integral turn signals, as well as new wheels and door handles. Headlamps feature a curved trim element, and daytime running lights are now standard.

Another new facet of the 2009 A3 is Audi's magnetic ride system. The adaptive-action shock absorber control system uses voltage to electrify a magneto-rheological fluid circulating in the shock absorbers and change its flow properties within milliseconds, thus shifting its damping characteristics from supple to firm. The driver can choose between Normal and Sport programs by flipping a switch.

Review continues below

Propelling the 2009 A3 is either a standard 200-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injection inline-four or an optional 3.2-liter, 250-hp V-6. The four-cylinder utilizes either a six-speed manual transmission or S-line automatic, which uses two clutches to speed up gear changes without involving an actual clutch pedal. It's a brilliant innovation that is becoming more widely available from other brands. The bigger engine is offered with Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system and the S-line gearbox; it'll accelerate to 60 mph in about 5.9 seconds. Seventeen-inch wheels and tires are standard, with 18-inch rims optional.

In 2015, Volkswagen admitted diesel engines in this model illegally cheated federal tests and polluted beyond allowable limits. As part of unprecedented settlements with federal and state governments, Volkswagen agreed to buyback from owners diesel-equipped models of this vehicle. To determine eligibility for all affected Volkswagen, Porsche, and Audi models, Volkswagen set up VWDieselInfo.com for owners. (Owners of affected vehicles can enter their VIN numbers to see if their cars are eligible for buyback.)

Either version of the A3 feels like a true Audi in most every sense: light, direct, and refined. The ride can be somewhat stiff, and the electric power steering doesn't wind into a corner like a traditional hydraulic power steering system would. With either front-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive in V-6 versions, the Audi A3 is a competent machine on the road.

For a car of this size, rear seat accommodations are acceptable, allowing you to squeeze a pair of adults in there—provided the passengers in front don't mind scooting forward an inch or two. The front standard leather buckets lack the side support needed in such a car and can cause backaches on longer journeys. The trunk is very large.

The 2009 Audi A3 comes with stability control, as well as front-seat side-impact and head-curtain airbags. Options include Bluetooth, a navigation system, Sirius Satellite Radio, and an iPod integration kit.

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2009 Audi A3

Styling

The A3 Audi is a practical hatchback all around, yet it's sleek and sporty on the outside.

For 2009 Audi restyles both the exterior and interior of the A3. Inside, designers give the A3 a sportier atmosphere with air vents that have an aluminum look and audio controls that also receive a modern makeover. It's one of the best interiors Audi currently makes: ergonomically flawless and exquisitely crafted.

Edmunds says “the most noticeable styling changes include a sculpted chin spoiler and redesigned headlights with Audi's signature LED daytime running lights.” MyRide.com notes its “well-balanced, pleasing dimensions.” Cars.com likes the "coupelike silhouette" created by the 2009 Audi A3. Kelley Blue Book agrees, asserting that the A3 "has a purposeful, sporty look, emphasized by wheels and tires that fill the wheelwells."

From the back, the "sloping rear window adds to the aggressive appearance, but the trade-off is less interior cargo space," comments Kelley Blue Book. Face to face, the familiar "single-frame tapered grille" is apparent on the A3 Audi and "dominates the front end," says Cars.com.

Car and Driver says the most noticeable interior change “is that the instrument lighting has switched from Audi’s characteristic red to a more generic white.” They add, “There are further minor trim and décor changes, and the buttons in the center console get a more rounded-off look.” Edmunds feels that “few luxury touches are evident in the down-to-business interior,” but admits separately that the A3 Audi’s interior “styling is classically German, with straightforward buttons and controls.” Cars.com comments that “the A3’s interior, especially with the aluminum trim, still looks cheap.”

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2009 Audi A3

Performance

Whether on a winding road or in the straightaway, the performance of the 2009 Audi A3 will keep you grinning.

The 2009 Audi A3 is a joy to drive, plain and simple, and according to reviewers, the new magnetic suspension system is well worth getting.

“We were duly impressed by the Audi Magnetic Ride adaptive shock absorbers supplied by Delphi,” remarks Car and Driver. The “Audi Magnetic Ride provides the ultimate in cornering and stiffness—which posed a problem when trying to produce a noticeable amount of body roll at the behest of our photographer.”

About the standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine, Edmunds says, “our test car reached 60 mph from a standstill in only 7.2 seconds—which is about average for most competing cars, but more than a full second slower than the sportier Mazdaspeed 3.” Cars.com informs drivers that this speedy engine delivers "5,100 rpm and 207 pounds-feet of torque at 1,800 rpm."

ForbesAutos recommends upgrading to the 3.2-liter V-6 because it is "smoother" and "generates 250 horsepower." Kelley Blue Book says the V-6 "delivers even more punch, combining the sure-grip traction of quattro all-wheel drive with the marvelous DSG transmission."

"Whether you choose the 2.0T or 3.2 Quattro, brisk performance is at hand for passing and merging maneuvers,” says Edmunds. Cars.com agrees that the 2009 Audi A3 "yields good maneuverability," but "steering is on the light side."

