Our six months with the Audi A3 have come to an end, and we come away impressed with its all-round capabilities.
The sad day has come, it's time to say goodbye to 'Aldo', our Audi A3 2.0 TFSI Sport Limited Edition long-termer.
After nearly six months of having the little Audi sedan on the CarAdvice Melbourne test fleet, we've travelled 8963 kilometres and more than 250 hours behind the wheel in a variety of conditions and environments.
While our test vehicle may have had a fairly uninspiring specification in terms of the colour scheme and overall looks, there's nothing boring or underwhelming about the way it performs as a daily driver.
As the main driver of Aldo, I can personally say just how pleasantly surprised I was at just how capable and luxurious the Audi A3 is – it's totally more than just a 'tarted up Golf' as some may say.
Being the '2.0 TFSI Sport Limited Edition', our A3 was listed at $48,000 plus on-road costs – the range has since been given a new naming structure and the equivalent model is now known as the 40 TFSI Sport – or offered at $48,900 drive-away at the start of the loan.
Standard equipment includes a 7.0-inch navigation system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual-zone climate control, 17-inch alloy wheels, an eight-speaker sounds system, bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime-running lights, a rear-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, leather-appointed seats, LED cabin lighting, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and selectable drive modes.
The 'Limited Edition' package also brings some extra specification, too, namely the usually optional Technik and Assistance packages as standard equipment – usually $2900 and $1500 respectively on the standard version.
Additions include features like a 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit driver’s display, MMI Navigation Plus which includes a touch pad and live traffic updates, DAB+ digital radio and a flat-bottom steering wheel with paddle shifters.
The the full range of driver assistance technologies is included, too, such as adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, high-speed autonomous emergency braking, high-beam assist, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and hill hold assist.
Our tester's sleek Monsoon Grey metallic paint is also a no-cost option for the Limited Edition variant, normally commanding a $1150 premium.
As tested our A3 2.0 TFSI cost $48,900 drive-away, which is decent value for money when you also factor in that it wears four rings on the nose, though there are still some equipment omissions that left us scratching our head.
There's no keyless entry or start as standard, which is something you might expect from a $50,000 small car. Want the convenience of passive entry and push-button ignition? You'd need to tick the box for the $2700 Comfort Package.
Speaking of the Comfort Package, features like electric seat adjustment, auto-folding exterior mirrors, and heated front seats are also relegated to the optional package. You might say "#firstworldproblems", though it has to be noted that Audi could do a little better with the level of standard kit.
Other annoyances with the spec sheet include the lack of LED headlights and tail-lights like the models you might find on the A3's brochure. They're also part of an extra-cost option package, specifically the $2400 Style pack that also adds larger 18-inch alloys and different cabin trim inserts.
Finally, DAB+ digital radio is also optional, with buyers having to pay an extra $500 for a media feature that is becoming increasingly standard in vehicles that are half the price. Not ideal.
In terms of the overall design, this reviewer reckons the A3 sedan remains one of the slickest small cars on the road, despite the fact it's nearing a generational replacement.
Audi did a great job with the aesthetic and there's no wonder you see so many A3s running around these days, it certainly looks like a premium product, even in the more basic spec we have here.
Stepping inside is a similar story. The dashboard design has been clocked on for a while now, but the clean layout and minimalistic approach to physical buttons and dials have aged well, bolstered by a healthy amount of premium-feeling materials and textures.
There's plenty to like about perceived quality in the cabin. Up top the dashboard and doors are finished with yielding soft-touch plastics, and this extends to the rear doors too – something that is becoming rarer in mainstream vehicles.
We noticed a couple of cheaper feeling buits, though, namely a small section of the lower dashboard on the driver's side where the headlight control is, which isn't trimmed in soft-touch plastic like the same tier on the other side of the steering wheel, while the brushed effect plastic that lines the centre console and the trim that is placed where your knee rests are hard and scratchy, detracting from that upmarket look and feel. Small complaints, though.
Everything feels solidly screwed together, and there's a real upmarket ambience despite the austere black-on-black colour scheme we have here – you can get grey as well should you want to lighten things up a bit.
The manually adjustable front seats are trimmed in a nice grained leather that feels nice to touch and looks like it can stand the test of time. During the six months we had the A3 we didn't have any concerns about the leather cracking or creasing, though you'd probably need a few more years of ownership to get a proper idea of the material's durability.
We appreciated the extendable seat base cushions that are standard fit, a feature usually exclusive to premium vehicles, along with the breadth of adjustment available for both the seats and the steering wheel.
All the controls and switchgear is ergonomically laid out, and everything you press has a nice 'click' too it. The stalks behind the steering wheel are nicely damped, and the chunky flat-bottom sports steering wheel with paddles is lovely to hold.
