The Audi A3 is the classic example of the chic and rigorous compact, but without much luster behind its clinical efficiency. The fourth generation launched in summer 2020 does not shake up the smoothness of the Ingolstadt compact, which is undoubtedly one of the keys to its success. A few months after its launch, the range is now complete. Which one to choose ?
Without being a fanciful designer delirium, it must be recognized that the pencil stroke of the Audi A3 fourth of the name is still a little more daring. Let's say, less complex to adorn oneself with angles and edges all the time. She certainly does not revolutionize the genre, and above all does not wish to. Simply, the silhouette has become more dynamic, a bit aggressive. The flanks are sculpted, the look rabled, the shoulders of the wheel arches are muscular … Not enough to destabilize the customers of a few 5 million copies sold since the first A3 appeared in 1996, but the car won in presence.
Note that for the first time, only the Sportback version (the 5-door, as a reminder) was available at launch. The notchback sedan, which appeared late with the previous generation, is being continued. This type of bodywork usually meets only anecdotal echo in Europe, but surprisingly enjoyed relative success with the older A3. Perhaps due to the rise in range (and in price) of the A4, pushing some of the customers towards a smaller model? A convertible should also complete the family in the short term.
Only the 5-door Sportback was offered at launch. There is no trace of a three-door version: this one represented only a tiny fraction of sales at the end of the previous generation, and has simply disappeared from the catalog.
The interior is undergoing a more spectacular metamorphosis. The layout gives pride of place to all-digital, with "Virtual Cockpit" instrumentation on all versions, a large central screen … But unlike its cousins in the Volkswagen group, the Audi has the good taste to keep some physical controls for ventilation functions or a shortcut to Drive Select (driving modes), in particular. More practical and quick to access. The arrangement of the aerators in height, on either side of the instrument cluster, is not unanimous at first glance but is much less surprising in use than in photos, curiously.
The basic versions do not have the "real" Virtual Cockpit shown here, with a more complete and larger display. Sport seats are unique to the S-Line.
Sedan or Sportback?
No difference to note on board between the A3 saloon and the Sportback. Identical driving position, same wheelbase (2.63 m) and rear roominess. Correct, nothing more. Side trunk, the upper length of the sedan (4.50 m against 4.34 m, the rear overhang is longer) benefits from the minimum volume of the latter: 425 l, against 380 l under the shelf for the Sportback. On the other hand, tailgate and loading height obviously plead for the latter when it comes to piling up luggage (up to 1,200 l).
The prices of the sedan are slightly higher: count 550 euros supplement, which brings the price of the latter to 28,750 euros with the small 3-cylinder petrol 30 TFSI (110 hp). The A3 Sportback starts at 28,200 euros.
The sedan measures the Sportback by 15 cm, or 4.50 m long. As big as a first generation A4! She asks for a supplement of 550 € compared to her hatchback sister.
5 trim levels, which one to choose?
In the basic version, the A3 already has the minimum to hope for a premium compact of this standard. We already benefit from a "Virtual Cockpit", but simplified and reduced in size (10.25 ") compared to the superior finishes. The security package, rather well supplied as standard, includes lane keeping alert, Pre Sense (pre-collision device), cruise control … The presentation is quite spartan, however. Basic fabric upholstery, no LED headlights and small 16-inch alloy wheels detonate, for a compact of almost 30,000 euros with the smallest engine.
Prices are climbing quickly: you will have to pay 3,150 euros more to have the Design level (minimum 31,350 euros). We will have a little less the impression of driving a rental car, that's already it. The look is a little more polished, with 17-inch rims, less rustic upholstery fabrics, LED optics and chrome surrounds of the windows. The reversing camera, smartphone interface, Park Assist (automatic parking aid) and automatic day / night interior rear-view mirror complete the techno content. The next level, Business Line, further increases the bill by 700 euros. Compared to the Design level, the MMI is more elaborate and the GPS is emerging.
The A3 takes on a whole new look in the S-Line, with a lot of specific bodywork elements, 18-inch rims … almost fake S3 airs!
