- Exhilarating drive
- utility and sportiness
- thoughtful interior design
- reasonable price point.
The A3, Audi's first hatchback for the U.S. market, celebrated its third birthday in 2008, continuing to tout itself as "the first four-door car with the sportiness of a TT coupe."
The base engine is a smooth 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque, and is available with front-wheel drive. The 2.0T comes standard with a great six-speed manual gearbox that has light and easy clutch action. Audi's Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) is a $1,480 option, and is based on technology pioneered in their Le Mans winning racecars. The DSG shifts either automatically or with the pull of a steering column-mounted paddle, and it always has the next gear ready for quick engagement.
The throaty 250-horsepower narrow-angle 3.2L V6 is paired with the DSG and Audi's all-wheel-drive system on the S-Line quattro. Its base price starts just under $35,000.
Audi has done an outstanding job with the exterior and interior of the A3. All body panels have tight seams and appealing lines, and the interior materials are all top notch. The A3 is well equipped with standard items, including dual-zone automatic climate control and an AM/FM/CD stereo.
Standard safety equipment includes antilock circuitry on all four disc brakes, and brake assist helps give full braking power for panic stops. The electronic stability program keeps the A3 planted, while front, side, and head curtain air bags protect occupants in the event of a collision.
The compromise between ride and handling is perfect for the A3's intended mission. The car can be pressed hard through the corners, yet the ride is never punishing. The back seat provides plenty of room for a family with two growing children.
Audi's execution is first rate, and all in all the A3 delivers a quality driving experience in a shapely package.