As Audi’s newest and most affordable sedan, the A3 delivers the brand’s trademark refinement and sensibility in a small package that’s priced within reach of the average new car buyer.
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2016 Audi A3 Overview
What's New for 2016
Several previously optional features are now standard.
Choosing Your Audi A3
The front-drive A3 starts out with a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder good for 170 horsepower. Buyers interested in performance can upgrade to a 2-liter turbo that puts out a healthy 220 horsepower. The larger engine comes exclusively with all-wheel drive. Finally, there's a 150-horsepower turbodiesel version of the 2-liter (TDI) that returns 35 mpg in combined city and highway driving.
Regardless of engine, the A3 is available in Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige trim levels:
All trim levels can get a Sport package with an upgraded suspension, a sport steering wheel with shift paddles, and selectable driving modes. It's an absolute bargain at $800—or a mere $250 if you want just the sportier suspension. Rear side airbags continue as a standalone options.
With this year's boost in standard equipment, the Premium feels more like a proper luxury car, and we no longer think it's necessary to upgrade to the Premium Plus. If you've got a sporting bone in your body, we do heartily recommend the gas 2-liter engine with all-wheel drive, which transforms the A3's performance for a reasonable $3,000.
2016 Audi A3 Review
The price leader of the Audi line, the subcompact A3 sedan is one of the most affordable luxury-branded vehicles you can buy. That alone makes it worth checking out, to say nothing of its fidelity to traditional Audi values.
Pricing and Equipment
The A3 lineup consists of three models, each with its own engine:
- The 1.8T starts at $30,900 and carries a 1.8-liter turbo four-cylinder.
- The turbodiesel TDI model has a base price of $33,200.
- The line-topping 2.0T Quattro with its larger engine and all-wheel drive begins at $34,200.
All variants are available in three subtrims:
- Premium models get plenty of equipment, including leather upholstery, a panoramic sunroof, and a rearview camera.
- Upgrading to the Premium Plus adds about $2,500 to any model and gets you 18-inch wheels (17s are standard) and keyless ignition.
- For around $8,500 above the base prices, you can get a Prestige model with specific exterior trim and numerous tech and convenience upgrades.
The standard 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine produces 170 horsepower. For a boost in efficiency, you can opt for a 2-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder (TDI) with 150 horsepower. The top choice, a 220-horsepower 2-liter turbo, comes paired with all-wheel drive.
Performance highlights include:
- Transmissions: All models carry Audi's six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, dubbed S Tronic.
- Fuel Efficiency: The TDI achieves a stunning 43 mpg on the highway and 36 mpg in combined driving, which makes it one of the most efficient luxury cars available. Both the 1.8-liter and 2-liter turbos deliver 33 mpg on the highway. Surprisingly, the 2-liter eeks out 24 mpg around town, 1 mpg more than the 1.8-liter. This a rare case of an all-wheel drive model getting (slightly) better mileage than its two-wheel drive counterpart.
- Handling/Steering Around town, the A3's light steering reminded us of a traditional luxury car. But things firmed up quickly when we hit the gas for some spirited driving. There's certainly no shortage of athleticism when you want it.
- While the optional 18-inch tires help with handling, they interfere with ride quality too much for our liking.
- The standard 1.8-liter doesn't really impress with its power or efficiency. An engine upgrade is necessary to truly achieve either.
- The dash layout manages to be both stylish and simple, with more of a sporty orientation than we expected.
- Rich-looking leather upholstery comes standard, whereas as most competitors start out with some form of vinyl.
- The A3 is on the smallest end of the luxury class, a distinction that will be apparent to any adult relegated to the backseat.
- Some comfort features are oddly missing from the option list, including a power passenger seat, ventilated seats, and a heated steering wheel.
The Least Pleasant Surprise
We expected the A3 to be at least as quiet as, say, the Buick Verano, but it isn't. Road and wind noise march right into the cabin at highway speeds.
The Most Pleasant Surprise
In terms of exterior design, the A3 is nothing less than pure Audi. There's no image penalty for driving the brand's most affordable model.
The Bottom Line
If luxury sedans appeal to you in every way except price, the A3 just might be the car you've been waiting for.
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