Audi A3 Saloon review - Engines, performance and drive
Great engines and neat handling, but make sure you tick the options box for 'comfort' suspension
The A3 Saloon is based on the same accomplished 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 tyre tracks are 20mm wider than on the A3 Sportback, and Audi offers a choice of three suspension settings. The softer standard set-up is available on all versions as a no-cost option.
We recommend all buyers choose the softer suspension because, without it, your Sport model will be delivered sitting on 15mm lower suspension as standard, while the S line is dropped a further 10mm. Like all other Audi S line models, this gives the A3 Saloon an unnecessarily firm ride on British roads.
Buyers can also opt for £995 Magnetic Ride dampers, which provide Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual settings. However, we still prefer the standard suspension as it improves the ride and barely affects the handling.
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On twisty roads, the A3 Saloon feels agile and responsive, and its neat dimensions mean it is at home on narrow roads. It comes with an electronic diff as standard, so understeer is controlled. A four wheel drive quattro powertrain is available with all but the 1.4-litre petrol engine.
Audi’s smooth-shifting S tronic dual-clutch automatic is available with all engine choices, but lower-powered models come with a six-speed manual as standard.
Unusually, at least as far as an Audi saloon is concerned, we’re not recommending one of the diesel engine options.
In fact all the engines are fantastic, but we’d mark out the 1.4 TFSI Cylinder on Demand-equipped petrol as the one to go for. CoD means a pair of cylinders is switched off seamlessly when the engine isn’t under load – for example coasting on the motorway – which greatly increases efficiency.
The latest 148bhp 1.4-litre TFSI CoD is 21kg lighter than the engine it has replaced, and with 250Nm of torque from just 1,500rpm, it delivers lively performance and rapid in-gear response. The 0-62mph time is 8.2 seconds with a 139mph top speed.
The bigger 1.8 litre TFSI petrol doesn’t feature CoD, but its 178bhp brings greater performance and as a result it’s only available in S line quattro guise with S tronic gears. It will do 0-62mph in a snappy 6.8 seconds and has a 146mph maximum.
There are three diesel options, the first being a 1.6 litre 109bhp that does 0-62mph in 10.7 seconds, or 11.2 seconds in quattro-equipped cars.
The 2.0 TDI is available with either 148bhp or 182bhp. The lower-powered version is slower to 62mph with a time of 8.6 seconds with manual gears, whereas the 182bhp model with quattro and S tronic knocks the sprint off in 6.9 seconds and goes on to a 147mph maximum.
In this review
- 1VerdictThe Audi A3 Saloon is an excellent-handling and great-looking alternative to the Mercedes CLA
- 2Engines, performance and drive - currently readingGreat engines and neat handling, but make sure you tick the options box for 'comfort' suspension
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsEfficient engines and decent depreciation rates make the A3 Saloon a sound economic performer
- 4Interior, design and technologyThere are few surprises inside or out, but the A3 Saloon still boasts a premium, high-quality feel
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceThe A3 Saloon's convincing big car pretensions are only hampered by its compact dimensions
- 6Reliability and SafetyThe A3 gets good reliability feedback from owners, and Euro NCAP gave a glowing five star safety score