Aging but not outdated. The 2019 Audi A3 is in its seventh model year, and it’s due for a redesign next year. It isn’t the boldest car on the road, but the exterior has aged well in our eyes. Lean proportions set off the big, hexagonal grille, and new LED running lights don’t hurt. The A3 still feels contemporary, and it compares well against Audi’s updated models.
The interior is on the minimalist side, but that isn't necessarily bad news. The seats are upholstered in leather, but the dash is a simple array of soft-touch plastics. These days, a pop-up infotainment screen is a welcome change in a sea of dash-mounted tablets. In key areas, the A3 has even improved with age – Audi’s lovely Virtual Cockpit driver-information display is one.
Fun ... mostly. The A3 starts with two competent powertrains (all-wheel drive nets a moderate power boost) and adds a compliant and willing suspension. The ride is comfortable in the straights, but the A3 is engaging and responsive in the curves. The all-wheel-drive model loses a gear on the front-wheel drive, but it gets the A3 from zero to 60 mph in under six seconds.
The only real downside here is the weight. It seems to be the norm in luxury sedans these days, but at around 3,400 pounds, the A3 is dense for such a small car. It can’t hide all that bulk in the corners, and the lack of rear-wheel drive means it still won’t out-handle a BMW.
Classy but cramped. Audi has made an effort to make every A3 feel premium, and it shows. Fit and finish is impeccable, and the details (like metal switchgear) put the A3 a cut above competitors like the Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class. Leather upholstery is standard. For being an entry-level Audi, the A3 feels every bit the luxury sedan.
On the inside, the A3 is actually up on second-row leg room compared to rivals. The CLA-Class has just 27.1 inches, while the BMW 2-Series gets 33 inches compared to the A3's 35.1. But the rear seats still feel squeezed compared to roomier sedans like Audi’s own A4. Where the A3 really suffers is the cargo department – it has just 12.3 cubic feet of space in the trunk, compared to the 2-Series’ 13.8 cubic feet. In the convertible body, that number goes down into the single digits.
Comprehensive features (for a price). Audi makes cutting-edge technology a selling point, and the A3 is no exception. LED headlights and dynamic rear turn signals class up the exterior, while upper trims get tech goodies like wireless charging and the Virtual Cockpit. Safety is another strong point – automatic emergency braking is standard on all models, while active safety features like adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist are options.
The downside is that the tech doesn’t always come cheap. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility is part of a $900 package, and the best safety features are reserved for the more expensive trims. In a baffling exclusion, even rear side-impact airbags cost extra. We’d steer clear of ticking too many option boxes, or the A3 will stop looking like a bargain in a hurry.
Final thoughts. It may be small in size, but the Audi A3 has plenty to offer. It stands out because of a well-equipped base model and Audi’s attention to detail, which shows through in the interior as well as the safety tech.
One advantage of a car late in its model generation is value. The A3 starts at $33,495 including destination, which undercuts both the CLA-Class ($34,095) and 2-Series ($36,295). That’s a fairly easy way into luxury sedan ownership, and the A3 doesn’t skimp on the luxury end.
Confident handling and competent powertrains are the cherry on top. With a redesign in the pipeline and Audi’s focus on an electric future, we wouldn’t be surprised to see an all-electric A3 on the horizon. Until then, the 2019 Audi A3 is a fitting farewell for the current generation.