Behind the steering wheel is the company's Virtual Cockpit 12.3-inch digital driver's display, which continues to be one of the better systems of its type. The graphics are crisp, transitions between menus are snappy, and there's a healthy choice of interfaces available to suit the driver's tastes.
The MMI Navigation Plus infotainment system was also pretty faultless for the life of the loan. Having standard Apple CarPlay and Android auto is a plus (see what I did there), and the proprietary navigation system also works pretty well should you not want to use smartphone maps – the native software is also the only choice if you want to view navigation instructions on the Virtual Cockpit display, too.
Audi's standard eight-speaker sound system is pretty decent as well, so you can blast tunes with crisp audio when stuck in traffic or on a road trip.
Moving into the back, you'll notice the A3 is far from limousine levels of space, despite the slinky sedan body. Legroom is average, especially for taller passengers, and headroom can be a little tight with that sloping roofline.
There's air vents for the second row, however, along with a 12V outlet and a fold down centre armrest with cupholders. You'll find bottle holders in the back doors, too, while the map pockets on the backs of both front seats add further storage options.
Parents will make use of the Isofix child seat mounts on the outboard rear seats, though if you carry larger kids in the back or adults on a regular basis, you may need to look elsewhere in the Audi showroom – perhaps an A4 or A6.
Under the bootlid is a 425L luggage area, which is plenty of space for a car of this size, and 45L up on the A3 Sportback hatch. We carried everything from suitcases to tennis bags, and were never left wanting for more volume. Should you need to carry the odd long item the rear seats fold 60:40, though there's quite a large 'hump' between the boot floor and seat back.
A small cubby on the side offers room for smaller items, while standard luggage nets help hold items prone to sliding down. Under the boot floor is a temporary space saver wheel.
Power in our tester comes from a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine, which is from the same family as the motor used in the Volkswagen Golf GTI hot hatch. In this implementation, the four-pot unit develops 140kW at 6000rpm, and a healthy 320Nm of torque between 1500 and 4200rpm.
Those figures are channeled to the front wheels via a standard seven-speed 'S tronic' dual-clutch automatic. You can also opt for the S line variant which adds quattro all-wheel drive, should you frequent wet or snowy roads often, or if you just want the added piece of mind that comes with all-paw traction.
Audi claims the front-drive A3 Sport can hit triple figures in 6.8 seconds, around 0.8 shy of the current Golf GTI Performance, on its way to a top speed of 250km/h – which we realise is pretty much irrelevant in strictly-governed Australia unless you live in the Northern Territory.
We've noted in previous long-term updates how impressive the little Audi's drivetrain is, and we're going to say it again.
Performance is effortless around town, with the low-down torque helping the A3 get up to urban speeds in a brisk and relaxed manner. We also like the burbly engine note, which never gets loud or thrashy under heavy acceleration.
We didn't get a chance to test out the manufacturer's acceleration claims with GPS-based timing equipment, but the A3 certainly feels peppy by the seat of the pants, and proved it can keep up with various hot hatches on a weekend drive day with Victoria's Renault Sport club. Read more about that here.
The seven-speed S tronic 'box also performed well at all speeds, almost never exhibiting the typical jerkiness or hesitation commonly associated with this type of transmission, even with the idle stop/start technology engaged.
At freeway speeds, the A3 demonstrates why it would be at home on the derestricted Autobahns of its homeland, remaining planted and relaxed even at 110km/h on Victoria's lumpy and bumpy country highways, with the engine barely breaking a sweat in seventh gear below 2000rpm.
We had plenty of opportunities to test out the suite of driver aids included as part of the standard Assistance pack, including the pretty much faultless adaptive cruise control with Traffic Jam Assist which proved to be invaluable during peak-hour commutes on the Eastern Freeway when lining up for the Punt Road exit, while the smart blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert with reverse AEB were handy when reversing out of driveways and shopping centre car parks.
As for the ride and handling, the A3 offers a typically taut yet supple ride which is common to MQB-based vehicles, while also being competent in the bends without being a dynamic standout.
The electrically-assisted steering rack isn't the last word on feel or feedback, but it has a quickness and directness to it which inspires confidence and is plenty fun on a twisty back road.
Popping the drive mode into 'sport' and shifting manually via the steering-mounted paddle shifters offers a hot hatch-like experience, which can be further enhanced if you opt for the Style Package with its lowered sports suspension and bigger wheels with lower-profile tyres.
In saying that, we reckon ride comfort would be compromised if you add the larger wheels and stiffer suspension, so it's up to what you prefer as to how you should spec your A3.
We did notice that perceived road noise could get a little loud on rougher surfaces, which is a shame given it detracts again from that premium ambience, though insulation from wind noise is excellent.
