By KBB.com Editors
The 2009 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).
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 2009 Audi A3's taut handling, sophisticated design and hatchback versatility, at a price lower than those worthy machines, could make this car a keeper.
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.
New for 2009, the four-cylinder 2.0T model can now be ordered with quattro all-wheel drive. New standard features include leather seating, SIRIUS Satellite Radio, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and an auxiliary audio input jack. New standard features on the 3.2 include Bluetooth, bi-xenon headlamps and the Open Sky sunroof. New options for the 3.2 include Audi Magnetic Ride and a new Sport package.
Driving Impressions 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 might 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.
Magnetic Ride Suspension
An optional Magnetic Ride Suspension allows for an extra three inches of ground clearance, while an active damping system lets you choose between Auto, Comfort and Sport settings, in accordance to the road ahead.
When it comes to the interior treatment, the 2009 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. The leather-wrapped steering wheel has 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.Exterior
The 2009 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 available xenon headlamps give the A3 an exclusive demeanor.
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, leather seating, 140-watt stereo with 10 speakers and SIRIUS Satellite Radio 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, Hill hold assist, 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.
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, sport seats, rear spoiler and ten-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels; and a Sport Package adds Magnetic Ride Suspension and 18-inch wheels. Stand-alone options include rear side-impact airbags, DVD navigation and the Open Sky power moonroof (2.0T).
Audi's FSI direct-injection gasoline engine with turbocharger powers the A3 2.0T. It can be fitted with a conventional six-speed manual transmission or the optional Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) and with front or quattro all-wheel drive. 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: 21/30 (manual), 22/28 (automatic), 21/28 (quattro)
250 horsepower @ 6300 rpm
236 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/25
By AudiDriver (PA) on Wednesday, April 03, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 23,900overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Cons: "Center gear shift knob gets very hot in the summer"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"The car is a pleasure to drive and has alot of power. My husband keeps saying he wants to drive it on a closed track to really see it perform. Drives well in all weather conditions. The hatch back offers a large amount of space."
By Crystall (CA) on Monday, August 27, 2012
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 53,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive- esp in mountains."
Cons: "Transmission; dealers won't fix Real problem"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2
"Love the handling; great acceleration; balanced & attractively unique. Transmission started jerking between 1st and 2nd gear. Dealer said he'd _____ it. This game went on for 2+ years. Took car to a different dealer in a city 300 miles away. Same run-around. Now that it's "out of warranty","
6 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By Tformers1 (PA) on Friday, April 13, 2012
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 60,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun n sporty"
Cons: "Turbo lag and maintenance cost"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"Bought this car used as my daily driver. its a fun car to drive the Fwd did great in pa 09-10 snow. I've been pulled over from other audi drivers to look at this car. I've added audi's ground effects kit and larger spoiler with audi's ECU upgrade ( done by audi with 4yr warranty) for better performance which has no turbo lag and better throttle response . Have had no issues since ive had the car but be prepared for the cost of owning ( ie; brakes, tires and overall upkeep) a german car. Overall a sporty,fun, nice interior and great handling car."
12 people out of 12 found this review helpful
By Mark (IL) on Friday, March 30, 2012
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 105,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Overall value for the luxury, highly reliable."
Cons: "Seats could be a little more comfy"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Although I broke my rule of buying the first model year of a vehicle, Audi has a tried and true 2.0 litre engine that is bullet proof. This car has 105K miles on it and we have only had to replace 1 headlight bulb. That is the only problem we have had. Everything else has been preventive maintenance and the car drives and seems brand new even with 105K miles. Gas mileage is pretty darn good too. We average 28 mpg, with up to 34 on the highway. The hatchback is highly convenient and it takes a Yakima rack like a champ. We have abused this car over the years with camping, biking and sports and it hasn't flinched. Highly recommend this car."
9 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By Marijam (OK) on Friday, March 23, 2012
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 79,800overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive, comfortable, great mileage"
Cons: "Hard to get into and out of due to long legs."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Drives and handles like a fine sports car. Really appreciate the manueverability of the car, getting into and out of tight spots, such as when parallel parking. Heated, adjustable seats and automatic climate control make it very comfortable. Love, love, love the gas mileage that I get. Love, love, love Audi maintenance and service. I want to still have this car when I'm a little old lady and can barely see over the steering wheel. Fully expect to be able to get 200,000 plus miles out of the car. Only draw back is that I have very long legs that make it difficult to get into and out of the car, but once you are in, there's plenty of leg room because of the fully adjustable seat."
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By JJ (CA) on Wednesday, March 14, 2012
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 96,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I love the practability of the design. But I love the turbo more! Gas mileage not terrific but for a turbo with 200hp not bad at 24mpg."