Vital Stats

Engine:
1.8L I4
Power:
177 HP / 207 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed DCT
0-60 Time:
6.8 Seconds
Drivetrain:
All-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,010 LBS
Seating:
2+3
Cargo:
12.9 CU-FT
An Old Vanguard Gets Ready For a New War



In 1996, the first Audi A3 essentially established the premium compact segment, but that distinction really only carried significance in Europe. Gradually, and especially in its two most recent generations, its corporate sibling, the Volkswagen Golf, has become something of a true premium hatch without the badge, leaving more and more people to wonder if there was a point to splurging for the costlier Audi. Then the new Mini Cooper came along to effectively steal the thunder in the new century's compact premium market. In the past few years, Audi's A3 lineup has been scrambling around in search of redefinition. It has continued selling in alright numbers in Europe (and it currently accounts for 20 percent of annual Audi sales worldwide), but officials acknowledge the car could do much better elsewhere.

The first two generations of the A3 – 1996 and then 2003 – were only offered in hatchback form. But now that Audi has its sights on expanding the range's appeal globally, when the U.S. begins taking delivery of the third generation in the autumn of 2013, there will be a new sedan bodystyle to accompany the five-door Sportback. That means a new A3 is still over a year away for us, but we couldn't wait to drive it, so we headed to the hatchback-loving Spanish island of Mallorca to sample it for you.
This A3 is bound to save costs on production while enabling much greater profit margins due in part to significantly larger sales volumes. All new A3 variants are to use the recently launched MQB vehicle architecture – it is the first in the VW Group extended family to use this – engineered by Volkswagen for a wide range of smaller models with transverse engines up front. Profits-wise, the options list is as long as those we've seen for the A6, A7, or A8, and it's loaded with tempting enhancements.

2013 Audi A3 side view2013 Audi A3 front view2013 Audi A3 rear view

There's a weight savings here of at least 130 pounds versus equivalent second generation A3 models.

In the meantime, materials research within Audi has allowed for weight savings of at least 130 pounds versus equivalent second generation A3 models. Audi is formally branding this company weight-loss program under the umbrella of "Audi Ultra." The hood and front fender panels are formed in aluminum now, and the aluminum-steel Audi Space Frame chassis approach has been utilized on the new compact as well. All engines have been redesigned not only for greater efficiency and lower emissions, but also for lighter weight and more compact packaging. In previous generations, the fore or aft tilt of the engine varied depending on capacity, but now every engine in the lineup tilts at 12 degrees toward the rear – the exhaust side. This design change shortens the front overhang while also helping to make for almost two more inches of front legroom. That added room is also a result of the almost one-inch longer wheelbase, the front axle having been moved forward.

It all sounds good. But Audi is also bragging about the A3's newfound sportier handling together with more refined cabin experience.

When our four- and five-doors land at port in time for the traditional Detroit Lions Thanksgiving Day game in 2013, engines will include the newest 177-horsepower 1.8 TFSI four-cylinder tested here, a freshened version of the currently 208-hp 2.0 TFSI, and then a revamped 2.0 TDI diesel with a reported 143 hp (148 hp for all other markets as briefly tested here, too) and 236 pound-feet of torque.

2013 Audi A3 engine

At the bottom of the U.S. range, a FWD 1.8 A3 sedan with manual should open the bidding at around $26,000.

Our time with the 177-hp 1.8 TFSI – taken directly from the European market's A5 range – showed us that the new generation is significantly more nimble. Our Quattro S Line setup with optional 18-inch flow-formed wheels (16-inchers are standard and there's a range of 17-inch options as well), sturdy Continental ContiSportContact5 tires and wet-clutch six-speed S-tronic with three-spoke sport steering wheel and shift paddles, will be the sportiest A3 at the car's launch in Europe come July. Stateside, we're guessing the price of our tester would be just over $30,000 before options. As a five-door Sportback in this same trim, you'll be looking at something above $34,000 for starters. At the bottom of the U.S. range, a front-wheel-drive 1.8 TFSI A3 sedan with manual in Premium trim should open the bidding at around $26,000.

