Welterweight sedan with a knockout punch.
If you’re getting the idea that we’re impressed by the new A3, you’re right. Audi has built a refined and splendid sports sedan that happens to be small and affordable. Mercedes-Benz might have beaten Audi to the small-sedan punch, but Audi may have delivered the knockout.
The new A3 sedan is the second entry in a new segment of small, German sedans with premium labels. The first player to arrive was the curvy Mercedes-Benz CLA250. With the Audi A4, BMW 3-series, and Benz’s C-class inching toward the next-larger segment, the A3 and the CLA are poised to become what those cars once were—affordable, attractive, small, and fun.
We mention this because we want to bring to light that the new A3 isn’t really all that small. Next to the CLA, the A3’s interior is remarkably spacious, especially in the rear seat. That’s because the Audi’s roofline doesn’t plunge like the CLA’s and so, adults can actually sit comfortably in the back.
The A3 doesn’t drive small either. The structure, borrowed from Volkswagen, is solid gold. This is the same MQB platform that underpins the new GTI, and while the 3369-pound A3 isn’t as playful as that car, speed comes just as easily. Maturity has been tuned into the A3; it’s more laid back than you might expect. But don’t get the idea that the A3 isn’t willing to hustle along a canyon road. There’s plenty of grip from the Continental SportContact2 summer rubber—0.94 g on the skidpad—and the prevailing sense of stability makes probing the limit fun rather than scary. Ride quality is on the firm side, but there’s enough compliance to make you forget that you’re in the smallest Audi sold stateside.
The maturity carries through to the interior of the A3, where high-quality plastics, large gauges, and metallic brightwork managed to make our test car’s black interior look exciting. Again, you never get the sense that you’re in the least expensive Audi. The A3’s MMI controller is Audi’s latest version, something you won’t even find in an A8. As in the brand’s flagship, the navigation screen is motorized and rises dramatically from the instrument panel at startup. It’s quiet inside, too—at 70 mph we measured only 67 decibels of noise.