2018 A3 New Car Test Drive
This is the fourth year of the third generation of the Audi A3, which along with its similar-sized sibling the A4, is Audi's bread-and-butter car. With Volkswagen Golf roots, the A3 comes as a four-door sedan, five-door hatchback, cabriolet, plug-in hybrid hatchback, and a powerful, well-balanced and relatively affordable S3.
The A3 saw significant changes for the 2017 model year, including a new 2.0-liter turbo engine with direct injection, LED daytime running lamps and a new MMI infotainment system, so for 2018 there are only minor equipment changes.
The engine in the A3 makes 220 horsepower, mated to an excellent paddle-shifting six-speed dual-clutch automatic manual transmission.
Front-wheel drive is standard, with Quattro all-wheel drive available.
The sporty S3 makes 296 horsepower, and competes with the BMW M3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG. The tidy A3 Cabriolet's only real rival is the Buick Cascada, which is slightly bigger and slightly less refined.
The plug-in hybrid, called the A3 e-tron Sportback, is an upscale rival to the Chevrolet Volt, although the Volt has a real-world electric range. The e-tron is good for just 25 all-electric miles, but as a hybrid using fuel it has a range of 500 miles.
The 204-horsepower e-tron uses a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine mated to an electric motor powered by an 8.8 kwh lithium-ion battery pack that can be recharged in four hours, using a Bosch home charger that's standard equipment. It weighs 500 pounds more than the sedan, but the engine/motor makes 258 pound-feet of torque, to keep it sprightly. It gets 34 combined miles per gallon, or an EPA-rated 83 MPGe, using the full electric range.
The A3 sedan with all-wheel drive gets 24 city, 31 highway, 27 combined miles per gallon; the Cabriolet gets 2 less mpg.
The NHTSA gives the A3 five stars in crash testing, while the IIHS gives its highest rating, Top Safety Pick+.
Standard equipment in the front-wheel-drive Premium for $32,150 including destination, includes dual-zone climate control, xenon headlamps, panoramic sunroof, leather seats, 12-way power front seats, satellite radio, Bluetooth, rearview camera, and automatic emergency braking. Heated front seats are $500. Apple CarPlay/Android Auto is $900.
The Premium Plus ($35,400) adds an S-Line body kit, keyless ignition with passive entry, heated front seats, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, front and rear parking sensors, split-folding rear seats. A $3000 Technology Package that adds the Audi Connect telematics system, the MMI infotainment system with Audi Virtual Cockpit, and blind-spot monitors,. A $1,050 LED Lighting Package adds LED headlights/taillights. A 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system is $950.
A3 Prestige at $41,100 includes the technology package and sound system, plus ambient interior lighting and adaptive cruise control with stop/go ability.
All three models have a $900 Sport Package that adds a sport suspension, sport seats, Audi Drive Select modes, and a flat-bottomed steering wheel with paddle shifters. Rear side airbags are $350.
Quattro all-wheel drive is $2700 to $3000 more. The Cabriolet is $6400 more, with standard leather.
The e-tron adds about $7500 each model of A3, but then there's available $4502 in federal incentives to possibly subtract.