By Micah Muzio
KBB Expert Rating: 7.7
Audi's player in the rapidly expanding entry-luxury segment is the sub-$30,000 (destination charges not included) 2015 A3 sedan. Happily that price tag comes attached to a car you'd actually want to drive. Both sporty and welcoming, the all-new A3 and sportier S3 may be small, but they're a pleasure to live with – a standard panoramic sunroof, bi-xenon headlights and leather seating only sweeten the deal. The new-for-2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA is a prime competitor, as are the cheaper Acura ILX and Buick Verano, but the A3 distinguishes itself as a traditional, albeit compact, premium sedan...at least until the sportback and convertible versions arrive. We like the A3 and we're guessing luxury buyers looking to downsize will too.
You'll like the Audi A3 if you're in the market for a smaller and consequently cheaper luxury car. More traditional than the Mercedes-Benz CLA and more legit than the Acura ILX, the new A3 feels like a real-deal premium car, just in a smaller package.
The 2015 A3 sedan has its charms, but it is not a major risk taker. For bold styling, the Mercedes-Benz CLA is a better choice, while the BMW 2 Series Coupe is arguably more thrilling to drive. That said, prospective A3 buyers looking for a greater balance between performance, style and value should consider stepping up to the 292-horsepower Audi S3.
The Audi A3 and high-performance S3 sedans are all-new for 2015.
Driving Impressions From the driver's seat, the new A3 feels compact, but not in a disconcerting, exposed way, but rather like the unnecessary mass has been removed. Small-car fans will find a...... lot to like here. The ride is supple and the cabin quiet, helping make daily commutes or long-distance travel all the more tolerable. Despite its stable, pleasant demeanor on the freeway, the A3 remains impressively agile in the corners. Ride quality in the performance-focused Audi S3 is expectedly taut, but not to the extent your daily commute is transformed into a cringe-worthy affair. Diesel, hybrid and high-performance variants are on the way, but at launch the A3 comes with two turbocharged gasoline powertrains – a front-wheel-drive 170-horsepower 1.8-liter that eagerly sprints to 60 mph in slightly more than seven seconds, or an all-wheel-drive 220-horsepower 2.0-liter that does the run to 60 in less than six seconds. Knocking out gear changes with impressive speed and smoothness, a standard 6-speed dual-clutch S-Tronic transmission rounds out the A3's well-sorted dynamic package.
BANG & OLUFSEN AUDIO
We're suckers for a sweet stereo, and the A3's optional 705-Watt, 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen unit certainly qualifies. We've loved the sweet B&O audio found in Audi's larger vehicles, so it's a real pleasure to see that excellence trickle down to the brand's most frugal offering.
AUDI ADAPTIVE CRUISE CONTROL WITH STOP & GO
Not only can the A3's adaptive cruise control automatically maintain a pre-selected distance from the car ahead, it can bring the vehicle to stop if needed. Your daydreaming commutes just got a little safer.
With a clean design and just the right amount of sportiness, the new A3's interior is perfectly in line with what you'd expect from Audi. We like the simplicity of the audio controls but the MMI infotainment interface's low placement makes it hard to quickly see which button does what. Given the A3 sedan's small size it's not surprising that the cabin feels cozy, especially if you plan to squeeze three people into the tight rear seats. For maximum A3 enjoyment, we recommend sitting in the much roomier front seats.Exterior
Sporting standard bi-xenon headlights, a big sunroof and standard 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, even the cheapest 2015 A3 looks great. Buyers looking to amp up the basic sedan can spring for 18-inch and even 19-inch wheels, though we're not sure 19s on a car this size would be the wisest aesthetic choice. Lift the short trunklid, complete with integrated spoiler, and you'll find 12.3 cubic feet of luggage space...at least in the 1.8T trim. Thanks to its all-wheel drive, that cargo capacity is reduced to an even 10 cubic feet in the 2.0T trim.
Filling out the generous standard equipment roster are leather seats, a panoramic sunroof, bi-xenon headlights, LED taillights, Bluetooth with audio streaming, and a 7-inch audio/information screen controlled by Audi's MMI interface. S3 variants add standard Quattro all-wheel drive, 18-inch alloys, a flat-bottom steering wheel, and a sport-tuned suspension. The absence of a standard backup camera is a surprising omission, but otherwise the safety equipment list looks good, featuring a suite of electronic stability assists and eight airbags, including front-occupant knee airbags.
The new A3 might be the cheapest of Audi's, but it's still quite possible to load one up with a budget-busting array of options. Standouts include LED headlights, heated seats, rear-seat thorax airbags, a Bang & Olufsen audio system, navigation with Google Earth map imagery, and MMI Touch, a clever touchpad conveniently located atop the MMI controller that recognizes handwritten text entry. There are also several dynamic safety features available like active lane-keep assist, blind-zone warning, dynamic cruise control, and a parking-assist package that bundles front and rear parking sensors with a rearview camera. Lastly, S3 models can be had with a $1,500 Magnetic Ride Control suspension system comprised of three driving modes: dynamic, comfort and individual.
