KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
The 2008 Audi A3 has succeeded where others before it have failed. Conventional wisdom says Americans don't purchase small premium-luxury hatchbacks, and the lackluster sales of the BMW 318ti and Mercedes-Benz C230 coupe seem to lend credence to the theory. Yet, despite all odds, Audi's A3 has caught on, offering four-door versatility wrapped in a sleek package that forgoes a trunk in favor of a rear hatchback. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the A3 is priced well below $30,000, offers two great engine choices and is fitted with many of Audi's trademark features, such as quattro all-wheel drive and the revolutionary Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG).
You'll Like This Car If...
Hungering for a European sports sedan like an Audi A4, BMW 3 Series or Mercedes-Benz C-Class, but can't quite justify the expense? If so, the 2008 Audi A3's taut handling, sophisticated design and hatchback versatility, at a price lower than those worthy machines, could make this car a keeper.
You May Not Like This Car If...
For some reason American buyers have not traditionally warmed to vehicles with a utilitarian four-door hatchback configuration. And if you are the type who buys vehicles for sheer size and interior room, other models will better satisfy you for the price.
What's Significant About This Car?
New for 2008 are optional manual rear sunshades, a factory-installed iPod integration system and the Titanium Package, which adds 18-inch RS 4-style wheels, black grille and Piano black interior trim.
Audi engineers have certainly achieved their design objective of creating a hatchback with the feel of a sports car, and while it might seem odd to the uninitiated, the Direct Shift Gearbox-equipped version is actually sportier than the manual shift model, because the shifts arrive with racing-inspired quickness. The A3's small size, taut suspension and willing FSI engine also make it a blast to drive through curvy stretches, but at the same time its highway ride quality won't make you regret you didn't opt for a more sedate sedan. The seats offer good support, and the rear-seat area is surprisingly spacious, but some folks might be disappointed by the size of the rear cargo area. The dash is one of the most clear to understand we've ever encountered, and the switches and controls are intuitive.
Direct Shift Gearbox
Inspired by auto racing technology, the Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) facilitates lightning-fast gear changes thanks to its electro-hydraulically controlled twin-clutch design. Automatic shifts through the six gears are so quick and well-timed that even the most skilled driver will wonder why she or he should shift manually. The DSG is so efficient that it delivers better EPA fuel economy numbers than does the manual gearbox.
An optional air suspension allows for an extra three inches of ground clearance, while an active damping system lets you choose between Auto, Comfort and Sport settings, according to the road ahead.
When it comes to the interior treatment, the 2008 Audi A3 demonstrates it truly is a "premium" compact. The overall design is decidedly upscale, and the aluminum-surrounded round front air vents are among several touches that echo the stylish Audi TT. Available three- and four-spoke steering wheels have a satisfying heft, while the gauges housed in a simple binnacle are easy to scan. Aluminum rotary knobs on the automatic climate control system and several other aluminum pieces give the interior an aeronautical feel. Rear-seat passengers are treated to better accommodations than one might expect in a compact car, and the folding rear seatback features a pass-through for carrying longer items. Wheelwells intrude a bit into the rear cargo area, but it is exceptionally well-finished, with a cargo net to secure loose items.
The 2008 Audi A3's droop-nose grille treatment gives it a strong family resemblance to its larger Audi brethren, the A8, A6 and A4. With wheels thrust out to the corners and a tapered tail, the A3 has a purposeful, sporty look, emphasized by wheels and tires that fill the wheelwells. The sloping rear window adds to the aggressive appearance, but the trade-off is less interior cargo space. The rear hatch opens easily but seems relatively narrow, and justifiably so, since this is, after all, a small car. Clear-glass headlamp covers and optional xenon headlamps give the A3 an exclusive demeanor.
Notable Standard Equipment
The declared objective of the A3 was to offer the same high levels of standard equipment found in larger premium automobiles, so this vehicle doesn't skimp. Standard items include dual-zone automatic climate control with pollen filter and sun sensor, 140-watt stereo with 10 speakers and pre-wired satellite radio preparation for SIRIUS Satellite Radio (standard on 3.2), 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, power windows and central locking with remote. Safety features such as the electronic stability program (ESP), front seats with active head restraints, remote keyless locking, front and side airbags for driver and front passenger and the Sideguard airbag system are all standard on the A3.
Notable Optional Equipment
The A3 option list includes a 3.2-liter V6 model outfitted with quattro all-wheel drive; a Cold Weather Package featuring heated seats, mirrors and windshield washer nozzles; the S line Package touting sport suspension, aluminum trim, fog lights, leather-covered sport seats, rear spoiler and 17-inch alloy wheels; and a Premium Package that adds fog lights, power driver's seat, leather seat trim, steering wheel touch controls and 16-inch alloy wheels. Stand-alone options include rear side-impact airbags, SIRIUS Satellite Radio, 18-inch alloy wheels, Bose audio (part of the Audio Package), DVD navigation and the Open Sky power moonroof.
Under the Hood
Audi's FSI direct-injection gasoline engine with turbocharger powers the all-new A3. It can be fitted with a conventional six-speed manual transmission or the optional Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG). The 2.0-liter engine is remarkably tractable, with nearly none of the turbo lag that afflicts some other turbocharged engines. The 3.2-liter V6 delivers even more punch, combining the sure-grip traction of quattro all-wheel drive with the marvelous DSG transmission.
2.0-liter in-line 4
200 horsepower @ 5100 rpm
207 lb.-ft. of torque @ 1800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/29 (manual), 22/29 (automatic)
250 horsepower @ 6300 rpm
236 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/25
The 2008 Audi A3's Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts just under $27,000 and can go as high as $43,000 for a fully-equipped 3.2 quattro. A look at the Fair Purchase Price shows prices consumers are actually paying in your area, so be sure to click on it to compare. Other "hot hatchbacks," like the Mazda Mazda3 and Toyota Matrix, are significantly less expensive but don't offer near the premium panache of the A3. In terms of resale, the A3 is expected to retain excellent values over time, better than the Volvo V50 and Mazda Mazda3, and on par with the Volkswagen GTI.