heycar editorial team
- Well equipped for the money with navigation and Audi’s Virtual Cockpit standard on all models
- High quality cabin with lots of soft-touch materials
- Good to drive with economical petrol and diesel engines
Not so great
- More expensive than stuff like the (very similar) Volkswagen Golf
- Looks very similar to the old model
- Holds its value well so there aren’t many bargains to be had
On the inside
How much does it cost to run
Prices, versions and specification
"The Audi A3 has a very modern interior and comes well-equipped for the money. It’s good to drive, too - with high refinement and economical engines. Our biggest gripe is whether it’s worth the extra cash over the Volkswagen Golf. But the entire fashion industry suggests people are willing to pay more for a desirable brand name..."
But it would be doing the Audi A3 Sportback a disservice to describe it as a Golf in a posh frock. The junior Audi is one of the best small premium cars on sale - holding its own against the latest BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class.
Sure, it shares a base (and engines) with the likes of the Volkswagen Golf and SEAT Leon, but it has a bang up-to-date interior, plenty of technology and lots of standard equipment on even the cheaper models.
At its launch in 2020, this Audi A3 Sportback came with the choice of just one petrol and one diesel engine - both with the same 150PS power output. The petrol is a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine, badged 35 TFSI while the 2.0 TDI is called the 35 TDI. Yes, the Audi naming system confuses us, too...
Both engines are powerful yet also economical, while mild hybrids, plug-in hybrids and an ultra-efficient 115PS diesel followed later.
The Audi A3 Sportback is really at home on the motorway, where an acoustic windscreen makes for very hushed progress. All the models ride well (avoid the S line with its sports suspension if comfort’s important), with little in the way of wind or road noise.
The A3's interior is ultra-modern and as premium as you’d expect from an Audi. True it may not have the wow factor of the Mercedes A-Class but you won’t be disappointed with the A3. Everything you touch feels is made out of the same high-quality materials you’d find in a bigger Audi.
Talking of bigger, there's marginally more space in this A3 than the old model - we doubt anyone in the front will be left wanting more room. The same can’t be said for those in the back. As you'd expect from a car of this size, rear space is best described as ‘limited’. If you want to regularly carry three or four people, look at something like a Skoda Octavia instead. Oh, and there’s no three-door version of this A3, either.
While the new Audi A3 isn't dramatically different, it remains a classy hatchback that's packed with kit. It's more expensive than alternatives like the Volkswagen Golf and Mazda 3, but with a superb cabin you can see where your money's going. This does mean you’ll have to wait a while before values drop on the second-hand market.
Comfort and design
"Seeing as it’s marketed as quite a posh car, you might be surprised to find there’s no electric seat adjustment in most versions of the A3 Sportback. Not that adjusting the seats and steering wheel is hard work. Most will be very comfortable in the A3. Indeed, it’s a very focussed cabin, with the dash and centre console angled towards the driver. Everything is easily accessible."
Touchscreens are used to control most features in modern cars - especially premium models like the A3 - but there are a lot of buttons in the Sportback’s cabin. They’re logically laid out, so it’s easy to do things like change the temperature or turn the radio up on the move.
A quirk of the automatic models is a stubby toggle switch instead of a conventional gear lever. It looks modern (in a quirky way) and frees up space on the centre console.
The A3 Sportback’s cabin is the sort of well-designed interior we’ve come to expect from Audi. It might lack flair compared to the A-Class but you can see where your money’s been spent compared to a Ford Focus, for example.
Handling and ride quality
"The A3 Sportback’s suspension varies depending on trim level and the size of the engine. The good news is that if you avoid larger wheels or the S line specification, the A3 rides very well."
The lower-powered models (with less than 150PS) have a standard suspension set-up while anything with more than 150PS gets a more sophisticated system. We reckon the standard setup is the sweet spot in the range, providing a good combination of handling and comfort. It’s less firm than sporty rivals, which will suit the majority of A3 buyers.
If you want something a bit more dynamic, S line models have sports suspension, which sits 15mm lower to the road. This provides a firmer ride, not helped by the S line’s standard-fit 18-inch alloy wheels. It’s not uncomfortable, but we reckon the standard springs suit the A3 better.
