What is it like on the inside?
How do you like this, internet warriors who moan all Audis look the same and nothing ever changes? Audi’s completely revamped the interior of the new A3, and not entirely successfully.
Chief among the changes is a new ‘MMI’ infotainment centre, now set into the dashboard rather than in a foldaway screen above it. It’s operated by touch, so the tactile MMI clickwheel is binned. Sure, the new A3’s cabin is more minimalist for it, and Audi's 10.1-inch display, fitted as standard across the range, is one of the very crispest, most responsive and logical touchscreens this side of Volvo or Tesla’s, but it will mean more fingerprints, and more time with eyes off the road. Zooming into maps in particular is, as one Top Gear road tester delicately put it, ‘complete cack’. Despite a computer 10x as powerful as the old A3’s chip…
It’s easier to reach than the screens in cousins Golf and Leon, mind you, and the idea to house the vents up high around the driver’s binnacle and directly in front of the passenger is a good one. Plus, they’re still operated by physical buttons which are miles more intuitive than touch-sensitive sliders, though not as expensive feeling as the knurled, Bentley-esque controls found in the old A3.
Overall, the angular, stacked dashboard is a less calming environment than it used to be. It’s more of a mishmash of angles and intersecting pieces of plastic. In some areas, particularly the centre console housing the cupholders, it feels like Audi’s made a heck of a lot of cost-saving decisions. Perhaps it pays for the screens. Perhaps it pays for Dieselgate. But the new A3, technologically literate as it is, doesn’t feel quite as cultured or designer label inside as it once did.
Roomy, though. Adults behind adults fit just fine, though the middle seat is still a squeeze and legroom there is eaten by the high floor tunnel. The Sportback shares the range with the A3 saloon, and though its 380-litre boot loses out to the saloon’s 425 litres, it’s obviously a more versatile space and is quadrupled in volume when the rear seats are flipped down. The loading lip’s flatter than key rivals, and there’s hidden underfloor storage. So, have a look in an A3 Sportback before you subject yourself to three years in a Q3. You might be surprised.