In S-Line, the A3 puts on its sportswear and gains presence. Shields, rims, logos … The interior receives sport upholstery stamped S-Line in fabric and imitation leather (of good quality, even if nothing replaces in perceived quality the real leather or the Alcantara), a stainless steel crankset and a steering wheel specific to the S-Line. The armrests, on the storm doors, also receive imitation leather and contrasting stitching. The presentation becomes really opulent, sporty trend, but requires at least 36,000 euros with the 3 cylinders! Even if it means breaking the bank, you might as well opt for an engine up to the task. Warning, the sport suspension fitted in S Line is firm and the 18-inch rims don't help.
Finally, at the top of the catalog, Design Luxe is the "luxury" equivalent of the S-Line … still charged 900 euros more than this one. An A3 is not cheap, it's no surprise. Richly equipped, it becomes downright ruinous! Minimum 36,900 euros for a 3 cylinder? Not very reasonable … But the presentation is refined. The grille receives a chrome frame, the upholstery is in leather and imitation leather, and the instrumentation adopts the larger and more elaborate version of the Virtual Cockpit (optional on the other finishes).
Unless you agree to spend more than 40,000 euros in Luxury Design with an engine worthy of the name (or at least, consistent with the rank of the A3), we can already be satisfied with the endowment of the Business Line level, rather provided. For example, with the 4-cylinder 35 TFSI (150 hp) and the S-Tronic gearbox, we then have a homogeneous configuration for 35,200 euros. Count 39,150 euros in S-Line, the most sought after finish on occasion.
To make the most of the A3's progress in comfort, it is better to check the box for the piloted suspension option … or forget about the rims with too large a diameter. Overall, the accreditation remains at a very good level.
Engines: the hybrid in force
Trend requires, gasoline is the majority under the hood of the Audi A3. Obviously, the eye is immediately on the flagship of the range: the S3 and its 2 liters of 310 hp, posted at 55,900 euros … By far the most desirable, while waiting for the future RS3 which would retain its iconic 5-cylinder.
Between the expensive turbulent versions and the more civilized models, there is a gulf. At the bottom, the small 3-cylinder TFSI 110 hp may well offer decent performance and show a certain brilliance in other models of the group, its low displacement (1 liter) leave on his hunger in this swanky compact. Especially since the S-Tronic double clutch gearbox, which would have reduced its roughness, cannot be associated with it. Its lap times are lackluster (10.6 s from 0 to 100 km / h) and its fairly modest torque (200 Nm at 2,000 rpm) invites one thing: eyeing the 4-cylinder 1.5 l TFSI 150 hp (35 TFSI), certainly very neutral but much more efficient (8.4 s from 0 to 100 km / h) and torque (250 Nm from 1,500 rpm) … Without being much more expensive: in manual gearbox, it requires 1,000 euros more than the 3 cylinders.
The rechargeable 40 TFSIe hybrid can cover 70 km in electric power, offers energetic lap times … but requires a minimum of 38,100 euros, before bonus. In addition, the trunk loses a good hundred liters.
Note that at launch the A3 does not yet have the eTSI, a micro-hybridization evolution of this engine inaugurated by the Volkswagen Golf 8. As sober as it is pleasant, it is better to wait for the arrival of this engine in the catalog before discarding its sights on an A3. Or better, if finances permit, the 40 TFSIe plug-in hybrid, cousin of the Golf eHybrid. This PHEV version, a profound evolution of the old A3 e-Tron, uses the same 4-cylinder 1.4 l 150 hp assisted by an electric motor. In addition to its combined power and respectable performance (0 to 100 km / h in 7.6 s), we especially remember the 70 km advertised in all electric (it has a 13 kWh battery). Warning, count minimum 36,100 euros after deduction of the bonus of 2,000 euros …
The big rollers will always find Diesel in the catalog, even if the share of this engine is tending to shrink. Gone are the days when Audi (and many other manufacturers) offered more Diesel than gasoline in the catalog! Now one block: an evolution of the well-known 4-cylinder 2-liter TDI, offered in two power levels (116 and 150 hp). Extremely sober in both cases, but we will rather look at the more powerful of the two: the S-Tronic box is automatically associated with it, and brings a real increase in pleasure, without straining consumption. It is easily confined to less than 6 l / 100 km, even without precaution of economy. The price is enough to make you cough, however: minimum 34,050 euros in basic finish.
Large rollers for whom performance is secondary can look at the less powerful 2-liter TDI (30 TDI, 116 hp), from 29,200 euros. Zero degree of automotive approval, but guaranteed camel sobriety. Otherwise more pleasant, the 4-cylinder 35 TFSI (150 hp) is sold at the same price. This is without hesitation the most frequent configuration of the A3, if possible in S-Tronic for 2,150 euros more. For its part, the plug-in hybrid is unfortunately very expensive. Too bad, it is mechanically the most interesting version. With the S3 of course.