In typical Audi fashion, the A3 Sportback remains very composed during cornering, but it doesn’t feel quite as agile as the Mercedes A-Class or BMW 1 Series. The steering will be too numb for enthusiastic drivers, but that translates into nice, light steering around town.
Indeed, the A3 Sportback is excellent around town. Visibility is very good, while all models come with rear parking sensors as a minimum - making parking a piece of cake.
MPG and fuel costs
"Unsurprisingly, the most efficient models are the diesels. The 35 TDI officially returns between 60mpg under WLTP fuel economy tests - meaning you should be able to get fairly close to this in the real world. The lower powered 30 TDI is even better on fuel, officially good for more than 80mpg."
While the diesels are tempting for their improved fuel economy, they’re more expensive to buy second-hand and can be problematic further down the line if you don’t cover many miles. We’d choose the petrol if you’re expecting to travel less than 12,000 miles a year. The 35 TFSI returns around 45mpg.
How much should you be paying for a used Audi A3 Sportback?
"A pre-reg A3 will save you money on a brand new model. These are cars that have been registered by dealers in order to meet targets placed on them by manufacturers and are generally in as-new condition with less than 100 miles on the clock. While you can’t be picky about specification or options when buying a pre-registered car, you will save money compared to the list price and skip the waiting list."
When new, the Audi A3 Sportback started from around £23,000 for the 30 TFSI model in Technik trim, rising to close to £32,000 for the 35 TDI S Line. Traditionally, the Audi A3 Sportback has held its value much better than mainstream alternatives but there will still be some reasonable savings available if you hold out a couple of years for a second-hand model.
A few years down the line, expect to pay anything from £12,000 to £20,000 for a three-year-old example with average miles, dependent on spec, engine and condition. Many Audi A3 Sportbacks will be coming out of finance or lease deals at three years old, so it’s a good age to look for one.
Is the Audi A3 Sportback right for you?
In some ways, it’s difficult to justify the Audi A3 Sportback over the very similar (and very competent) Volkswagen Golf. But if you want something more special than a Golf (or alternatives like the Ford Focus and Mazda 3), the A3’s a perfect choice. Having those four rings on the grille still carries a bit of status.
Like most cars of this size, you’ll struggle to use it as your only family car but it’s ideal for a couple or as a second car. The interior is superb and packed with technology. It feels extremely well built and we’re sure it should last for many years without excessive signs of wear.
What’s the best Audi A3 Sportback model/engine to choose?
When it first went on sale, the Audi A3 Sportback was only offered with three trim levels: Technik, Sport and S line. Even the standard Technik model is well equipped with LED headlights, Virtual Cockpit, a 10.1-inch navigation system, cruise control and rear parking sensors.
It comes as standard with 16-inch wheels which sound small, but provide a smoother ride which we like. Most buyers will find the Technik more than adequate.
The main advantages of the Sport and S line models are various cosmetic upgrades (such as bigger wheels and sportier exterior styling), along with an even more upmarket cabin with leather seats as standard. There’s also the Edition 1 or Vorsprung models, which have 19-inch alloy wheels and LED rear lights with fancy dynamic indicators.
Engine choice is simple. If you cover lots of motorway miles, go for the 2.0-litre diesel badged the 35 TDI. If you don’t, stick to the 1.5-litre petrol. Following this are mild and plug-in hybrid models. The latter will be worth it if your journeys are within 20 miles or so and you can charge a car at home.
What other cars are similar to the Audi A3 Sportback?
The obvious competitors here are the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class. The BMW 1 Series is a practical choice that’s also fun to drive, while the Mercedes A-Class has an interior that wouldn’t feel out of place in a much more expensive car. Both arguably offer bolder looks than the A3 Sportback.
Then you’ve got more mainstream alternatives like the Volkswagen Golf, SEAT Leon and Mazda 3. All do pretty much the same job as the A3 Sportback, but lack the Audi’s premium feel-good factor. That said, the Golf isn’t that far off...
Quality and finish
If you’re looking for a car with a high-quality interior, an Audi is generally a very good choice. The A3 Sportback is no exception. It’s very well made, with lots of soft-touch materials and an abundance of gloss black finishes. Everything you touch feels like it should last the distance.
