2017 Audi A3 Saloon Review

Carzone drives Audi’s recently updated A3 Saloon

Carzone drives Audi’s recently updated A3 Saloon

Review

Pros: Premium interior feel, economical but fun, handsome styling

Cons: Expensive, rivals are more spacious

Carzone drives Audi’s recently updated A3 Saloon

The A3 Saloon is Audi’s newest addition to the growing A3 family and one of the best-selling models in the niche compact executive segment. The A3 Saloon builds on the success of the popular A3 Hatchback platform, with larger saloon styling and a premium upmarket cabin to help it compete with cars like the Mercedes-Benz CLA and Jaguar XE. Freshly facelifted in mid-2016, the A3 Saloon now offers Audi’s Virtual Cockpit as an option as well as many other modern features. But can this small saloon really compete with larger and more established players in the segment? We spent a week living with it on Irish roads to find out.

What is it like?

The A3 Saloon has been on sale since 2013 but it received a mid-life facelift in the summer of 2016. From the outside it looks like a sleek coupe, but it has four doors and a spacious boot as you’d expect from a traditional large Audi. All in all, the A3 Saloon is a handsome car and this S-Line specification model that we drove is particularly fetching with its ten spoke 17-inch alloy wheels, S Line body styling kit and metallic ‘tango red’ paint scheme.

The A3 Saloon may be one of the smallest premium saloon’s currently on the market, but its interior finish doesn’t disappoint. The driver’s area is well laid out with a clear dashboard layout, a 5.8-inch colour screen display and a supportive driving position. This S-Line specification model is bursting with nice extras such as a flat-bottomed sports steering wheel and half-leather upholstery, but you’ll pay handsomely for the privilege. With extra leg room than the A3 Hatchback, there is plenty of room to seat four adults comfortably but the headroom is tight for taller passengers in the rear seats due to the sloping roof design. At 425 litres in size, the boot should be big enough to satisfy most buyers and is right on par with the competition.

The highlight of the interior in our test car is Audi’s virtual cockpit display, which puts a digital screen behind the steering wheel to display everything from speed, to revs, fuel economy and satellite navigation in vibrant fashion. Infotainment is controlled through a single dial behind the gearstick and the system is easy to use, while the display screen tucks away neatly into the dashboard each time the engine is turned on and off. As far as its rivals are concerned, the A3 Saloon wins in terms of refinement and quality.

Audi offers the A3 Saloon with a range of diesel and turbocharged petrol engines, but we drove the most economical option in the range, the 110bhp 1.6-litre diesel. The 1.6–litre TDI is nice to drive, especially when mated to Audi’s 7 Speed S Tronic automatic transmission which shifts swiftly and precisely. Performance is reasonable with 0-100km/h taking 10.7 seconds and a top speed of 203km/h. 

Those who cover lots of motorway mileage should consider the larger 2.0-litre TDI diesel, which makes for easier overtaking. We managed 5.0 litres per 100 kilometres in economy (56MPG) during our test with a mixture of city and motorway based driving, and it slots into Band A2 for road tax at €180 per year. The A3 Saloon is firmer on the road than many of its rivals which makes it less comfortable than some of its rivals, but that means it is great fun to drive and handles sweetly. Steering feel is strong through corners and body roll is minimal, while this S Line specification model gains Sports Suspension over the standard car.

At €29,810 for the entry petrol model, the A3 Saloon commands a premium price. The mid-range SE model’s specification is strong however, with 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, part leather seats and rear parking sensors featured as standard.  Our test car is the range-topping S Line version and gets all the bells and whistles such as LED Headlights, and the aforementioned styling upgrades. If you can afford to stretch to this spec, we’d encourage you but it isn’t cheap.

Carzone verdict: 4/5

The Audi A3 Saloon leads the way in the compact executive segment with its superb drive, low running costs and polished interior design. It is quite expensive in higher S Line specification like, but the base models are well equipped with alloy wheels, Bluetooth hands free, climate control and a digital radio. Those who like the normal A3 Hatchback but need added practicality will love the Saloon’s grown up dimensions. The 1.6-litre TDI diesel is economical and assured, but we’d recommend the 1.4 TSI petrols or larger 2.0-litre TDI diesel to those craving better performance. All in all, we’re impressed with Audi’s baby saloon.

Test Car Details:

Model driven: Audi A3 Saloon

Prices from: €29,810

Price as tested: €42,351

Annual Road Tax: €180

Engine: 1598cc four-cylinder diesel

Power/Torque: 110hp, 250Nm

Top Speed: 203 km/h

0-100km/h: 10.7

Transmission: 7-speed Automatic

Body style: Saloon

Boot Space: 425 litres