2015 Audi A3 sedan

PALO ALTO, Calif. — It’s a natural tendency for each new generation of a car to be slightly larger than its predecessor. I was vividly reminded of that when I walked out of a store just a couple of weeks after the all-new 2015 Audi A3 sedan was introduced and saw one in the wild so to speak. Initially I thought it was an A4 before I recognized it as the new A3, the smallest car sold by Audi in the USA.

I could easily be forgiven my initial mistake as the 2015 A3 sedan is pretty close to being the same size as the original A4 introduced 20 years ago. On the other hand today’s fourth generation A4 is fully 10 inches longer than the 1995 A4. Oh, and the 2015 A3 sedan is 6 inches longer than the previous generation A3.

Generally speaking it is still true that buyers of cars in this country don’t like hatchbacks, especially once you get beyond the lowest priced econoboxes. To overcome this distaste Audi has designed a sedan version of the A3 specifically aimed at the US market.

Until now the A3 was only offered as a Sportback (hatchback) or convertible. Both these body styles are available in Europe and will be offered later in this country. In the meantime the growing legions of fans of Audi’s attractive range of cars can now purchase a genuine entry premium luxury sedan from Audi for under $30,000.

I have to admit I am fan of four-door hatchbacks, and station wagons for that matter, and I liked the looks of the previous A3 Sportback. That’s probably why I was somewhat underwhelmed by the looks of the new A3 sedan when I first saw it. However since then it has grown on me as it offers clean lines with a subtle hint of sportiness.

The A3 Sedan is available with a choice of two engines – a 170 hp 1.8-liter turbocharged TFSI four-cylinder engine driving the front wheels or a 220 hp 2.0-liter turbocharged TFSI four-cylinder engine driving all wheels with Audi’s Quattro system. Both versions are only available with a 6-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission. No manual option for Americans.

So what’s the A3 like to drive?

We had the chance to spend a few hours driving a 2.0 Premium plus on winding hilly roads just south of San Francisco and found this model with the Quattro AWD system just perfect. The car is small enough that we did not run out of space even on narrow roads. The handling is good without having a too-stiff ride.

We felt much more comfortable hustling along with the S tronic set to manual mode. Much as we missed having a true manual transmission for spirited driving there’s no denying that this transmission can shift much quicker and more smoothly than most drivers can manage.

We also had a chance to try the base Premium model with a 1.8 engine. It was not quite as quick but still provided more than enough oomph for regular driving chores. There is a slight amount of torque steer and it’s possible to spin the front wheels if you try to accelerate rapidly.
The interior appointments are elegant, yet simple. If you opt for the navigation system the screen pops up out of the top of the dashboard.

Front seat passengers should have no complaints about space but we did find the rear seat space a bit cramped. It’s okay for people of average height especially if the driver is on the short side. At first glance the trunk space looks limited but it is deceptive. Also it’s nice to see the gooseneck hinges hidden so they do not crush luggage when the trunk is closed.

The base Premium model starts at $29,900 (plus $895 shipping) while the 2.0 Quattro model starts at $32,900. There are plenty of options and packages available that can take the out-of-the-door price to $43,650. This would be the suggested retail price for the 2.0T Prestige model fully optioned with the Advanced Technology and Sport packages.
Incidentally, the Advanced Technology package, which includes pre sense front accident avoidance system, active lane assist and adaptive cruise control with stop and go, is only offered when you purchase the Prestige model.

The Navigation package, which includes Audi’s MMI touch control knob with handwriting-recognition technology, a color driver information system and navigation is the only package offered on the Premium (base) model. You have to opt for the middle-of-the range Premium Plus model (starting at $32,450) to get additional options such as the Driver Assistance package, which includes a side assist and parking system with rear view camera. Also available is a 4G telephone connection.

The A3 Sedan will be joined later this year by the Cabriolet, a Sedan powered by a TDI clean diesel engine and the high-performance S3 Sedan. Audi says the A3 Sportback e-tron gasoline electric hybrid (PHEV) will be available in 2015.

For the majority of buyers though it’s the Sedan that will be the most popular and it is already on sale at your local Audi dealer. If you like the superior handling of the Quattro system and/or live in an area with snowy winters the 2.0 Quattro model is well worth the extra $3,000.

— John Rettie and Ted Biederman
(Photos by John Rettie)