Most reviews read by TheCarConnection.com applaud the A3's acceleration and braking prowess. ConsumerGuide is thrilled that "rapid takeoffs induce minor torque-steer" and says "braking is strong." Kelley Blue Book finds that "the Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) facilitates lightning-fast gear changes."

ForbesAutos mentions that Audi A3's gas mileage is "lower than most small cars muster," but concedes that "what the car lacks in overall fuel economy it makes up for in speed."

The dual-clutch transmission is an editors' favorite. And though the 2009 Audi A3’s ride can be somewhat stiff, and the electric power steering doesn't wind into a corner like a traditional hydraulic power steering system would, the A3 feels like a true Audi in most every sense: light, direct, and refined.

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2009 Audi A3

Comfort & Quality

Luxury touches and exceptional comfort make the 2009 Audi A3 a worthy step up in refinement from budget-priced hatches.

The Audi reputation is represented well here, with the 2009 Audi A3 offering plenty of refinement.

In extensive drives of the A3 Audi in Europe and the United States, TheCarConnection.com’s editors feel its standard leather buckets lack the side support needed in such a car and can cause backaches on longer journeys. Rear seat accommodation is acceptable for a car of this size, allowing you to squeeze a pair of adults in there—provided the passengers in front don't mind scooting forward an inch or two. The trunk is very large.

Kelley Blue Book describes the interior of the A3 as "decidedly upscale" with "aluminum-surrounded round front air vents" being "among several touches that echo the stylish Audi TT." Car and Driver says the 2009 Audi A3 "benefits from incredible build quality."

Cars.com contends the "excellent seats deliver good support and their bottoms are fairly long," but points out that "some drivers might find their right knee resting against the center console." ConsumerGuide claims front seats are "all-day comfortable" and "headroom and legroom are plentiful."

With regard to the A3 Audi seats themselves, ConsumerGuide mentions that "the cushion is nicely padded but not long enough for good thigh support." In the backseat, ForbesAutos warns that "larger occupants could feel cramped."

Kelley Blue Book reminds drivers the A3 is a hatchback, meaning "some folks might be disappointed by the size of the rear cargo area." The interior makes good use of space, however, with Car and Driver calling the A3 Audi "roomy." Edmunds touts the easy-to-use comfort, with "straightforward buttons and controls" and an "excellent steering wheel" that "fits the driver's hands perfectly" among the most notable features.

ConsumerGuide notices "some coarse-surface tire thrum on base models," but "wind rush is low at highway speeds," and "both engines sound classy while accelerating."

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2009 Audi A3

Safety

The 2009 Audi A3 gets mostly good marks in safety and has a top-notch roster of features.

The 2009 Audi A3 nudges out the competition, thanks to a host of standard safety features.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the 2009 Audi A3 crash tests edge out the Volkswagen Jetta, which receives a grade of Marginal in rear crash tests and Good in front and side tests. The more expensive BMW 3-Series also falls short, garnering an Average score in rear crash tests and Good in front and side tests.

The IIHS calls the 2009 Audi A3 a Top Safety Pick, basing this prestigious title on the A3 Audi's "good performance in front, side, and rear tests and standard electronic stability control."

Kelley Blue Book reports an "electronic stability program (ESP), front seats with active head restraints, remote keyless locking, front and side airbags for driver and front passenger and the Sideguard airbag system” are part of the long list of standard safety features. ConsumerGuide also lists anti-lock brakes, traction control, and an anti-skid system as standard safety gear on the Audi A3.

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2009 Audi A3

Features

The options list for the 2009 Audi A3 is short, but fortunately standard features are aplenty.

Audi rolls out the red carpet for customization with a variety of standard and optional packages available on the 2009 Audi A3. Options include Bluetooth, a navigation system, Sirius Satellite Radio, and an iPod integration kit.

According to Edmunds, the S-line package includes features such as "sport-tuned suspension, foglamps, sport seats with leather upholstery, aluminum interior trim, unique front and rear fascias and a roof spoiler."

ConsumerGuide reports that the A3 Audi package includes "leather upholstery, power driver seat w/power lumbar adjustment, sport leather-wrapped steering wheel w/radio controls, steering wheel shift paddles (automatic), aluminum exterior trim, additional interior lights, illuminated visor mirrors, fog lights, (and) unique alloy wheels."

Cars.com lists "dual-exhaust outlets" and "alloy wheels" with "17-inch tires" as attractive standard features. Kelley Blue Book lists singular additions, such as "SIRIUS Satellite Radio, 18-inch alloy wheels," and "Bose audio." In regard to stand-alone upgrades, ForbesAutos claims "a navigation system heads up a fairly short options list."

Edmunds says of the A3's interior “switches and dials on the center console are within easy reach and simple to operate, but we were not fans of the driver-side door controls.” Cars.com likes the A3 Audi’s standard "dual-zone automatic climate control" and "'OpenSky' glass sunroof" that "includes separate blinds to keep the interior from overheating and to guard against the sun's glare." Kelley Blue Book calls the 140-watt stereo with 10 speakers and pre-wired satellite radio preparation for Sirius Satellite Radio "notable standard equipment."

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Styling 7.0
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