The Audi A3 is a compact, yet premium car with excellent driving dynamics from superbly engineered powertrain, suspension and braking systems. It's also quite stylish and luxurious, particularly for a car in its market category. Yet, it's also fuel-efficient and represents a great value for the money. It's so good, and so appropriate for a world that increasingly requires efficiency and long-term satisfaction, that it is one of that group of vehicles we think of as keepers.
The A3 is a practical, compact five-door hatchback, but it feels up-market, like a scaled-down A4. We like the A3 for its combination of open-road dynamism, long-haul friendliness, and around-town usefulness. The A3 is an example of the exquisite sensibilities in design and use of materials that distinguishes a contemporary Audi.
Two powertrains are available. The A3 2.0 TFSI is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, rated at 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque, which drives either the front wheels, or has all-wheel-drive with the quattro version. With front-wheel drive it is available with either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic S tronic dual-clutch transmission (DSG) with electro-hydraulic control; in quattro form it is available only with the S tronic. With the manual transmission this engine is EPA-rated at 21 mpg City, 30 mpg Highway.
New for 2010 is the 2.0 TDI clean diesel that makes 140 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. It is available only with front-wheel drive and the S tronic automatic transmission. With all that torque it has no problem at all moving the A3 down the road or up the hills, even with it fully loaded. Perhaps most significantly, it is EPA-rated at 30 mpg City and a remarkable 42 mpg Highway.
Other changes for 2010 include the S line exterior being made standard, a Titanium Sport Package added as an option (it includes titanium-optic wheels, black grille, sport suspension and seats, and leather/alcantara upholstery), bi-xenon headlights standard on the Premium Plus model, the navigation now includes traffic data, and wood interior trim is available as an option. The Audi Magnetic Ride and the 3.2-liter V6 engine have been discontinued.
We found the A3 models offer superb balance and excellent throttle response that make for a convincing sports-car experience when the road is right. Inside, the A3 is roomy and versatile, blending pleasing materials with logical controls and highly legible readouts.