KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 2/24/2012
Blurring the line between hatchback and wagon, the 2012 Audi A3 combines utility and excitement in a compact design. Despite its entry-level price point, the 2012 A3 offers a variety of upscale amenities and drivetrain options. Ample cargo capacity and available all-wheel drive make the Audi A3 one of the most versatile cars on the road. For years, hatchback designs were unappealing to most American car buyers. Lately, however, shoppers are beginning to appreciate the flexibility offered by hatchbacks, and the Audi A3's recent sales figures are a prime example of the market shift.
You'll Like This Car If...
If you are looking for a vehicle that mixes practicality with dynamic handling, the 2012 Audi A3 will fit the bill. While there are several sensible alternatives including the Volkswagen GTI and Lexus CT 200h, the 2012 Audi A3 delivers a unique blend of excitement and refinement its competitors simply cannot match.
You May Not Like This Car If...
At first glance, the 2012 Audi A3's near-$30,000 base price may appear attractive, however, Audi's pricing structure and abundance of options can swiftly inflate the A3's price well into the mid-$30s. If you are simply in the market for a sharp-handling, practical hatchback with a price tag under $25,000, the VW GTI or Mazda3 hatchback are worthy alternatives.
What's New for 2012
After receiving a modest refresh in 2009 and the end of its current lifecycle in sight, the Audi A3 remains virtually unchanged for the 2012 model year.
Despite 2012 being in the final year of its current lifecycle, the A3 continues to deliver a desirable balance of comfortable ride and sharp handling. The Servotronic speed-sensitive power steering is appropriately communicative, while the 4-wheel independent suspension is both predictable and controlled. Opting for the sport suspension and 18-inch wheels will add an insignificant amount of harshness to the A3's otherwise composed ride. Regardless of your preference for manual shifting, we recommend you experience Audi's S tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission before committing to the 6-speed manual. The dual-clutch automatic is more responsive when on the throttle and provides lightning-quick shifts, while (obviously) being more convenient in stop-and-go driving.
QUATTRO ALL-WHEEL DRIVE
The jury is in when it comes to the benefits of all-wheel drive. In virtually any road condition, dividing the engine's output among all four wheels provides a level of control not available when only two wheels are driven. We only regret that Audi's quattro all-wheel drive setup is no longer available in the U.S. market with the 6-speed manual transmission.
The A3's 5-door configuration almost exponentially expands the utility of the A3 platform. With the rear seats up, you'll enjoy comfortable seating for four, along with 19.5 cubic feet of luggage space for overnight travel. When folded, the travel options (for two) are unlimited, providing secure, accommodating storage for any number of activity-oriented pursuits.
Despite its entry-level status, the 2012 Audi A3 features a beautifully crafted interior where high-quality materials abound. The base seats are comfortable and supportive, while the available sport seat's aggressive bolsters keep the driver on lockdown during spirited driving. The 2012 Audi A3's interior is easily adaptable, and with sensible ergonomics and logical placement of controls comes a user-friendly driving experience. Tight rear legroom is expected with any compact hatchback, and the A3 is no exception to that rule. The rear seats feature a 60/40 split design and although they do not fold completely flat, they do allow for reasonable cargo versatility.
In 2006, the Audi A3 introduced elegant design to the 4-door hatchback segment. The A3, like every Audi model, possesses Audi's signature Singleframe front grille. However, the A3's overall style is particularly unique, a rarity considering Audi's recent designs. The A3's coupe-esque roofline combined with an aggressive nose projects a sense of forward motion. The available 18" Sport Package supplements the A3's aggressive design with 18-inch 5-spoke wheels wrapped with summer performance tires.
Notable Standard Equipment
The 2012 Audi A3 comes generously equipped at its sub-$30,000 base price. Standard equipment for its base – which Audi calls "Premium" – trim includes dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seating surfaces, fog lights, and Audi concert radio with SiriusXM Satellite Radio, 140 watts of power and 10 speakers. Functional equipment includes cruise control, remote keyless entry, halogen headlights, and Audi's Sideguard airbag system.
Notable Optional Equipment
Audi's Premium Plus model grade adds xenon headlights, an Aluminum Medial inlay in the doors and center console, Bluetooth mobile phone capability, and a power-adjustable driver's seat. Audi's Titanium Sport package provides a lower, firmer suspension for more precise handling, sport seats for better lateral support and piano black interior trim. Those living – and surviving – in cold climates may desire the Cold Weather package, offering heated seats, mirrors and windshield washer nozzles. Standalone options include Audi's Open Sky panorama sunroof, dark walnut wood inlays, navigation, rear side airbags and roof rails.
Under the Hood
Audi's 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine is perennially regarded as one of the best drivetrains available in its luxury segment. Producing 200 horsepower at 5,100-6,000 rpm, and 207 lb-ft of torque at between 1,800 and 5,000 rpm, the turbocharged four is as flexible as it is fast. If you want to maximize your efficiency, Audi's direct injected 2.0-liter clean diesel is a compelling argument for the non-hybrid drivetrain, with adequate power, generous torque (236 lb-ft at 1,750-2,500 rpm) and a whopping 42 miles per gallon (EPA highway). We only wish Audi would combine its diesel offering with quattro all-wheel drive.
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
200 horsepower @ 5,100-6,000 rpm
207 lb-ft of torque @ 1,800-5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy:
21/30 mpg (manual), 22/28 mpg (automatic), 21/28 mpg (automatic, quattro)
2.0-liter turbodiesel inline-4
140 horsepower @ 4200 rpm
236 lb-ft of torque @ 1,750-2,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 30/42 mpg
Including destination charges, the 2012 Audi A3 starts just over $28,000. If you opt for the Quattro Premium Plus trim with the S tronic dual clutch transmission, Titanium Sport Package and navigation system, the price will ascend to just under $36,000. Those longing for the efficiency of diesel (front-wheel drive only) can expect to pay over $36,000 with the typical sprinkling of comfort and convenience options. Be sure to check kbb.com's Fair Purchase Price for a reliable indicator of what consumers pay in your market area. And while there are other premium priced hatches (the Mini Cooper, Lexus CT 200h and VW GTI are the three most prominent), the A3 stands alone with its diesel option and performance-biased all-wheel drive. Audi's recent upsurge in popularity has led to a considerable rise in residual values, suggesting that A3 resale will perform on a par with VW's GTI, and better than comparable Japanese offerings.