2016 Audi A3

Starting MSRP: $30,900 - $48,450

Estimated MPG: 22 city / 33 hwy

2016 Audi A3 Review

Audi packs maximum luxury inside a petite package with the updated 2016 Audi A3. This is a car for urbanites who desire both German engineering and the latest in tech gadgets. Compared to other entry-level luxury cars such as the BMW 2 Series and Mercedes-Benz CLA, we prefer the design, simplicity and performance of the Audi A3.

By Melanie Batenchuk
Last Updated 08/11/2016

The 2016 A3 is offered as a sedan and a convertible. The plug-in hybrid A3 Sportback e-tron is also offered, and covered in a separate review. There's also a high-performance variant: the S3. The A3 sedan and convertible come in three main trim levels: Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige. The base Premium trim provides a respectable amount of luxury features.

Audi’s A3 sedan and convertible are available with either a 1.8-liter or a 2.0-liter engine. Both engines are turbocharged and paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard with the 1.8-liter, while all-wheel drive is standard with the 2.0-liter.

Exterior

Exterior
10

The optional, gorgeously crafted 19-inch wheels are reason enough to find the 2016 A3 stunning, but Audi strengthens the case for the car by giving it an exterior graced with sleek lines and smooth curves. The A3 exemplifies design that is modern yet classic.

Our test car was a Prestige model, and this trim includes the S line exterior package, which upgrades the car's aesthetics with S line fender badges, side sills, grille inserts and more. Even without the S line touches, the A3's sheet metal embodies performance, with just the right blend of angles and continuous edges.

Audi gives its smallest car for the U.S. market a panoramic sunroof with a retractable perforated sunshade, power-adjustable exterior mirrors and LED headlights with LED daytime running lights.

Interior

Interior
9

The dominant shade within the A3's cabin is black, lightened with splashes of aluminum. Materials quality was fair, but for the final price point of our Prestige model ($46,150 with the $925 destination charge), we would have liked to have seen more soft-touch surfaces.

As in a well-organized home, everything within the A3's cabin has its place, as is evidenced by the car's retractable MMI touch screen. Audi provides a 12-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support, as well as leather seating surfaces, dual-zone automatic climate control, a three-spoke tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a driver information cluster as standard equipment on each 2016 A3.

We enjoyed the departure from linear air vents in exchange for throwback circular ones on an axis. This design allows users to tilt and rotate the vents to achieve the ideal climate. A twist of the knob at the center of the vents controls the amount of airflow.

Prestige models feature heated front seats, Audi’s MMI touch interface, navigation, a Bang & Olufsen sound system, a full-color driver information display and LED interior lighting. It all comes together to create an upscale ambience.

Both the driver and front passenger should find plenty of comfort on both short and lengthier trips, but guests in the rear will be praying that those front passengers are vertically challenged. Second-row legroom can quickly get cramped depending on how generous the person riding in front decides to be.

The sedan's trunk measures in at just 10 cubic feet (12.3 cubic feet in the front-wheel drive model), but its 60/40 split -folding rear seat provides extra cargo capacity for runs to the big-box discount store.

Performance

Performance
10

Buyers of the 2016 Audi A3 sedan get to choose between a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with front-wheel drive or a turbocharged 2.0-liter with all-wheel drive. The smaller engine gets 170 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque, while the 2.0-liter four-cylinder generates 220 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Both engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

Thanks to its compact size, performance doesn’t stifle fuel economy, and the A3 sedan with the 1.8-liter engine achieves 23/33 mpg city/highway. The models with the 2.0-liter engine are rated at 24/33 mpg city/highway.

Audi stays true to its engineering prowess with the A3 sedan. Handling and cornering are stable, delighting the driver during tight twists and turns. The A3 is just as much fun in a straight line. The 2.0-liter engine in our test car had plenty of boost to propel us off the starting line and an equal amount of power when necessary at highway speeds for merging and passing in traffic.

Ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes bring the A3 to a halt comfortably and with ease. Steering is direct without being too rigid for everyday driving. If your preference is for a more customized driving experience, the Audi Drive Select feature—part of an $800 Sport package—will come in handy. It allows you to adjust the car's throttle, transmission and steering behavior to alter handling and performance.

Technology

Technology
10

The base A3 comes with a 10-speaker audio system that features a CD player, Bluetooth, satellite radio and HD radio.

Optional equipment included on our Prestige trim included a navigation system with voice control and Audi MMI touch (a touch pad that enables you to gesture commands for navigation and searching your address book). A color driver information display, LED interior lighting and a Bang & Olufsen sound system with 14 speakers were also included.

The lack of an Apple-friendly USB port connector has been an Audi weakness for years. The good news is that the A3 now has iPod integration with 30-pin cable. The bad news is that it’s not standard across all models (only the S3).

The list of features found on the Prestige package is long, and Audi has integrated each of these technologies into a fairly seamless user interface.

Safety

Safety
10

Safety is clearly a priority for Audi. The A3 earned the top five-star rating for overall crash protection from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The 2016 Audi A3 also has a 2016 Top Safety Pick+ designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

The base A3 comes with safety features that include front and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera. Advanced safety technologies on our test A3 included lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning with automatic braking.

Cost-Effectiveness

Cost-Effectiveness
6

The 2016 Audi A3 sedan starts at $30,900 (excluding a $925 destination charge), while the A3 convertible starts at $36,600.

Our only quibble with our 2016 A3 sedan is the sticker shock it gave us. A hefty a la carte menu resulted in more than $11,000 in add-ons for our test vehicle. If an Audi buyer really wants to spend upward of $46,000, why not opt for a more modestly equipped S3 or a redesigned 2017 A4?

To purchase the Audi A3 sedan with the Prestige trim level (which adds upward of $8,850 to the base model's price), the buyer must be dead-set on wearing those four rings proudly on the streets. For the cost, one may be better off opting for a loaded 2016 Volkswagen Golf or Jetta.

Overall

Overall
9

There’s no doubt that Audi has a hit on its hands with the 2016 A3 sedan. It’s sporty, stylish and can fit in just about any parking space. Like a gymnast in an elegant sequined gown, the A3 brings with it a presence that exudes class, tucked into a petite, svelte body. The design is classic, yet forward-thinking; it will age well.

On top of the spirited 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, A3 owners can look forward to the smoothness of the six-speed transmission and the stopping power of ventilated front disc brakes.

We would recommend shopping the competitors in the luxury-compact segment, because the decision will come down to styling preferences, driving feel and the price tag. But if you ask us, the Audi A3 sedan is a strong contender whose only Achilles heel is its expensive add-ons.