- Great roadholding
- S-line transmission is top-notch
- Cargo room galore
- Styling could be better
- Retail prices can surpass $30,000
- Electric power steering feels artificial
The 2009 Audi A3 is more than a spruced-up VW hatchback, thanks to the fabulous interior, S-tronic transmission, and V-6 bark.
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.
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.
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.