Actually decent to drive, quiet economical engines, good infotainment with physical climate controls
Overwrought interior design that doesn't feel Audi quality, less practical than hatchback (obviously)
What is it?
Seven of the ten best-selling cars in Britain last year were hatchbacks – the other three were crossovers, obvs – which means while you’ll see loads of news A3 Sportbacks out and about (Sportback is Audi-speak for hatchback), you won’t see many A3 Saloons. Which is a shame because it’s a handsome thing. Better proportioned than the outgoing car thanks to more length and width and a whopping 15cm longer than the hatchback with which it shares, well, pretty much everything. Looks every inch the mini A4, doesn’t it?
Let’s start inside. The old A3 had the “best dashboard design of any car in modern times”, at least according to my colleague Ollie Kew, and it’ll be dearly missed because Audi has totally revamped the A3’s interior. The screen is bigger and touch-sensitive, the architecture more angular and the materials not quite as expensive-feeling. BUT it is miles better than the new Golf’s interior (they’re the same car underneath, remember) because Audi has kept separate, physical climate controls. Praise be. The Saloon’s 425-litre boot is technically bigger than the hatchback’s but a much less useful shape. At least the seats still fold down.
Engines – there will be a fast S3, faster RS3 and probably a fuel-sipping plug-in hybrid in due course, but for now you can choose between 1.0- and 1.5-litre petrols and a 2.0-litre diesel. 1.5 petrol autos get mild-hybrid assistance for super-smooth stop/start, marginally better fuel economy (Audi claims 0.4-litres saved for every 62 miles driven) thanks to engine-off coasting and a small torque boost. Diesels get ‘twin-dosing’ to cut nasty nitrogen emissions by up to 80 per cent versus the last-gen.
Base trim is called Sport, but you can upgrade to popular S line, pricy Edition 1 and, from October, fully-loaded Vorsprung. Not that you’ll need to – entry-level spec is generous, with Audi’s big MMI infotainment system, ‘Virtual Cockpit’ instrument cluster, dual-zone climate control and LED headlights all thrown in. Spec for spec, the A3 Saloon is a little under £600 more expensive to buy outright (or only a few quid monthly) than the Sportback. Prices start at £24,375 and rise to well over £30,000. Big rivals are the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe and Mercedes A-Class Saloon or CLA.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
The A3 Saloon is a fine thing. It handles better than the car it replaces and while it doesn’t feel or look quite as expensive inside, its interior is still more user-friendly than the new Golf’s. Should you choose one over the Sportback? Perhaps, but only if you prefer the optics of driving around in a three-box saloon instead of a hatchback. We’d go for the latter for its more practical cabin, which is why the Saloon gets 7/10 to the Sportback's 8/10. Have one over an A-Class Saloon, and definitely have a look at one of these before you go for a 2 Series Gran Coupe or a CLA, though.