This particular 3,010-pound arrangement in Misano red worked extremely well over Mallorca's highly technical country roads with their – trust us – notoriously slippery surfaces. For the first time in a while, we actually felt all the benefits of a Quattro drivetrain in idyllic weather conditions. The calculated lateral sliding on occasion while carrying speed through curves was good, clean fun, and the fresh multi-link rear axle takes dynamics to a better level.

2013 Audi A3 headlight2013 Audi A3 wheel2013 Audi A3 taillight2013 Audi A3 rear fascia

Audi officials admit they are looking into the possibility of a suitable manual gearbox for Quattro-equipped A3s.

Horsepower peaks between 5,100 and 6,200 rpm, but 207 pound-feet of turbo-assisted torque starts much lower at 1,250 rpm and lasts all the way through 5,000 rpm. This car has to make do with the heavier six-speed S-tronic gearbox because the seven-speed dry-clutch unit is limited to 185 pound-feet of torque in Quattro applications. Despite the extra weight and fewer gears, the revamped powertrain offers a 17-percent improvement in fuel consumption and C02 emissions compared to its 1.8-liter forbearer. Better still, it will accelerate to 60 miles per hour in just 6.8 seconds.

Over the course of our drive, we longed for Audi's solid six-speed manual here, but it boasts the same torque limitation and is currently offered on the A3 only with front-wheel drive. Audi officials admit that they are looking into the possibility of a suitable manual gearbox for Quattro-equipped A3s, and it's possible it will be available by the time the U.S. gets its cars next year. And to satisfy inquiring minds, we also asked about the 2.0-liter TDI possibly coming to our shores with Quattro. They all looked at one another sheepishly and said that this remains a hot topic.

2013 Audi A3 interior2013 Audi A3 front seats2013 Audi A3 rear seats2013 Audi A3 rear cargo area

Inside the A3's sleek exterior, Audi has minimalized the dash area into a very tasteful arrangement. Over the course of the day's drive, we lived well with this new environment. One of the key highlights, and a first in this class, is the optional Multi Media Interface [MMI] that integrates Audi's unique finger-spelling surface right onto the MMI's rotary controller knob. Thus arranged, we found ourselves finally using the system full-time, and it works great.

Audi has integrated its unique finger-spelling surface right onto the MMI's rotary controller knob.

Another key profit center for the A3 is the company's new Audi Connect system, a subscription service that essentially allows the car to satisfy your every smartphone need. You can hook up your device with a cord and have everything available to you onboard, or, perhaps by the time the U.S. launch comes around, the optional "phone box" will have wireless capabilities for both connectivity and charging. And, for better or worse, you can have a wireless hotspot on four wheels with an eight-device connective capacity, so you can never ever have quiet time again.

Audi Drive Select has taken on a whole new life, too, not only gauging the vehicle's dynamics, but also allowing the driver to have a personal setup for all onboard safety and convenience systems through a newer Individual interface.

2013 Audi A3

From what we have seen of the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class, the new compact premium war will be between the A3 and the Merc, with BMW needing to up its game a tad on the 1 Series – particularly when it comes to available options. We will shortly drive Volvo's striking new V40, too, and it looks good enough to take it to the Germans for premium supremacy... at least on a small scale.

