By Keith Buglewicz
KBB Expert Rating: 9.5
IMPORTANT NOTE: Please be aware that this vehicle's diesel engine is involved in a Notice of Violation of the Clean Air Act issued by the EPA to Volkswagen for producing and selling 4-cylinder diesel cars that include a software device that circumvents EPA emissions standards for certain air pollutants. The EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) determined that these diesel cars emit up to 40 times more pollution than emission standards allow. Recalls, investigations and litigation are currently ongoing.
Redesigned last year, the Audi A3 entry-luxury Sedan, Cabriolet and new hybrid Sportback e-tron plug-in hatchback are popular choices that offer a combination of affordability and established luxury branding, while boasting Audi’s excellent driving dynamics. Sporty and engaging, the 2016 Audi A3 and performance-oriented S3 models don't feel compromised, despite their relatively low prices. The standard panoramic sunroof, bi-xenon headlights and leather seating only sweeten the deal against rivals like the Mercedes-Benz CLA, and the less-expensive Acura ILX and Buick Verano. Power choices include the standard gasoline engine, a fuel-efficient turbodiesel, a high-performance turbo 4-cylinder in S3 models, and the gasoline/electric combo in the Sportback e-tron. While the Sportback is front-drive only, Quattro AWD is available on most other Sedan and Cabriolet models.
If you like the Audi ownership experience, but are on a tight budget, an A3 is an obvious choice. Offering more conservative styling than the Mercedes-Benz CLA, but with the luxury pedigree of a decades-old European brand, the Audi A3 also offers the only diesel engine in the class.
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After launching the A3 last year, the 2016 A3 ups the ante on standard features, adding a rear-view camera and parking sensors, aluminum-look interior trim, and heated mirrors and windshield-washer nozzles. The plug-in A3 Sportback e-tron hybrid hatchback also joins the lineup.
The 2016 Audi A3 comes in four distinct flavors: standard, powerful S3, fuel-friendly TDI diesel, and new gas/electric e-tron plug-in hybrid. However, all share the same basic sense from the...
... driver's seat of being compact, but not undersized. Small-car fans will like the supple ride and quiet cabin, and the eco-oriented e-tron hybrid brings an extra measure of green-themed economy. Long-distance travelers can opt for the fuel-thrifty turbodiesel, while the powerful S3 sedan with nearly 300 horsepower and standard all-wheel drive makes short work of any twisty road. Front-wheel-drive Audi A3s start with a 170-horsepower 1.8-liter 4-cylinder, but the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder with all-wheel drive feels more like a proper Audi to us. The front-drive 2.0-liter TDI diesel sedan offers excellent fuel economy without sacrificing performance. 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
Audi and Bang & Olufsen go hand-in-hand these days, and it's no different when you get to the smaller A3. With 14 speakers and 705 watts, this sweet sounding audio-system upgrade hits the mark.
AUDI ADAPTIVE CRUISE CONTROL WITH STOP & GO
Adaptive cruise control systems that automatically adjust speed to the traffic ahead are becoming commonplace. But systems that actually bring the car to a halt in heavy traffic are still rare, especially in lower-priced segments. The 2016 Audi A3 offers it, making your commute that much easier.
Audi has set a high bar with its interiors, with high-style design and immaculate fit and finish. Yet while the 2016 A3 scores well on materials and assembly, it's a little on the bland side compared with other Audi vehicles. That said, it's cleanly designed and suitably sporty, with simple audio and climate controls. We wish the MMI infotainment interface wasn't placed quite so low on the dash though, as it makes it hard to see which button does what until you've learned it by touch. Not surprisingly, rear-seat accommodations are pretty tight, especially for three passengers.
If you like the Audi styling aesthetic, you'll love the 2016 A3. Looking a lot like a smaller Audi A6, its standard bi-xenon headlights, big sunroof and standard 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels add visual charm to even the least expensive A3. Bigger 18- and 19-inch wheel-and-tire upgrades jazz up the exterior, and S3 models offer unique sport-oriented styling touches. The short rear deck conceals a 12.3-cubic-foot trunk which reduces to 10 cubic feet in all-wheel-drive models. Convertibles of course offer two doors, and look especially sharp with the power top lowered, while the Sportback offers the added utility of a hatchback configuration.
Newly standard on the 2016 Audi A3 is a backup camera and rear parking sensors, along with heated mirrors and windshield washer nozzles. The backup camera fills in a gap that was conspicuous by its absence in the A3 last year, and we're glad it's finally aboard. Other standard equipment includes 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. Opt for the sporty S3 and you'll get more power, along with quattro all-wheel drive, 18-inch alloys, a flat-bottom steering wheel, and a sport-tuned suspension.
If you'd like to make Audi's inexpensive A3 as pricey as possible, Audi is perfectly happy to help. There are LED headlights, heated seats, an excellent Bang & Olufsen audio system, and a navigation system with Google Earth map technology. The last of those includes a clever touch-pad atop the MMI knob that recognizes handwritten text entry. Dynamic safety features include active lane-keep assist, blind-zone warning, and dynamic cruise control. Lastly, S3 models can be had with a $1,500 Magnetic Ride Control suspension system comprised of three driving modes: dynamic, comfort and individual.
Five turbocharged 4-cylinder engine choices confront prospective Audi A3 owners. The base 1.8-liter comes in front-drive Sedans and Convertibles. While capable, it pales next to the more robust 2.0-liter version available with Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive on both body styles. The econo-oriented can opt for a front-drive A3 TDI (sedan only) with a 2.0-liter diesel engine or new Sportback e-tron plug-in hybrid with its 1.4-liter engine/electric motor combo. For those seeking more driving thrills, the force-fed 2.0-liter in the Audi S3 (again, Sedan only) puts out a very memorable 292 horsepower to all four wheels. Regardless of engine choice, power is always routed through a 6-speed automatic transmission, as no manual gearbox is available. Also note that all Audi A3 and S3 models use premium fuel.
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 (Sedan), 24/35 mpg (Cabriolet)
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 (Sedan), 24/32 mpg (Cabriolet)
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
2.0-liter turbocharged diesel inline-4
150 horsepower @ 3,500-4,000 rpm
236 lb-ft of torque @ 1,750-3,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 31/43 mpg
1.4-liter inline-4 + electric motor
150 horsepower @ 5,000-6,000 rpm
184 lb-ft of torque @ 1,600-3,500 rpm
102 horsepower /243 lb-ft of torque
Net output: 204 horsepower
EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy: 33/37 mpg
The base 2016 Audi A3 1.8T opens around $31,000. Opting for Quattro all-wheel drive and the 2.0-liter engine moves that closer to $35,000. The 2016 A3 TDI begins near $34,000, and the open-air Audi A3 Cabriolet starts at about $37,500 for front-wheel drive or $40,500 if you want all-wheel drive. Greenies can get into a Sportback e-tron for $38,825, and the power hungry will gravitate to the $43,500 Audi S3. Be aware that options and trim levels can push pricier variants beyond $50,000. The Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class starts slightly lower, but with less standard equipment. The Acura ILX and Buick Verano are both thousands less, but without the pedigree brand. Check KBB.com's Fair Purchase Price calculator to see what others paid in your area. As for resale value, the A3 isn't expected to hold up over the long haul as well as the CLA, or even the ILX.