- Nimble and fun to drive
- Good infotainment with 4G LTE and Google Maps
- More powerful base model
- Well equipped at all levels
- Cramped rear seat
- Road noise
- Options get expensive
- Conservative styling
The 2017 Audi A3 comes well-equipped and is a pleasant, polished entry-level sedan worthy of serious consideration.
A host of minor updates have kept Audi's weapon in the battle for compact luxury buyers fresh and competitive. Headlining the changes is an updated infotainment system and a newly optional LCD screen that replaces the conventional gauges, but buyers of the front-wheel-drive model will also find a more powerful and larger engine under hood for 2017.
We rate the Audi A3 at 7.3 out of 10, with big scores for features and safety leading the way. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
A new family of vehicles that slots in below Audi's larger A4 lineup, the A3 was first introduced for the 2015 model year as a four-door sedan, and later added convertible and plug-in hybrid hatchback variants, as well as the sporty S3 (covered separately). Both the convertible and sedan are available in Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige trim levels, but all utilize the same 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder gas engine.
Audi A3 styling and performance
The A3 has a quintessentially Audi appearance, a look that's now rather conservative up against the competitive Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class. You have to look closely to differentiate it from even the new-for-2017 A4, despite a number of enhancements for 2017. A more aggressive front fascia is now filled with standard xenon headlamps (LEDs are optional) and revised wheels set the latest model apart from the last two model years.
Where the A3 ventures subtly into new aesthetic territory for Audi is inside. More of its Volkswagen roots show through in its horizontal, lightly-adorned dashboard, which isn't a huge surprise since the A3 shares its underpinnings with the dynamically excellent Volkswagen Golf. Audi's Multi-Media Interface, or MMI, controller takes up real estate on the center console and it includes a touchpad that can recognize handwriting inputs.
Gone is last year's 1.8-liter engine that powered front-wheel-drive models. Now, all A3s except the e-tron are motivated by a 220 horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 with direct injection. The only transmission on offer is a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic that can fire off rapid manual shifts if called upon. An all-wheel-drive model is also available.
Those looking for even more zip should consider the S3, which utilizes an uprated version of the A3's 2.0-liter engine rated at 296 horsepower. Capable of accelerating to 60 mph in just 4.8 seconds, it is a remarkably balanced, high value performance machine.
Audi A3 comfort, safety, and features
A3s stretch just 175.5 inches long and ride on a 103.4-inch wheelbase, more than a half foot longer than Mercedes' CLA, which gives them a more usable rear seat—although that's not saying much since the CLA's is a challenge to access.
Audi now fits all A3s with a suite of collision avoidance technologies including forward collision alert and automatic emergency braking. A blind spot monitor bundled with rear cross traffic alert is optional on the Premium Plus and standard on the Prestige, but even the Premium includes a backup camera and acoustic sensors for the front and rear bumpers.
Even the base A3 Premium is well equipped for the money, with leather seating surfaces, a power driver's seat, Xenon headlamps, and a panoramic sunroof all standard. Audi's MMI infotainment with Bluetooth audio streaming. Stepping up to the Premium Plus adds heated front seats and a proximity key, while the range-topping Prestige includes a 14 speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system, LED headlamps, and navigation.
Audi Connect is a key upgrade for those interested in a high degree of connectivity. With a monthly subscription, A3 drivers can tap into a 4G/LTE data network that delivers Google Earth maps and other rich feeds to the car; it can even store photos of destinations for use as favorites. Audi Connect also provides wi-fi access to as many as eight devices, and it can stream music from them via the local wireless network it creates.
The A3 cabriolet isn't a big seller, but it is a tidy and relatively inexpensive droptop. Its cloth top includes a glass rear window and folds back at the press of a button. It squares off best against the Buick Cascada, which is a little roomier but not quite as polished inside and out.
The 2017 A3 front-wheel drive with its new powertrain manages 26 mpg city, 35 highway, 29 combined, but the 2017 A3 sedan with all-wheel drive checks in at 24/31/27 mpg.
Audi A3 Sportback e-tron
Although it shares its name with the A3 sedan and cabriolet, the A3 Sportback e-tron utilizes a lithium-ion battery pack and an electric motor mated to a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, for a net of 204 horsepower. In electric-only mode, the A3 e-tron can travel about 25 miles, and it has a 500 mile-plus on a full tank of gas and a full charge of the battery pack.
Audi says that the e-tron can be fully recharged in about four hours.
The A3 e-tron is a five-door hatchback based on standard gas and diesel-powered versions of the European-market A3, which endows it with some added practicality over the sedan. Two configurations—Premium and Premium Plus—are available for what's basically an upscale rival to the Chevrolet Volt. The Volt, however, offers considerably more electric-only range.