Fuel consumption was pretty impressive, too. During the duration of our loan, the A3 returned an indicated 7.2L/100km, which was achieved over a range of conditions including everything from stop-start Melbourne traffic to extended stints on the freeway.
Audi's official combined claim is 5.8L/100km, and we'd say you would struggle to match that unless you spent most of your time on the highway. However, the indicated real-world figure is quite respectable considering the vehicle's size and performance potential, so thumbs up to Audi in that respect.
Here's what some other members of the CarAdvice team had to say:
Scott Collie, Journalist – Engine is punchy! Feels quicker than it looks from the outside, almost like a baby Golf GTI, which is always satisfying driving away from the lights.
Technology inside is excellent, even though it's a bit old. The central display is intuitive and can be folded away when you're not interested, while the Virtual Cockpit is still excellent.
Since we're talking interior, everything you touch is really nice, from the air vents to the click-clack volume scroll wheel.
However, the seating position doesn't have enough adjustment for me personally, and the window line makes the car feel a bit like a letterbox to look out of.
It's also a bit dull to look at. The profile is nice, and the smaller wheels mean it rides pretty nicely, but sex appeal is sorely lacking. Plus, $49k drive-away buys you a lot of Golf. As in, an actual GTI, or very close to it. I know which one I'd rather be driving.
Mandy Turner, Podcast Host & Road Tester – I thought of the A3 as your favourite pair of jeans; every time you put them on, you feel comfortable and right at home. While I thought the styling didn't blow my socks off, though, it made it up for how pleasant and easy it was to drive.
It has a good amount of poke when you needed it, but the DSG took its time sometimes to figure out what gear was needed.
It's full of safety kit and the Virtual Cockpit display was probably my favourite part of the A3. The interior quality is great with a lot of nice materials, and the flat-bottomed steering wheel made it feel even more sporty.
I had a friend of 6'3" in the rear seat, and considering the seats are placed low to the floor, headroom was non existent, with their head sitting on an angle to fit. Overall though, the A3 is impressive as to how easily it goes about everyday driving.
Kate Arcidiacono, Marketing Manager – We usually drive a Golf and the A3 felt small inside comparatively, particularly passenger leg room with a kid in a car seat behind, and low head height. The boot has more depth, but less height. Begs the question, why would you buy a sedan over the hatch?
I liked the responsive acceleration thanks to the good levels of power and torque on offer. The A3 also has a nice, quiet ride and the stop/start transition felt super smooth.
The infotainment and smartphone mirroring connectivity worked really well and is easy to use. I also love the cockpit display, but the interior too basic for what I'd expect from an Audi.
From an ownership perspective, the A3 is covered by Audi's three year, unlimited kilometre warranty with three years of roadside assistance. While we knock the brand for not switching to five years of cover like many mainstream brands, it's par for the course when compared to rival premium marques.
As for servicing, Audi Australia recently introduce service plan packages that cover you up to the first five years of ownership. In the case of the A3 Sport, the company quotes $2060 for a five-year service plan, equating to an average of $412 per year on scheduled maintenance. Not bad.
Speaking of servicing, visits to the dealer are required every 12 months or 15,000 kilometres, whichever comes first. With that in mind, the five-year service plan covers the first 60 months or 75,000km. A three-year plan is also available priced at $1540.
All told, our extended stint in the Audi A3 reminded us how much of a silent achiever the German small sedan really is. It's a cut above most current small cars in terms of cabin ambience, performance, and on-road manners, though you'd also hope so given the price premium it commands over something like a Mazda 3.
However, as time goes on an increasing amount of mainstream models are closing the gap between volume and premium brands, meaning the Audi's hefty price tag starts to stick out like a sore thumb given something like the aforementioned 3 can be had in top specification with all the bells and whistles for $10,000 less.
In saying that, the Audi's blend of turbocharged performance, high-end technology, all-round refinement, and badge cache is hard to ignore.
Personally, I'd haggle hard to bundle in the Comfort and Style packages for a discounted price, which add another layer of plushness to the cabin and enhance the exterior design further, though should you pay list price you're looking at nearly $55k on the road, which is pretty exxy for a small car no matter how you look it it.
I'm genuinely sad having to return Aldo, but when asking myself if I'd part with my own cash to purchase one, I genuinely 'um' and 'ah' about it. The A3 is a fantastic small car, but there's plenty of other good options out there.
Audi 2.0 TFSI Sport Limited Edition
- Total distance travelled: 8963km
- Fuel consumption (indicated): 7.2/100km
- Total fuel cost: $861.72
MORE: Long-term report one – Introduction
MORE: Long-term report two – Urban driving
MORE: Long-term report three – Infotainment and tech
MORE: Long-term report four – Grand touring
MORE: Long-term report five – Interior comfort and practicality