In-depth reviews

Audi A3 review - Engines, performance and drive

Audi offers refined and capable engines for the A3, while the diesel units are particularly frugal.

The A3 initially comes with a choice of two petrol engines or a diesel unit with two separate power outputs. The petrol cars use either a 109bhp 1.0-litre (30 TFSI), or a 148bhp 1.5-litre (35 TFSI) powerplant. The larger capacity unit also employs a 48-volt mild hybrid system, which helps to save fuel and supplies an extra 50Nm of electrically-generated torque.

The 2.0-litre diesel engine is available in 114bhp 30 TDI and 148bhp 35 TDI forms. We’ve driven the more powerful version 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 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.

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.

Next Steps

Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    30 TFSI 116 SE Technik 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £21,840

Most Economical

  • Name
    35 TDI Technik 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £26,820

Fastest

  • Name
    40 TFSI Quattro S Line 5dr S Tronic
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £32,055

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