It turns out pairing a turbocharged engine with a quick-shifting dual-clutch transmission is a good idea. Powered by either the 1.8-liter or the optional 2.0-liter, the new A3 sedan pulls with welcome gusto. Strangely, the more-powerful all-wheel-drive 2.0-liter A3 is rated one mpg higher in city driving than the 1.8-liter. We're not sure how the heavier, quicker car could possibly be more efficient, but feel free to use that fact as justification for your speed lust. The 2.0-liter's supposed efficiency advantage should also serve as consolation for cold-weather Audi A3 buyers who are forced to pay for more power just to get all-wheel drive. The range-topping S3 pairs a 292-horsepower version of the aforementioned 2.0-liter engine with the A3's standard 6-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Note: Everyone has to pay extra at the pump, as premium fuel is required throughout the A3/S3 lineup.
1.8-liter turbocharged inline-4
170 horsepower @ 4,500 rpm
200 lb-ft of torque @ 1,600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/33 mpg
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
220 horsepower @ 4,500 rpm
258 lb-ft of torque @ 1,600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 24/33 mpg
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
292 horsepower @ 5,400-6,200 rpm
280 lb-ft of torque @ 1,900-5,300 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/31 mpg
Including $895 worth of destination charges, the base price for a 1.8-liter 2015 Audi A3 sedan starts at $30,795. Ignore all restraint, and it's possible to spec a 2.0-liter A3 that costs around $45,000. The S3 line begins right around $42,000 and tops out just over $50,000. The Mercedes-Benz CLA boasts a slightly lower starting price, but it also comes with fewer cool features. The Acura ILX and Buick Verano are both thousands less expensive, but those savings come with a discernable lack of gravitas compared to the Audi A3. As for resale values, specific figures aren't yet available for the 2015 A3, but Audis do typically hold their value well. We expect residual figures that are roughly in line with those of the Mercedes CLA.
By Eric F on Tuesday, May 20, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 800overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Value, safety, comfort"
Cons: "No backup camera"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I purchased a 2015 A3 Premium 1.8T a few weeks ago and am still pinching myself regarding what I paid. I feel that the value for money here is exceptional. The cabin, while sporting a minimalist approach, is spacious, quiet and comfortable. Traveling from Chattanooga to Atlanta over 117 miles, using cruise control entirely, my A3 realized 38.2 MPG. Coming from a smaller car previously, I find the A3 to be a perfect size. Not too big, not too small, just right. I also like that the car comes with a standard 4 year / 50,000 mile warranty. I cannot rate regarding reliability, but first impressions, and 800 miles in, I'm very satisfied with my purchase. The one surprising omission from this car is the lack of a back-up camera. With Audi's focus on safety, this should be standard."
23 people out of 33 found this review helpful
By speedyrunner on Friday, April 04, 2014
I want this caroverall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fast, comfortable, quiet, standard features"
Cons: "Little headroom in the rear, confusing MMI system"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Overall, Audi has done a great job with the 2015 A3 sedan! It is quiet (cruising), comfortable,and luxurious with the expected sporty feel of an Audi. The 2.0 quattro accelerates quickly and definitely instills a sense of fast in the driver. On the exterior, it appears aggressive with the body structure and lights. Inside, in the front, it does not appear confusing as the layout is straightforward (including the instruments); in the back, leg space is ample and offers a large trunk. This will benefit those who haul a great amount of items. Most importantly, the major attraction is that it comes with excellent standard features; LED lights (front and back), HD radio, leather seating, sunroof, and many others that frankly, I have forgotten. Many may realize something new inside; the MMI infotainment system. It is great as it retracts into a compartment when not in use and displays EVERYTHING for the car. This is where you can control the modes of the car (dynamic, comfort, etc.), radio, navigation (available package), phone, media (iPod), and social media display. A convenience that benefits the driver is a voice recognition system that is surprisingly accurate. It does take some getting used to though, especially the center console with the switches and handwriting apparatus. It will be confusing at first, but is not impossible to figure out. Another downside to the A3 is the back seat headroom. As a 5' 8" person, my head was almost touching the roof. If you are any taller than me, I would recommend sitting in front. To conclude this review, it is evident that Audi has maintained its reputation for producing great vehicles with this redesigned 2015 A3 and will be a car that I would recommend to someone searching for a decently priced luxury sedan!"
19 people out of 25 found this review helpful
By Good Sport on Thursday, November 21, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 14,500overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great to drive; hatchback versatility"
Cons: "Premium gas; instrumentation design"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"Best thing is the driving experience - it's a little rocketship, with great handling and crisp precise shifting (I own the 6-speed manual). However I find the instrumentation poorly placed and overly complicated. For example the climate controls are way down at knee level, and cramped together at that. While cargo space is ample, the passenger compartment storage leaves something to be desired, with a miniscule glove compartment and no pouches on the seat backs. Another annoyance is that the exterior door handles can only be grasped from underneath. For a "luxury" car I find it disappointing on such points."
17 people out of 28 found this review helpful