Audi A3 Research

The Car Connection Audi A3 Overview

The Audi A3 is a subcompact sedan that represents the entry point for the Audi brand.

Those looking for more zip should go for the S3 or the track-ready RS 3. The A3 lineup is redesigned for 2022 with a new look, more power, and additional interior and safety technology.

MORE: Read our 2022 Audi A3 review

The A3 competes against the BMW 2-Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class and CLA-Class.

The new A3 family

The 2022 Audi A3's redesign includes engine upgrades. The base 2.0-liter turbo-4 now makes 201 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque, and it's aided by a 48-volt starter-generator mild-hybrid system that can add up to 12 hp and 37 lb-ft of torque at launch. The S3 model also has a 2.0-liter turbo-4, but it's tuned to 306 hp and 295 lb-ft. Both engines are mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Even more grunt is available in the turbo-5-powered RS 3.

The A3 comes standard with front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive is an option; the S3 gets only all-wheel drive. Both cars use a revised version of the MQB platform from the outgoing model. In this case, it's tweaked to make the car 1.5 inches longer, 0.8 inch wider, and 0.5 inch taller.

The A3 keeps its svelte good looks, tweaking the formula with a wider trapezoidal grille, larger front air intakes, and sharper character lines along the body. Inside, a 10.3- or 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster teams with a standard 10.1-inch infotainment touchscreen to create a techy look. The cluster offers three display themes, while the center screen has haptic feedback and handwriting recognition. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard.

A3 models hit 60 mph in as little as 6.3 seconds, while the S3 cuts that to 4.5 seconds. The S3 also sits 0.6 inch lower on a sport-tuned suspension and offers optional adaptive dampers. Additional performance upgrades for the S3 include 18- or 19-inch summer performance tires (versus the A3's 17-inch all-seasons), 14.1-inch vented front brake rotors, and standard sport seats.

Also on the standard equipment list are leather upholstery, power-adjustable and heated front seats, automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and automatic high beams. Buyers can opt for more safety equipment, including adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts, an automatic parking feature, and an exit warning system.

Audi A3 history

The first A3, which came to the U.S. as a 2006 model, offered several different combinations of running gear. It could be bought with front-wheel or quattro all-wheel drive, 4- and 6-cylinder engines, and manual or dual-clutch automatic transmissions. The A3's nimble handling won favor with enthusiasts, though some reviewers felt the stiff ride and the electric power steering were lacking compared to the best competitors. Most A3s of this era driven by enthusiasts were fitted with the 200-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4, which feels quicker in most real-world driving than the much heavier 250-hp, 3.2-liter V-6.

The A3 received its first refresh for the 2009 model year. Mechanical changes included a newly optional adaptive dampers, which could be switched between Normal and Sport modes, changing the properties of the magnetic fluid in the dampers to alter ride firmness and response. There also were aesthetic adjustments, such as new designs for the wheels and side mirrors, metallic interior trim, and revised audio controls.

More changes arrived for 2010, including a new engine choice—the Volkswagen Group's popular 140-hp, 2.0-liter TDI turbodiesel—and the end of the V-6 option. The other change for 2010 was that the previous S-line appearance package became standard equipment on all A3 models.

The A3 cabriolet went on sale in late summer 2014, powered by the A3's turbocharged gas-powered inline-4, and priced in the $30,000 range. Like in the sedan, quattro all-wheel drive was optional and an automatic is the only gearbox available.

In 2015, the EPA notified Volkswagen that its 2.0-liter diesel engines—including the one in the A3 TDI—exceeded by 40 times the legal limit for nitrogen oxides emissions. The automaker issued a stop-sale for the A3 TDI cars. As part of unprecedented settlements with federal and state governments, Volkswagen agreed to buyback from owners diesel-equipped models of this vehicle.

A new A3 arrived for the 2016 model year, It was much like the original Audi compact—the 1996 A4—both in size and in style, and came as a sedan for the first time. Its interior carved out new territory namely because it was starker and more plainly drawn than anything in the upper Audi reaches.

The 2016 A3 offered two different powertrains—gas and plug-in hybrid—as well as the high-performance S3 and RS3 models. For 2017, all A3 sedans and cabriolets were powered by a 220 hp 2.0-liter turbo-4 with choice between front- and all-wheel-drive paired exclusively to a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

The 2016 Audi A3 e-tron hybrid hatchback wagon used a distinctive hatchback body, and Audi mated a lithium-ion battery pack and an electric motor to a 1.4-liter turbo-4, for a net of 204 hp. In electric-only mode, the A3 e-tron could travel about 25 miles, and had a range of more than 500 miles on a full tank of gas and a full charge of the battery pack. Audi said the battery could be fully recharged in less than four hours and it included a Level 2 home charger.

The A3's compact cockpit was fine in front, tight in back. At just 175.4 inches long, and with a 103.8-inch wheelbase, the A3 had a more accessible back seat than the Mercedes-Benz CLA, but leg room was still tight. 

Priced around $31,000, the A3's standard equipment included a panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, Bluetooth, and Audi's Multi Media Interface (MMI) infotainment system, which controlled audio and vehicle systems. Audi also offered a 4G LTE connection with wi-fi hotspot capability, as well as an upgraded Bang & Olufsen stereo with 705 watts of power and 14 speakers. The S3 got a little more standard equipment plus the performance enhancements, and started near $42,000.

The A3 received a few changes for 2017, namely some mild styling updates, an available full LCD instrument cluster, and standard automatic emergency braking. The car was largely the same for 2018.

The big news for 2018 was the inclusion of an RS 3 sedan variant that added more horsepower to the formula with predictable results: it's wildly entertaining to drive everywhere.

In the 2019 model year, the Audi A3 gained LED taillights and headlights, wireless smartphone charging on top trims, and active park assist at the Prestige level. For 2020, Audi slimmed the lineup to just two trim levels in the sedan body style only.

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December 31, 2015
2015 Audi A3 2-Door Convertible FWD 1.8T Premium

Adequate, comfy and reasonably quick.

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Went from a 2009 Evolution MR to the S3. You have to chip the Evo (Cobb Accesport) to match the S3. Evo tranny is slightly better. S3 is quite a bit nicer inside and more comfortable. The biggest flaw in the... + More »
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June 24, 2015
2015 Audi A3 4-Door Sedan quattro 2.0T Prestige

Good but not great!

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It has all the safety features you could want with excellent handling but doesn't compare with previous Audis I have had. The engine/transmission combo lack smoothness and linearity. Between 1500-1800 rpm the... + More »
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May 7, 2015
2015 Audi A3 4-Door Sedan quattro 2.0T Premium

Good things in a small package...

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Took delivery in September of 2014; now has 21k miles on it, yes, I drive a LOT! Only complaint I have is that the shift mapping could be tighter; many times I find a "flat-spot" when I need acceleration or a... + More »
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