KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
The 2010 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 earlier entrants, such as 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 the choice of gasoline or diesel engines and is fitted with many of Audi's trademark features, such as quattro all-wheel drive and the revolutionary S tronic direct shift gearbox.
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 2010 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 New for 2010
For 2010, Audi drops the 3.2-liter V6 engine option, replacing it with an all-new 2.0-liter TDI clean diesel engine. Available only with front drive and automatic transmission, the new A3 TDI is expected to exceed 40 mile per gallon highway. Other changes include the addition of last year's S line exterior equipment on all models, while Premium Plus models now feature standard HID head lamps. New options include wood interior trim, leather and alcantara seats and a revised Titanium Sport Package.
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 S tronic-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.
S tronic direct shift gearbox (DSG)
Inspired by auto racing technology, the S tronic transmission 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 S tronic is so efficient that it delivers better EPA fuel economy numbers than does the manual gearbox.
Rear Side Impact Airbags
Available as optional equipment, these additional airbags add another layer of safety for rear seat occupants.
When it comes to the interior treatment, the 2010 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.
The 2010 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 new 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.
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, 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.
Notable Optional Equipment
The A3 option list includes a Cold Weather Package featuring heated seats, mirrors and windshield washer nozzles; a Sport Package adds sport seats, sport suspension and 18-inch wheels and the Titanium Sport Package adds leather and alcantara seats, piano black inlays and headliner, black grille surround and unique seven-spoke 18-inch wheels. Stand-alone options include rear side-impact airbags, aluminum roof rails, walnut wood inlay, DVD navigation and the Open Sky power moonroof.
Under the Hood
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 S tronic direct shift automatic 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 2.0-liter TDI clean diesel doesn't have as much horsepower, but its significantly greater torque makes it almost as quick as its gasoline cousin while delivering superior fuel economy. Too bad Audi doesn't offer quattro with the TDI, but with traction and stability control, the front drive TDI should still perform admirably in all weather conditions.
2.0-liter in-line 4 turbocharged
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)
2.0-liter in-line 4 turbodiesel
140 horsepower @ 4200 rpm
236 lb.-ft. of torque @ 1750-2500
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 30/42
The 2010 Audi A3's Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts around $28,000, while quattro and the S tronic automatic bump the price to just under $32,000. The 2.0-liter TDI starts around $31,000. Both the gasoline and diesel models can easily exceed the $40,000 mark with all options added. 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.