2015 Audi A3 Sedan 1.8T / 2.0T

2015 Audi A3 Sedan 1.8T / 2.0T 2015 Audi A3 Sedan 1.8T / 2.0T
First Drive Review

Who says Americans don’t like small cars? Certainly not Audi, which is hoping that its new A3 will dominate the premium small-sedan segment, a class of cars that the company expects will grow by up to 400 percent in coming years. And Audi expects the growth to happen not just in sales numbers but diversity of product, so it plans to cover all bases with a whole slew of A3 variants, including this four-door sedan, a two-door cabriolet, a Q3 crossover, and, in 2015, the A3 e-tron five-door plug-in hybrid.

Audi designed the A3 sedan specifically with hatchback-phobic Americans in mind. The four-door is thus the first A3 model to arrive here, with deliveries starting in the first week of April (cabrio and Q3 models arrive this fall.) A sport-flavored S3 sedan will also appear later this year, a car that we sampled—and loved—last fall. But Audi made us wait until now, however, to drive the standard-issue A3.

Haven’t We Met?

The A3 is more than half a foot shorter than its prime competitor, the slinky Mercedes-Benz CLA-class, and a dimensional near-duplicate of the original, B5-generation A4 sedan (sold from 1995 through 2001). Built using Volkswagen’s flexible MQB architecture that also underpins the MkVII VW Golf/GTI and 2016 Audi TT, among many other VW Group products, the A3 is 10 inches shorter than the 2014 A4, but within about an inch of its bigger brother in height and width. As such, the A3 slides into the space left open when the A4 grew into the ’tweener it is now. Like many Audis, the front wheels have been moved forward from the platform baseline, by about 1.5 inches in this case, to give the car better dash-to-axle proportions.

Given how Audi’s handsome, Bauhaus-inspired design language hasn’t changed radically in the years since the B5, the A3 looks instantly familiar. Indeed, only the keenest observers will be able to tell the difference between the A3 and the A4—or maybe even the A6—from 50 paces. Two of the A3’s most noteworthy elements, however, are the beautifully integrated ducktail shape of the short decklid—no tacked-on spoiler!—and the wedge line that rises from the front axle to the rear bumper. The latter catches a broad swath of light near the rear fender arch, imparting a sense of forward lean. The A3 has its own LED light signatures, which look like eyebrows to some and, for others, conjure memories of long-division math problems in grade school.

Just Enough Luxury, More Than Enough Technology

Unlike the CLA’s somewhat disappointing cabin, the A3’s zero-gap panel fits and excellent materials give its streamlined interior a true luxury brand ambience, even when modestly equipped. Nicely grained surfaces and the requisite soft-touch surfaces grace the dash and doors. Missteps include the overly stiff standard leather and the few hard plastics sprinkled around. To dress up the space, we recommend springing for the Aluminum Style package, which adds silver inlays and a knurled ring around each HVAC vent. A standard retractable info screen serves as the display for Audi’s MMI system, while the available Navigation Plus system includes a larger screen and character input capability via a touch pad atop the MMI controller.