2021 Audi A3 Review

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Audi is a brand synonymous for motoring luxury, but its compact models are what really sell, including the well-regarded A3. With a vast number of trim levels available with petrol, diesel, mild hybrid and plug-in hybrid power, it’s an incredibly flexible car.

Should you want a more professional version of the A3, there’s a Saloon version which has a bigger boot and a more comfortable space for passengers in the back.

So, if you’re in the market for a compact, premium car, the A3 is a perfectly viable option. But should you choose it over rivals such as the BMW 1 Series, Mercedes-Benz A-Class and Volkswagen Golf? Read our full review to find out everything you need to know before making your decision.

“The A3 is a classy all-rounder for professionals and small families. Audi has simplified motoring and packaged it in atypical luxury.”

Cameron Hale, Moneyshake Car Reviewer

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2021 Audi A3 interior

Audi A3 Sportback cockpit

You won’t find it difficult to get comfortable in the Audi A3. For starters, there’s plenty of steering wheel and seating adjustment, both for height and reach. Even the backrest angle, headrest and belt height can be set to your preferred position.

Unfortunately, the option of extra lumbar support is an extra across the range. However, mid- to top-spec Sport and S Line models have padded sport seats which make long-distance travelling slightly comfier. That’s only because of thicker side bolsters though which seem to grip your body better.

Audi A3 Sportback dashboard

One big bonus of the A3’s interior across the entire range is the scanty dashboard, which allows for great visibility out the front of the car. Besides from a 10.1in colour touchscreen neatly nestled into the dashboard, there’s just a cluster of physical buttons for air conditioning and seat heating. The rest of the dash is reserved for a clean, polished surface and a decently-sized glovebox where the front passenger sits.

Audi Virtual Cockpit throws in a 10.25in digital display that gives the whole front look crisp and innovative. Rather than just having a standard analogue display, the A3 projects driver information, satnav directions, radio/song information and Audi connect internet services at eye level.

2021 Audi A3 practicality

Audi A3 Sportback boot

Despite being a compact model, the Audi A3 is decently sized given its hatch status. A couple of six-footers will easily be comfortable sat in the back when it comes to head and legroom, but it won’t be as roomy as the BMW 1 Series or VW Polo, both of which are roomier.

The Saloon option should be your go-to option if you’re looking for a bigger boot. It comes with a 425-litre cargo which betters the Sportback’s 380-litre bay.

Audi A3 Sportback back seats

There’s very little difference between the A3 Sportback and Saloon when it comes to the back seats. However, the seats in the Saloon come with the more convenient 40/20/40 arrangement which allows you to prioritise load and passenger space.

2021 Audi A3 infotainment and tech

Audi A3 Sportback driving on a country road 2

We touched a little on the Audi A3’s media tech features, but there’s way more advanced features that complete the driving experience.

Here are some of the standout inclusions you can get with the entry-level Technik model:

  1. Cruise control – this works at speeds between 13-155mph.
  2. Rear parking sensors – ultrasonic sensors in the bumper are engaged when you select reverse gear.
  3. Hill-hold assist – the car is held permanently on uphill and downhill gradients to prevent stalling.
  4. Pre sense front – radars scan the road ahead and provide the driver with acoustic and visual warnings of potential hazards (stationary/moving vehicles ahead etc.) before applying the brakes if there’s no reaction.
  5. Collision avoidance assistant – the car can automatically steer to avoid an accident in an evasive situation. At slow speeds it can also apply the brakes to avoid colliding with an oncoming vehicle.
  6. Lane departure warning – helps avoid unintentional lane leaving by correcting steering if there’s been no indication but the car senses it is leaving its lane.

The latest A3 received the five-star Euro NCAP safety rating for its various onboard perks. Even the basics are done well, with plenty of protection from front side airbags, a head airbag system electronic stability control and tyre pressure monitoring.

On top of this, the A3 also includes a first aid kit with warning triangle and two high vis vests, plus automatic light and rain sensors. These last two features are particularly handy on a typically British rainy day and visibility is poor.

2021 Audi A3 driving experience

Audi A3 Sportback driving on a country road

There are a plethora of engines available in the Audi A3, ranging from punchy and economical, to warm hatch fun, then outright hot hatch performance.

Kicking off the engine range in the Technik model are two petrol engines – a 1.0-litre, turbocharged unit with 110bhp (badged ’30 TFSI’) and a larger, more powerful 1.5-litre, turbocharged 150bhp engine. Both are available wih a six-speed manual gearbox which is light and easy to use. However, if you can afford it, we recommend paying more for Audi’s S Tronic automatic gearbox for slick gear changes.

An identical diesel engine range is available with the same power outputs as the petrol ones. These are a great option if you do a lot of long-distance driving and want something more economical. Both are turbocharged so provide plenty of gusto from low revs – enough to be considered fun too. The least powerful of the two has 116bhp and returns an impressive 64mpg. But we recommend going for the punchier 150bhp diesel engine because it’s nearly two seconds quicker off the mark (0-60mph takes 8.5 seconds) and is no less fuel-efficient.

Audi A3 Sportback 40 TFSI e
The new 40 TFSI e Plug-in Hybrid Audi A3

Two plug-in hybrid (PHEV) engines are available that top the range for performance and efficiency. The first is a 1.4-litre petrol-electric unit with 204bhp that takes it from 0-60mph in just 7.6 seconds. Exclusive to S Line Competition trims is the quickest PHEV, which has 245bhp and cuts acceleration time down to 6.8 seconds.

If you want a car with a sportier feel, then the BMW 1 Series with rear-wheel drive is probably a better alternative. Along with a more compact interior, the 1 Series is likely to make for a more “fun drive”. However, top-spec S line models swap out the standard suspension for one with more dynamic spring/damper adjustment which lowers the car by 15mm for better contact with the road and more intuitive handling.

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