The S-Line receives a mixed leather-fabric upholstery of good quality. The textile of the basic versions is less rewarding. For full leather, with a much better character, you have to opt for the superior Design Luxe finish. Or add 1,600 €, optional.
Audi A3 Sportback 4 (2020) prices
|Based||Business Line||Design||S-Line||Luxury Design|
|30 TFSI 110 hp||€ 28,200||€ 32,050||€ 31,350||36,000 €||36.900 €|
|30 TDI 116 hp||29.200 €||€ 33,050||€ 32,350||€ 37,000||37.900 €|
|35 TFSI 150 hp||29.200 €||€ 33,050||€ 32,350||€ 37,000||37.900 €|
|35 TFSI 150 hp S-Tronic||€ 31,350||35.200 €||€ 34,500||€ 39,150||€ 40,050|
|35 TDI 150 hp S-Tronic||€ 34,050||37.900 €||€ 37,200||€ 41,850||€ 42,750|
|40 TFSIe PHEV 204 hp||€ 38,100||€ 41,950||€ 41,250||45.900 €||€ 46,800|
The essential options
No equipment gap, but the absence of some techno attentions, however common, can annoy. For example, even on the intermediate level of Design equipment, it is necessary to provide 550 euros extension for hands-free access and starting, 980 euros for the head-up display or 290 euros for the "full" version of Virtual Cockpit. Finally, depending on the finish and the diameter of the rims chosen, the piloted suspension is not a luxury. Indispensable in S-Line, but still requires 1.120 euros supplement. Or 1,400 euros on lower levels. You might as well make the most of one of the strengths of the new A3: its comfort, quite simply. We confirm, if we are looking for the champion of the price / performance ratio within the group, it is better to look at a Skoda Scala …
Alternatives to the Audi A3 Sportback
Alfa Romeo Giulietta
The Italian compact is pretty much the opposite of the Audi A3. Aging design (it was released in 2010 and its career is coming to an end), technological content and engines in the same vein … But the look, the chassis and the overall temperament make it one of the most endearing compacts on the market . Even with the small 1.4 petrol 120 hp, something is already happening. The Alfa Romeo Giulietta is still in the catalog for a few months, and starts at 23,950 euros.
BMW 1 Series
By forgetting the propulsion, the Series 1 has lost all that made its originality. Not to mention the abandonment of the 6-cylinder for its top-of-the-range versions! The compact BMW is nonetheless a dynamic traction, rather successful and pleasant to drive. Attractive to those who have not known her predecessors, frustrating to others. It starts at 24,850 euros with the small 3-cylinder 116i (109 hp). As for the A3, it is better to forget the low price engine and focus on superior mechanics to take advantage of its road qualities.
Mercedes Class A
Certainly the most serious competitor of the Audi A3. In the vein of current Mercedes, the A-Class is distinguished by its advanced techno content, represented by its famous imposing double screen. More importantly, the road services are finally of good quality: finished, the clumsy, uncomfortable and failed chassis of the previous A-Class. The compact Mercedes has become a real frequentable traction, which is paying dearly for its qualities. 28,500 euros minimum for the A 160, but unlike the A3 and Series 1, it has a good 4-cylinder, much more pleasant.
Given the move upmarket made by the current Peugeot 308, the French can reasonably compete with the Audi, at least in its access version. Chassis approval, comfort and dynamism place it among the references of the niche. Its 3-cylinder engines and its lagging technological content, a little less. In his defense, no miracle to be expected from a car released in 2013, and whose replacement is scheduled for 2021. There, the match will be interesting …
Volkswagen Golf 8
The "popular" cousin of the A3 has above all the merit of being displayed at a lower appeal price. With the same 3-cylinder 110 hp entry-level, the Golf starts at 27,540 euros. Less chic, barely less spacious … but just as comfortable and technologically accomplished, it is a real pragmatic rival to the compact Audi.
Like the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, the Volvo V40 is at the end of its life (released in 2012) but still has some fine remains. Neat presentation and serious construction, interior space rather welcoming … but its aging engines and its lackluster behavior disappoint. From 26,890 euros.