2010 Audi A3 Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
September 10, 2009

A fuel-stingy new TDI engine and spruced-up appearance make the 2010 Audi A3 a very fuel-efficient, fun-to-drive, and practical compact choice.

Although the 2010 Audi A3 is based on Volkswagen Rabbit/Golf underpinnings, the A3 is bound to attract performance-minded shoppers, with a sleek fastback-wagon profile, plenty of aggressive styling cues, and big, styling wheel designs, in addition to the large Audi grille. Available all-wheel drive remains a major attraction for those in snowy climes.

After a modest restyle for 2009, which included new aluminum-look trim and revamped air vents and audio controls, along with new exterior mirrors, door handles, and wheel designs, the Audi A3 returns for 2010 with a few more appearance changes. The more aggressive look of last year"s S line package, including additional detailing and cues, is now standard across the model line. Overall, the 2010 Audi A3 has a now-aging design, but it's been kept current with some attention to the details.

The base engine for the 2010 Audi A3 remains the 200-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4; newly available is a 140-horsepower, 2.0-liter clean-diesel four-cylinder engine, in the A3 2.0 TDI model. Offered with either engine is a six-speed manual or dual-clutch transmission. With either engine, performance is satisfying, and models with the S tronic get steering-wheel paddle-shifters. Between the two, the TDI engine is narrowly the favorite of TheCarConnection.com"s editors, because its engine cranks out heaps of torque, giving it the response of a torquey big-displacement V-6 off the line or in top gear. With either engine, fuel economy is better than average, but it's downright excellent with the TDI; EPA ratings are 30 mpg city, 42 highway with S tronic, and TheCarConnection.com has seen more than 45 mpg in long-haul interstate cruising.

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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.)

An adaptive-damper system that uses magnetic fluid to change shock stiffness is available on the A3. Drivers can flip from Sport to Normal.

The 2010 Audi A3 driving experience is a joy in most respects: it's refined, direct, and light in steering feel. It can ride stiffly, and its electric steering doesn't wind and unwind like a hydraulic setup would. The A3"s turning circle is tightened for improved maneuverability on the 2010 model.

The Audi A3 has a rather small interior, but it's well laid-out and finely crafted. The leather front seats could use more side bolstering, and left our backs aching after long rides. Even in its size class, rear-seat accommodations are barely acceptable. Two adults will fit, if you ask the front passengers to give up a bit of their leg room. The backseats are 60/40-split and fold forward. Cargo space is ample.

The 2010 Audi A3 has not yet been rated by the federal government, it receives top "good" ratings from the IIHS in all occupant protection categories.

Standard equipment on the 2010 Audi A3 is quite good, including fog lamps, automatic climate control, keyless entry, leather upholstery, and a 140-watt, 10-speaker sound system. However, several tech features that are increasingly included on much more affordable cars-like a Bluetooth hands-free interface-remain optional on the A3. The options list is very long, and you can quickly drive the price toward $40,000 if you don't watch it. Highlights include Bluetooth, Bose premium sound, LED running lamps and adaptive headlights, a navigation system, and an iPod integration kit.

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