- Quick, nicely weighted steering
- The best in-dash interface (MMI)
- Super-flexible, efficient engines
- Quick 4G LTE embedded data connection
- Attractive yet uncontroversial design
- Tiny back seat
- Road noise
- Not quite a luxury car
- Over $40,000 when well optioned
- Unadventurous look and feel
The 2016 Audi A3 models offer a variety of body styles, powertrains, and options to battle whatever the small luxury segment has to offer.
The Audi A3 is a new weapon in the battle for compact luxury buyers. A new family of vehicles that slots in below the A4 lineup, the A3 was introduced first for the 2015 model year as a four-door sedan, and now includes convertible and plug-in hybrid hatchback models, as well as the sporty S3 .
The A3 family has rivals in cars like the Mercedes CLA, the Acura ILX, and BMW's 2-Series coupe and convertible as well as entry-level versions of the 3-Series sedan. Buick's Verano, while not likely to be cross-shopped, offers a turbocharged engine and matches the A3 sedan's size, and the Buick Cascada convertible matches up with the A3 Cabriolet.
The 2016 Audi A3 has a quintessentially Audi appearance. It looks conservative in comparison to competitors, a lot like the A4 despite its size and the distinctive angle of its rear roof pillars. The cockpit ventures carefully into new territory. More of its Volkswagen roots show up in the dash. The horizontal design is punctured by round vents, three climate-control knobs, a new media interface controller, and a touchscreen that rises from the dash.
Base A3s have a 170-hp 1.8-liter turbo-4 and front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive cars get a 220-hp, 2.0-liter turbo-4. They're mated to a 6-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Zero-to-60 mph times range from 6 to 7 seconds..
An uprated turbo-4 appears in the spicy S3. With standard all-wheel drive, the S3 is good for 296 hp, providing a 0-60 mph time of about 4.8 seconds-just 0.2 seconds shy in that benchmark then the CLA 45 AMG, which sports almost 60 more horsepower.
All A3 cars have an independent suspension with struts in front and four links in back, for good ride compliance and responsiveness. Steering is electric, well-weighted and precise
A3 sedans are just 175.5 inches long and ride on a 103.4-inch wheelbase. That's more than a half-foot longer overall than the Benz CLA, though the A3 has a longer wheelbase. The Audi is also wider, and that difference combined with how the A3's doors and roofline make it petite back seat more accessible than the one in the CLA is noticeable. Road noise is more intense, though, and trunk space is small.
Audi aimed to maximize interior space and boost crash performance by moving the front wheels forward by about 1.5 inches compared to the last-generation model. The A3 also has options like blind-spot monitors and adaptive cruise control that maintains a traffic crawl with a tap of the resume button.
The 2016 Audi A3 1.8T starts at $31,825, while 2.0T quattro cars start at $35,125. The Cabriolet models start at $37,525 for the front-drive 1.8T and $40,525 for the quattro 2.0T model. All are sold as A3 Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige models.
Standard features include power accessories, leather, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power driver seat, and a panoramic sunroof, as well as Bluetooth audio streaming. Options include a 14-speaker, 705-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system. This year, standard equipment also includes a rearview camera and metallic interior trim and Audi's non-touchscreen infotainment system. Audi Connect is an option that pipes 4G LTE data into the car for Google Earth maps and the like.
The base A3 is EPA-rated at 23 mpg city, 33 highway, 27 combined. Quattro models get better, at 24/33/27 mpg.