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Audi A3 Saloon Review

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Overall

For

The Audi A3 Saloon comes with strong, efficient engines and, as long as you deselect the standard Sport suspension, it strikes a fine balance between comfort and control. The cabin is beautifully built, with enough space for four and a good-sized boot.

Against

The Saloon costs more than the A3 Sportback on which it’s based, despite having a less practical boot. Versions fitted with Sport or S line suspension ride too firmly.

Summary

Viewed as a junior executive saloon, the Audi A3 Saloon makes a BMW 3 Series look positively overpriced. However, the cheaper A3 Sportback has broader appeal.

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Performance

The 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine is seriously strong at any revs, so you don’t have to work it hard to make brisk progress. The entry-level petrol is a 148bhp turbo 1.4 that also offers flexible performance, while the 178bhp 1.8 turbo provides near hot hatch pace.

Ride & Handling

The A3 Saloon comes with Sport suspension as standard, which means the ride is firm at low speeds. However, the good news is you can spec a more comfortable suspension setup for no extra cost. Even with the softer suspension, the A3 Saloon changes direction eagerly. There’s plenty of grip, too, and the steering is precise.

Refinement

Both petrol engines are impressively smooth, while the 2.0 TDI is one of the most refined four-cylinder diesel engines we’ve tried. Wind noise is well suppressed at speed and all the major controls have a positive action. Only a noticeable amount of road noise lets the side down.

Buying & Owning

Audi has used a combination of aluminium and high-strength steel to help keep weight down, plus every model comes with engine stop-start technology. These measures ensure that fuel economy and CO2 emissions are among the best in class. The Saloon is pricier than an equivalent A3 Sportback, but undercuts rivals such as the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes CLA.

Quality & Reliability

The cabin is built from the sort of high-grade materials you’d expect to find in a far more expensive car, while beautifully weighted switchgear and a super-slim infotainment screen add to the impression that no expense has been spared. The latest-generation A3 was too new to be included in the most recent JD Power ownership satisfaction survey, but the previous model received only an average score for mechanical reliability.

Safety & Security

The A3 comes with stability control as well as front, side and curtain airbags. A pop-up bonnet also helps minimise injuries to pedestrians. However, it’s a little disappointing that you have to pay extra for Audi’s Pre Sense system, which automatically primes the safety kit if a collision looks inevitable. That said, the car achieved a maximum five-star crash test rating from Euro NCAP. Deadlocks and an alarm are fitted as standard to help guard against theft.

Behind The Wheel

Audi’s Multi Media Interface (MMI) lets you control most of the car’s major functions via a central control dial and a small collection of buttons. It’s a pretty simple system, and some of the shortcut keys are raised, allowing you to find the one you want without looking away from the road. People of all sizes should be able to find a comfortable driving position and rear visibility is much better than it is in a Mercedes CLA.

Space & Practicality

The Saloon is 15cm longer than the Sportback version of the A3, thanks to a longer rear overhang, and this extra length increases boot capacity by 45 litres (to 425 litres). Being a saloon, the boot opening is fairly shallow, although the rear seats fold almost completely flat, making it easy to carry longer items. There isn’t quite as much rear space as in a BMW 3 Series, but more than in a Mercedes CLA.

Equipment

There are just two trim levels: Sport and S line. Sport models come with Bluetooth, a USB socket, dual-zone climate control, sports seats and sports suspension (a more comfortable setup is available as a no-cost option), while S line versions add bigger alloys, part-leather seats and xenon headlights. Sport models are the best value, so they’re what we’d go for.