In-depth reviews

Audi A3 review - Engines, performance and drive

Audi offers petrol, diesel and plug-in power for the A3, with powerful S3 and RS 3 models heading up the range

Up until early 2022, the A3 range offered a choice of three petrol engines or a diesel unit with three separate power outputs. The petrol options were either a 109bhp 1.0-litre (30 TFSI), a 148bhp 1.5-litre (35 TFSI), or a 187bhp 2.0-litre (40 TFSI) powerplant, with the 1.5-litre employing a 48-volt mild hybrid system, which helps to save fuel and supplies an extra 50Nm of electrically-generated torque. Audi has since discontinued the 40 TFSI version.

With the move towards electric power, diesel-engined models are becoming less sought after, and Audi has responded by dropping the 114bhp 30 TDI and 197bhp 40 TDI models from the A3 range. This leaves just the 148bhp 35 TDI as the sole oil-burner in the lineup. We’ve driven the 35 TDI and found it a hard engine to fault. With a smooth, strong delivery of torque, it remains refined even under hard acceleration.

We feel sure the petrol A3 35 TFSI model will prove to be a popular choice, and it also benefits from Audi’s decision to offer multi-link rear suspension, rather than the torsion beam set-up of lower-spec cars. Audi has wisely chosen to keep the A3’s driving dynamics largely unchanged, which results in a family hatchback that provides a great mix of comfort and control, although the S line versions still err towards a firmer ride.

If you want a bit more steering feel we’d recommend toggling through the drive select modes to the Dynamic setting, which provides a bit more weight to the naturally light set-up. Equally, the six-speed manual ‘box has a light throw and is easy enough to get along with, although the transmission is prone to low-speed jerkiness, making driving around town in stop-start traffic harder than it needs to be.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

The sporty S3 and RS 3 models will provide the real performance thrills, but the lower-powered petrol and diesel versions in the A3 range still deliver enough shove for most drivers. 

The entry-level 1.0-litre 30 TFSI petrol model has 109bhp and 200Nm of torque, enabling it to reach 0-62mph in 10.6 seconds and onto a 127mph maximum. 

Those looking for an extra power boost could consider the 1.5-litre 35 TFSI petrol unit with 148bhp and an extra 50Nm of torque over the base 30 TFSI car. 0-62mph is dispatched in a lively 8.4 seconds, while the top speed increases to 139mph. Upgrade to the 40 TFSI model and its 187bhp will propel you to 62mph in just 6.9 seconds.

The diesel-engined 30 TDI produces 114bhp, while the 35 TDI variant has a 148bhp output, but it’s the extra torque on offer which makes for decent acceleration and easier overtaking when on the motorway. The 30 TDI has 300Nm of torque, while the 35 TDI adds a further 60Nm, resulting in sprint times to 62mph of 10.1 seconds and 8.4 seconds, respectively. The 197bhp 40 TDI oil burner is the fastest of the bunch, with an improved torque figure of 400Nm helping to complete the benchmark sprint in 6.8 seconds.

Keen drivers with cash to spare will be in awe of the sprinting ability on offer from the S3 and RS 3 models: the former is capable of 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds, while the latter car's 394bhp knocks a full second off this time.

Next Steps

Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    30 TFSI Technik 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £24,115

Most Economical

  • Name
    35 TDI Technik 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £27,580

Fastest

  • Name
    40 TDI Quattro Sport 5dr S Tronic
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £33,470

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