Audi A3 — Audi’s entry-level sedan gets complete makeover

By Jim Prueter

(October 25, 2022) After skipping the 2021 model year, Audi introduced its fourth generation A3 in America for 2022. The A3 is the entry-level vehicle for the brand and while somewhat popular in Europe only sells about 10,000 a year here in America. Part of that reason is sedans are deeply out of fashion for the U.S. car buyer favoring trucks and utility vehicles.

The A3 is a diminutive sedan that actually feels even smaller than a Honda Civic. It competes with German rivals like the BMW 2-Series, and Mercedes-Benz A Class. A Volkswagen Golf and Mini Cooper seemed roomier. Still, Audi claims more cabin space in the new A3 versus the outgoing model.

For 2022 Audi redesigned the A3 with updated styling inside and out, new powertrains and added more standard features. Visually noticeable is its new wider Singleframe honeycomb matrix grille that offsets new trapezoidal shape Matrix LED headlamps, sharper hood creases, and a lower front fascia. We think it looks best viewed from the side with deep concave surfacing to the doors, integrated tailgate spoiler and slender LED taillights at the rear. It definitely shares the “Audi” look with its larger and more expensive siblings and the overall design is modern and attractive.

The A3 is powered by a 201-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine connected to a standard seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. We thought the engine a good fit for the A3 but were disappointed with the performance of the dual-clutch automatic setup that hesitates at full stops or low speeds when shifting.

But once it catches and gets underway shifts were smooth and immediate moving the sedan from 0 to 60 mph in an unofficial 6.5 seconds from our all-wheel drive quattro set up. For those wanting more oomph Audi offers the S3 model that delivers 306-horsepower and the RS 3 model with 401-horsepower from a turbocharged five-cylinder engine. Of course, the cost of performance is directly related to the increase in price.

Our standard engine A3 came equipped with a mild-hybrid setup that uses a 48-volt battery rather than the traditional 12-volt that improved fuel economy to a class leading 31-MPG combined average on regular unleaded fuel. The mild-hybrid allows accessories, such as air conditioning to operate seamlessly when the fuel-saving stop/start system turns off the engine while sitting at a red light. Of note, the A3’s stop/start system shuts off the engine while you’re still coasting just before stopping at a red light—this isn’t dangerous, but it can feel disconcerting the first time it happens. It’s also contrary to most engine stop/start systems, which typically don’t shut off the engine until the vehicle comes to a complete stop.

The new A3 gets Audi’s standard 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, or a larger 12.3-inch virtual cockpit when selecting the $2,250 optional Technology package that also adds Audi’s MMIÆ navigation plus with sign recognition and a Bang & Olufsen sound system. It also supports handwriting and voice input, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Audi connect key uses an Android smartphone as a virtual key.

We found most operating and infotainment controls to be user-friendly with a mix of physical and touchscreen controls. However other controls especially driver assist features were the complete opposite forcing us to source the owner’s manual for function.

There’s pushbutton starting and the transmission shift gear is simply a small toggle-like shifter located on the center console that you just flick forward or back for reverse operations. Other options on our test A3 included the $3300 Premium Plus package that adds adaptive cruise assist, lane departure and side assist with rear cross traffic alert, driver’s seat memory, park system plus, SiriusXMÆ  w/360L wireless phone charging pad and more.

Standard driver assistance systems include lane departure warning, high beam assist, and front and rear impact warnings. Optional driver assistance systems include adaptive cruise control from zero to 95 mph, head-up display, 360-degree camera, and automatic parallel parking.

Getting into and behind the wheel of the A3 takes a bit of work. The doors are very small and because the driver’s seat is slid so far back its nearly impossible to enter without ducking your head going rear first then swinging your legs into the vehicle. Once there, the seats are comfortable and supportive with standard four-way lumbar support adjustment for both driver and passenger. Still, there’s little room for leg movement up front and the rear seat is especially tiny. Even smaller adults will lust for more headroom. The rear seat does fold down into three sections affording a decent amount of cargo area flexibility, but the trunk is one of the smallest in its class.

On the road we found the A3’s ride quite firm, more like what we’d expect from a sports performance sedan. We expect the optional 18-inch tires contribute to the firm ride. A lot of road imperfections with bumps and undulating pavement kicks back into the cabin making the ride noticeably unsettled. Still, it handled twisty roads with pose and assurance. The engine feels perky and ambitious even though it gave back 27-horsepower from the outgoing previous generation A3.

Road noise inside the cabin is fairly well controlled but not as quiet as some tested competitors in this class. Brakes were excellent, but the lane keeping assist inputs were almost violent when correcting the steering, so much so we turned it off.

Overall, the fully redesigned 2022 A3 is a good car with generally excellent handling, satisfying engine performance but not as quick as the outgoing A3. The interior looks premium with upscale materials and build quality and it’s loaded with standard features and advanced driver assist technology. Even though the seats are comfortable the cabin is cramped, and taller or larger drivers and occupants could render it a deal breaker based on size.

Still, there’s plenty to like such as excellent fuel economy, handsome good looks and the status of driving a luxury German sedan.

Vital Stats

Base Price: $35,900
Price as Tested: $44,440
What Makes It Go: 201-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder 48-volt battery mild hybrid system delivering power through a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and four-wheel drive.
EPA Fuel economy: 28/36/31 MPG – City/Highway/Combined
Seating: 5

Crash Test Results: Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash tested the 2022 A3.

Where Built: Ingolstadt, Germany

Competes With:
Acura Integra
Alfa Romeo Giulia
BMW 2-Series
Lexus IS
Mercedes A-Class
Volvo S60

Modern new styling
Attractive interior-premium materials
Responsive performance with excellent fuel economy

Very snug cabin
Lots of controls, switches and buttons, some fussy
Ride may be too firm for some
Sedans are so yesterday