But will this small pricey class finally succeed in becoming an American pastime, too? Or will it remain largely a segment that's only widely interesting to Europeans? We can't find much not to like in this latest generation of small premium cars, so who knows? We could be in for a new North American small-car surge that involves much more than just econoboxes.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 130 Comments
      AcidTonic
      • 2 Years Ago
      I actually considered the A3 from a performance standpoint, but was turned off by the switch to a different type of AWD compared to the regular big Audi's. The A3 uses a much less serious AWD setup where it's FWD until it sends power rearwards. If this small car had the same full-time AWD system used in the bigger cars it would be a hit with me. Why can't they build this car with a real full-time system similar to the one on the S4? The S4 is a heavy pig and I'd prefer to find it's drivetrain in a smaller vehicle. I had hopes when the A3 came out but it was neutered wannabe-AWD.
        The Wasp
        • 2 Years Ago
        @AcidTonic
        This car is for people who don't really understand or care what type of drivetrain it has.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @AcidTonic
        [blocked]
        Kronos
        • 2 Years Ago
        @AcidTonic
        Agreed, though the Haldex based systems are getting better all the time. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haldex_Traction
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        • 2 Years Ago
        [blocked]
        LW
        • 2 Years Ago
        better go use the MMI before you talk about its nav. It is light years ahead of those portable junks.
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        telm12345
        • 2 Years Ago
        Really hit the nail on the head. I don't get how people keep going back even with the reliability issues. The S4 my father leased continuosly had electrical issues. After numerous visits to the shop, which was admittedly run quite well, he just got sick of it. He has a lease on a 5 series now, waiting to see when that starts to go...
          LW
          • 2 Years Ago
          @telm12345
          a complainer about repair when one has to rent the car instead of outright buying it with a single bill of cash.
      Trevor
      • 2 Years Ago
      Really like the interior...... Plus with an available B&O stereo as an option this really seems like a great compact premium vehicle....... BMW really is playing catch-up in terms of looks compared to MB and Audi
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Trevor
        [blocked]
      Ak74
      • 2 Years Ago
      30K for 177HP only a female would make a purchase like that.
        trevor-k
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Ak74
        Only a female would purchase the 1 series hatch....... Because she would be so oblivious to the looks of that ugly a$$ vehicle.
        robespierex
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Ak74
        207 lb ft of torque and it's only 3000 lbs.
        Travisty
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Ak74
        You did see that they were driving the AWD Quattro version with the 6sp DCG, right?
      Andre Neves
      • 2 Years Ago
      Always like the A3, but the new interior is a step back in the wrong direction in my opinion. So plain.
        Tagbert
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Andre Neves
        Considering so many other cars dashes look like an 80's boombox, this new dash is refreshing.
      monoik
      • 2 Years Ago
      That is the most boring design progression I've seen in my entire life. The interior is utterly without any personality whatsoever.
        quuppa70
        • 2 Years Ago
        @monoik
        yep, why the hell they have always that black boring interior..
          • 2 Years Ago
          @quuppa70
          [blocked]
          Larry
          • 2 Years Ago
          @quuppa70
          lol 99.999999999% Reminds me of that commercial... http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=2870836244834 "So you don't know?"
      adam g.
      • 2 Years Ago
      damn that car is pretty.
      Dwight Bynum Jr.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Oh look, yet another Volkswagen group product with big, cheap looking, FAKE intakes on the bumper cover. I seriously cannot stand seeing that sh*t...
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dwight Bynum Jr.
        [blocked]
        Banf_1
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dwight Bynum Jr.
        II think MB putting fake air vents ON THE BACK BUMPER of the A-Class, GL AMG, ML AMG is more ridiculous than this.
        Lachmund
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dwight Bynum Jr.
        so you think putting open fake intakes there would make totally sense, when they just produce more drag?!
          Dwight Bynum Jr.
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Lachmund
          First off, if they were open, they wouldn't be fake, moron. Secondly, intakes in the locations of those two expanses of black plastic are typically used to route cool air to the brakes. In some cases they are also used to route cool air to small intercoolers, oil coolers, transmission coolers, radiators, etc. What they've done with these fake bits is literally NO different than the vents you see people sticking on their fenders from their local auto parts store. The term "ricer" comes to mind. Functional details > Fake details... period.
      muspod
      • 2 Years Ago
      I don't understand what is so premium /luxury about that... Just get a VW GTI or a Subaru or whatever! and stick the diff in your pocket.
        The Wasp
        • 2 Years Ago
        @muspod
        This one has the 4 silver rings in the grill. Didn't you see that??
        • 2 Years Ago
        @muspod
        [blocked]
          The Wasp
          • 2 Years Ago
          @LW You make a good point -- just because they put a trendy name on something ('microbrew' or 'Audi'), that doesn't necessarily mean there is any perceptible difference. Every microbrew I have had does taste quite a bit different than PBR. I haven't tried one yet that I thought tasted better (sorry beer snobs, bring on the downvotes).
          LW
          • 2 Years Ago
          to someone who has been drinking PBR their while life, microbrewed beer tastes no different.
      Fixitfixitstop
      • 2 Years Ago
      Yay. A sedan subcompact..... /yawn
      Kampfire
      • 2 Years Ago
      Wow I really like the interior other than the seats. At 26k I feel this is a bargain compared to an equally equipped GTI>
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