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2015 Audi A3 Sedan - First Drive

Audi's entry-level sedan is a gem

Greg Emmerson
Apr 9, 2014

2015 Audi A3 Sedan Details:

  • Looks like mini-A4 | Cutting edge infotainment
  • Superb dynamics | Excellent refinement
  • Willing engine | S tronic dual-clutch auto | quattro AWD
  • 170hp 1.8T FWD from $29900 | 220hp, 258 lb-ft 2.0T AWD from $32900

2018 Audi A3
$31,950 Base Model (MSRP) 26/35 MPG Fuel Economy
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Electronics: $850 optional 14-speaker, 705W B&O stereo | Optional handwriting recognition | SD memory card slot | Standard bluetooth | Standard pre sense basic safety system

+ Pros: Handsome appearance | Good performance | Solid handling | Infotainment options

- Cons: Rear seats rather cramped | No manual trans options | Pricey for entry-level

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Audi has gained phenomenal momentum in recent years, with everything it touches seeming to turn to gold. Audi North America's President, Scott Keogh, explained that the company has reached $1.57-million sales worldwide two years ahead of schedule, and that it turned a $7-billion profit last year. Not bad for a company that almost disappeared from North America at one point...

In the US, Audi finally cracked 150,000 sales last year as the brand continues to grow in stature. And while it expects to maintain its trajectory, the Premium A segment is predicted to have the greatest potential. In fact, the industry foresees a 400% growth, so Audi wanted to be prepared.

While the outgoing A3 Sportback had a loyal following, the company needed a sedan to conquer the US market. So that's what we got - the first Audi ever designed specifically for US customers and one we predict will do exceptionally well.

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At first sight, the Audi A3 Sedan is a handsome vehicle. It's perfectly proportioned, with taut lines and wheels pushed into each corner. And while it looks like a mini-A4, it's actually 2.5" longer and 9" wider, but the same wheelbase and height, as a the B5 Audi A4. How's that for progress!

As another first, we'll see the sedan available in 290hp S3 trim later this year, which puts the A3 models somewhat in the shade. However, we're confident the S3's price will make the regular models far more attractive...

The structure of the A3 comprises a mixture of steel, ultra-high strength steel and some aluminium, with panels such as the hood made from the latter. This contributed a 100 lb weight saving over the outgoing Sportback. And when combined with more power and torque, the results are impressive. It's both quicker (0-60mph in 5.8sec) and more economical (24/33/27mpg) than the older model.

Refinement has also been improved, with no audible rattles or creaks. Wind and engine noise was also good, as was comfort and ride quality of the A3.

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In addition to a compliant ride, we were surprised at how well the A3 2.0T quattro handled for a car without Sports suspension and on all-season Continental tires. Apparently, a lot of development went into finding the correct rubber and they really held on like a summer tire.

Despite tackling some demanding rural roads at high speed, the car exhibited very little body roll, yet absorbed road imperfections with aplomb. It was a masterclass in suspension design and was matched with very effective brakes that were easy to modulate and well matched to the performance.

Limited to only the six-speed S tronic dual-clutch auto, gear changes were crisp and the 2.0T model we drove was only available with a very capable quattro AWD system (the cheaper 1.8T only gets FWD). This obviously contributed to the overall chassis balance, keeping the power transfer civilized at all times. And while it's not a light car at 3362 lb, the 220hp at your disposal was also delivered with good manners, the engine remaining composed rather than raucous, even under heavy acceleration.

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Mechanically, the A3 Sedan 2.0Tq excelled but this wasn't even its party piece. Even more impressive was the suite of infotainment options that elevate the Audi to a different segment.

We spoke in depth to Mathias Halliger, head of MMI architecture, who explained how they had shrunk the contents of ten separate units into a single control box, encapsulating the radio, amplifier, GPS, DVD player, internet, hard drive, satellite radio, Wi-Fi hotspot, USB, Bluetooth and even the rearview camera input.

He demonstrated the new Google Earth system that overlays road maps onto the internet images so it functions more effectively for navigation. He also introduced the new photo navigation feature that allows you to capture an image from Google Earth Street View and save it to your address book for future journeys. Alternatively, somebody can send you a photo and the system will extract the metadata and direct you to that position.

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The photos are sent to a Cloud, which passes the information between the A3 and your phone, allowing you to also import music and possibly movies in the future...

And let's not forget the optional Wi-Fi hotspot, which allows up to four devices to use the internet through the vehicle, allowing even more web access to local businesses, etc.

However, the option we predict will become almost standard issue on the A3 Sedan is the Bang & Olufsen sound system. Usually reserved for luxury vehicles, the B&O engineers spent 200 hours fine-tuning the placement of 14 loudspeakers. These are powered by a 15-channel (the sub gets two channels), 705 watt amplifier. The MMI touchpad allows you to choose from the different surround sound settings and even adjust the sound stage to suit the number of occupants.

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The sound is described as neutral, with the engineers preferring to reproduce the sound as the artist recorded it. However, you can fine-tune it to suit your taste, playing music from either CD, DVD, SD card, phone cable, Bluetooth streaming or from the hard drive. Priced at only $850, this has to be the bargain of the century when you hear the quality.

The A3 Sedan's interior is more minimalist than before, featuring large, round vents and under - dash heater controls. It also has a pop-up, 11mm thin screen that disappears when not in use, unlike the current BMWs. It's a simpler design that doesn't overwhelm, yet packs in a vast array of controls. It's just another area where the car scores highly, making it a wonderful package for driving enthusiasts.

The Audi A3 Sedan 1.8T and 2.0T arrived in dealer showrooms this spring. They'll be followed by the S3, A3 Cabriolet and TDI in the summer. Also expect the e-tron version in 2015, and there's apparently an SUV in the mix as well...

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Tech Spec
2015 Audi A3 Sedan 2.0T quattro

transverse front-engine, AWD

1984cc four-cylinder 16v turbo with direct injection

six-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission, quattro AWD

2015 audi a3 sedan engine bay 13 Photo 13/48   |   2015 Audi A3 Sedan Engine Bay 13

single-piston calipers, 12.3" rotors f, single-piston, 10.7" r

MacPherson strut f, four-link r, electro-mechanical steering

Wheels & Tires
17x7.5" wheels, 225/45 R17 all-season Continental tires


Max power
220hp at 4500-6200rpm

Max torque
258 lb-ft at 1600-4400rpm


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Top Speed
130mph (limited)

3362 lb

24/33/27mpg (city/highway/combined estimated)

from $32900 ($37195 Premium Edition as tested)

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By Greg Emmerson
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