Audi A3 Saloon review
The Audi A3 Saloon is an excellent handling and looking alternative to the Mercedes CLA
The Audi A3 saloon forms part of a large A3 family - following the three-door hatch and five-door Sportback. It was launched in 2013 and is the first time a saloon has been offered as part of the A3 family. This model also underpins the more recent A3 cabriolet.
The Audi A3 Saloon uses the same platform as the five-door A3 Sportback, so it has slightly more rear legroom than the three-door hatch and 45 litres more boot space than the Sportback. The design, in our eyes at least, is more stylish than any other A3, too.
Audi is pitching the A3 Saloon as a premium model, so it’s available only in top-spec Sport and S line trims, and carries a price premium of around £1,500 over the three-door. It borrows its engines from the rest of the line-up, kicking off with a 138bhp 1.4-litre petrol TFSI engine, which features cylinder deactivation technology (CoD). Also available are 1.4 and 1.8 TFSI petrol engines, plus 1.6 and 2.0 TDI diesels.
Our choice: A3 Saloon 1.4 TFSI CoD Sport
Audi A3 saloon video review
Engines, performance and drive
The A3 Saloon is based on the same accomplished MQB platform as the regular A3 hatch, as well as the Volkswagen Golf, SEAT Leon and Skoda Octavia. Therefore, it drives in the fuss-free manner you’d expect. With a good driving position and well weighted controls, you feel immediately at home.
The front and rear tracks are 20mm wider than on the A3 Sportback, and Audi offers a choice of three suspension settings. A softer standard set-up is available on all versions as a no-cost option, with Sport models sitting 15mm lower as standard and the S line dropped a further 10mm.
However, like all other Audi S line models, the A3 Saloon S Line gets a lowered and stiffened suspension as standard. This gives the A3 Saloon an unnecessarily firm ride, but Audi does offer the standard suspension as a no cost option, which we would recommend adding.
Buyers can also opt for £995 Magnetic Ride dampers, which provide Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual settings. However, we like the standard suspension as it improves the ride and barely affects the handling. On twisty roads, the A3 Saloon felt agile and responsive, and its neat dimensions meant it was more at home on narrow roads. It comes with an electronic diff as standard, so understeer is controlled.
The engines are fantastic but we’d mark out 1.4 TFSI CoD as the one to go for. The latest 138bhp 1.4-litre TFSI is 21kg lighter than the engine it replaces, and with 250Nm of torque at just 1,500rpm, it delivers lively performance and rapid in-gear response. Buyers can also specify a six-speed manual box. Those wanting Audi's four-wheel drive quattro system will have to go for the 178bhp 1.8-litre TFSI quattro.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
The most efficient engine in the Audi A3 Saloon range is the 1.6-litre TDI diesel, which has a six-speed manual gearbox and returns 74.3mpg as well as CO2 emissions of 99g/km.
When fitted with Audi's dual clutch S tronic gearbox, its emissions increase slightly to 102g/km with an MPG of 72.4. The other diesel engine in the line-up is a 2.0-litre TDI. When fitted with the S tronic system, it manages 62.8mpg and emits 118g/km of CO2. If you stick with the regular six-speed 'box, then efficiency increases thanks to 68.9mpg and 107g/km of CO2.
The petrol engines are also efficient. The 1.4-litre TFSI unit with Cylinder on Demand technology and S tronic gearbox will return punchy perfomance, plus 60.1mpg and 109g/km of CO2. Without the S tronic 'box, it'll still manage a credible 111g/km of CO2, as well as 58.9mpg.
The other petrol engine in the Audi A3 Saloon range is the 1.8-litre TFSI. On a basic level, it returns 48.7mpg and C02 levels of 135g/km. With the S tronic unit bolted on, it does 50.4mpg plus emissions of 129g/km of CO2. However, when combined with S tronic and the four-wheel drive quattro system, emissions drop to 152g/km and 62.8mpg.
The Audi S3 quattro Saloon is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, which produces 296bhp, 40.9mpg and 159g/km. Despite its impressive performance, it's the least efficient car in the line-up.
Audi offers a three-year maintenance plan for £16 per month, which private buyers can include with any finance deal. Add in a low insurance rating, plus 52.7 per cent residuals, and the A3 makes a lot of financial sense.
Interior, design and technology
Audi’s design philosophy tends to run along the lines of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, so the A3 Saloon is barely distinguishable from other cars in the range.
From head-on, it looks identical to the A3 hatch, while moving to the side reveals the standard three-box shape that marks out all of the Audi saloons. Indeed, when viewed from a distance, with no scale of reference, the A3 Saloon could be confused with an A4 or A6, or even the flagship A8.
For some people Audi’s uniform look isn’t a bad thing, as the sharp, no-nonsense lines, tight panel gaps and distinctive light clusters give the car a simple, yet classy appearance. In fact, the optional LED daytime running lights are quite stylish, and are part of the £2,000 LED headlamp upgrade.
Step inside the Audi A3 Saloon, and it's clear to see the cabin shares its layout with the A3 hatch, meaning you get a pop-up display on top of the dash, round air vents, a bank of switches and a rotary control wheel just behind the gearlever. You also benefit from Audi’s excellent build quality.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The Audi A3 Saloon gets an ample 425-litre boot and its flat sides create a square load area that’s extremely useable.
The back seats fold flat, but they leave a distinct step in the floor and can only be dropped from inside the passenger compartment.
Smaller back doors aren’t really an issue, but a low roofline means you might bang your head when getting in and out. Passenger space in the back is tight and, unlike rivals like the Mazda 3 Fastback and Kia Optima, the centre seatback doesn’t fold out to create an armrest, although you do get two air vents and a 12V socket in the back.
Reliability and Safety
Even though the A3 is still fairly new, our Driver Power 2014 satisfaction survey shows owners are impressed with the build quality and in-car tech. Decent performance and running costs, plus a great driving experience, helped the car finish 16th in our Top 150, and it was the highest-placed Audi in the survey.
That tech includes some smart safety features which ensured the hatchback earned
a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating. As well as seven airbags and a host of electronic driver aids, the Audi gets a pedestrian-friendly active bonnet and driver-tiredness monitor as standard.
Some of the Audi A3 Saloon's much-praised car technology includes some smart safety features that can give the Volvo a run for its money. As well as seven airbags and a host of electronic driver aids, the A3 Saloon gets a pedestrian-friendly active bonnet and driver tiredness monitor as standard. Kit such as blind spot warning and a lane keeping aid is on the options list.