It’s easy to turn your nose up at the standard cloth seats of the A3 Technik, but even these feel well-finished. Sport models get leather, while the S line comes with leather sports seats. These look the part and are surprisingly comfortable.
The S line also features things like aluminium dash inlays and an LED interior lighting pack with ambient door lighting, which makes the A3 Sportback’s interior even more special (and rival that of the Mercedes A-Class, with its fancy interior ambient lighting).
We’re used to having to pay extra for the biggest infotainment systems, but a slick 10.1-inch display is standard on all A3 models. This is very easy to use, with good graphics, logical menu systems and fast responses.
It features everything you’d expect from such a system in a premium car - including DAB radio and connected navigation. It can be operated a bit like a smartphone with click, swipe, scroll and zoom gestures - so it’s very intuitive.
There’s a caveat though. There are no physical buttons for the media system so, on the move, you find yourself jabbing at the touchscreen display which is frustrating at best and dangerously distracting at worst.
Audi will point you towards its voice command function but this isn’t as smooth as Apple’s Siri or Google Assistant. Fortunately, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. This means you can use your phone’s features on the move - including the aforementioned Siri and Google Assistant, as well as accessing your Spotify playlists and using apps like Google Maps or Waze.
Another Audi A3 standard feature is the 10.25-inch Virtual Cockpit. This is the slickest digital instrument display around, with sharp graphics and numerous ways to customise it - changing the size of the dials or prioritising navigation directions, for example.
Space and practicality
While there are more practical hatchbacks (step forward, Skoda Octavia), the Audi A3 Sportback will be big enough for most. There’s plenty of room for a pair of adults up front, with generous head, leg and shoulder room.
There’s a decent amount of stowage such as a pair of generous cup holders in the centre console, and door bins big enough for all your bits and bobs.
Two adults will fit in the rear and as this is a five-door, access is easy enough. Along with the Isofix points, there are top tether points on the outer rear seats.
There’s no more or less room than the A3 Sportback’s direct premium rivals, but you’d probably be better looking at a bigger car or SUV if you regularly carry rear-seat passengers. There’s the usual lump in the floor hindering foot room for middle passengers (who’ll also struggle for shoulder room), and anyone over six foot will find their knees sticking into the seats in front.
The A3 Sportback’s 380-litre boot compares well with rivals and there’s a handy adjustable boot floor - meaning you won’t have to lean into the boot to get your shopping.
The rear seats on Technik models split 60/40 and 40/20/40 on higher-spec models, so they can be dropped easily if you need more luggage space. Up to 1200 litres of space is available with the rear seats dropped - although they don’t fold entirely flat.
All A3 Sportback models come with a tyre repair kit rather than a spare wheel. This means more room for luggage, but if you’re like us, we’d rather have the security of a spare wheel in case of a puncture.
Engines and gearboxes
Audi likes to roll out engines and gearboxes over time, so early examples of this generation A3 Sportback are powered by one of just two engines. The only petrol to begin with was the popular 1.5-litre four-cylinder badged the 35 TFSI. It’s a good combination of performance and economy, producing 150PS and available only with a six-speed manual gearbox.
If most of your driving is around town, look for the three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol, badged the 30 TFSI. It punches above its weight in terms of performance, while being more economical than the 1.5.
If economy is important, a mild-hybrid version of the 1.5-litre soon followed, with the ability to coast with the engine off for short periods, using less fuel. If you want a PHEV, the A3 obliges with a model that can cover 20-odd miles on electric power.
Cover lots of miles on the motorway? Go for a diesel like the 150PS 2.0-litre diesel badged the 35 TDI and paired exclusively with Audi’s seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission. It’s ultra-refined and ultra-efficient, with plenty of power. If you want the ultimate in frugality, though, you should seek out the 115PS 30 TDI.
All trim levels bar the Technik feature Audi's Drive Select system, which lets you choose from multiple drive modes. We find that this is best left in 'comfort' or 'auto' modes - otherwise the automatic gearbox holds onto low gears and the steering is pointlessly heavy. We’re not a fan.
Refinement and noise levels
The Audi A3 Sportback is in its element on the motorway. No matter which engine you opt for, it’s extremely refined - helped by a new acoustic windscreen which is fitted as standard across the range.
There’s some noticeable road noise in models fitted with larger wheels, but find a lower-spec model with high-profile tyres and it’s an extremely civilised motorway cruiser. All models come with cruise control, upgradable to adaptive cruise control (which slows down and speeds up with the traffic) as part of the Driver Assistance Pack.
There’s a little diesel burble from the 35 TDI on start-up, but that soon quietens down and, at motorway speeds, you’d be hard pushed to notice it’s a diesel. There’s no real noticeable vibration through the pedals or steering wheel, it’s an extremely soothing car to drive.
The petrols are very quiet, too - although you’ll have to accept a slight three-cylinder resonance from the 1.0-litre 30 TFSI. It makes quite a characterful noise at high revs, but it’s not particularly intruding.
The most refined A3 will be the plug-in hybrid, provided you charge it at home and cover mainly short journeys. In this situation, it runs mainly under electric power - with instant acceleration and no rumbling petrol engine starting up unless you’re particularly demanding with the accelerator.
Euro NCAP - the independent body responsible for crash testing new cars - is yet to give the A3 Sportback a rating. We’d be very surprised if it received anything less than five stars, though, seeing as the mechanically similar Volkswagen Golf received the top five out of five safety rating.
There’s a lot of standard safety equipment including Audi’s pre sense front - the brand’s automatic braking system - on all models. The optional Driver Assistance Package adds useful lane change and exit warnings. The former alerts the driver to a vehicle in their blind spot when changing lanes, while the exit warning will warn you of vehicles and cyclists approaching from behind when the car is at a standstill.
Rear parking sensors are standard across the range while you should look for examples with the Comfort and Sound Pack if you’re concerned about parking. This features a reversing camera as well as parking assist with parking system plus. This sounds complicated but essentially lets the car reverse into parallel or perpendicular parking spaces for you at the touch of a button.
Insurance groups and costs
The Audi badge might attract slightly more expensive insurance premiums than mainstream alternatives, but the difference will be marginal unless you're a young or new driver.
The 30 TFSI in Technik trim will be the cheapest to insure, in insurance group 15. That jumps up to group 21E for the 25 TFSI, while diesels start from group 17 for the 30 TDI.
That’s comparable to rivals - the BMW 1 Series starts from group 15 for the 116d SE, while the Mercedes-Benz A-Class also starts from group 15 for the A180d Sport. This means, if you’re looking for a cheap-to-insure diesel, you might find others cost less.
VED car tax
The A3 qualifies for a flat rate of £150 a year in VED. Mild hybrid and plug-in hybrid models fall under the ‘alternative fuel’ category, saving you £10 a year by bringing the annual tax down to £140. Even the most committed spendaholic would struggle to make an A3 cost more than £40,000 but just be aware that these are hit with an extra £325 a year tax for the first five years.
Trim levels and standard equipment
Even the most affordable Technik model is comprehensively equipped with a long list of standard equipment including LED headlights, a 10.1-inch navigation system, Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, cruise control and rear parking sensors. You’re unlikely to feel short-changed with the Technik, although many Audi buyers will be tempted by the flashier looks of the pricier models.
The A3 Sportback Sport (catchy name) comes with bigger 17-inch wheels, various sport styling highlights (such as a titanium black radiator grille) and Audi’s selectable drive modes. None of these is an essential feature, but the cosmetic upgrades do make the A3 Sportback look a bit more special.
The S Line comes with 18-inch wheels and sports suspension, lowered by 15mm - meaning it’s the one to avoid if you’re after ride comfort. There’s more unique exterior styling, along with swoopy dynamic rear indicators. It does take the A3’s already excellent interior and make it even more special with ambient door lighting, aluminium dash inlays and leather sports seats.
In terms of options, the Comfort and Sound Pack (£1195 when new) is a ‘nice to have’ - with a premium B&O sound system, parking assist with parking system plus, heated front seats and reversing camera. The Driver Assistance Pack could be useful if you cover a lot of miles - with the aforementioned parking assist with parking system plus, camera-based traffic sign recognition, adaptive cruise control and adaptive cruise assist which will keep your car in lane at motorway speeds or in traffic jams.
On the inside
How much does it cost to run
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Quality checked, all cars less than 8 years old and warranty included