For drivers wanting utility and luxury in a smaller, greener package, the A3 fits the bill. The "Sportback" 5-door body style offers the spaciousness of an SUV on a platform shared with its Volkswagen cousins the Golf and Jetta. The TDI clean diesel engine is capable of 42 mpg on the highway, according to the EPA, but the direct-inject gasoline engine gets a none-too-shabby 28 mpg on the highway itself. High-end touches such as leather seating and a 10-speaker stereo are standard equipment on both trim levels.
The biggest news for this year's A3 is a minor interior and exterior facelift, with a new single-frame grille element, high-gloss black B-columns, chrome trim on lower air inlets, chrome strips in door handles, new rear diffuser insert, and updated alloy wheel designs. Four new paint choices have also been added: Volcano Red, Dakota Gray, Amethyst Gray and Scuba Blue. The interior now sees a new gray instrument background, a revised flat-bottomed steering wheel and a new gear shift lever for the S tronic transmission.
- Entry-level luxury
- new diesel engine available
- a small car with lots of utility
There are two Audi A3 engines available for 2011. Both are 2.0-liter 4-cylinders, but one is a TDI clean diesel engine, while the other is a direct-inject gasoline engine. The diesel engine can make 140 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque, plus a 30-mpg city and 42-mpg highway fuel rating. The turbo-charged gasoline engine trades some of that green credibility for performance, with 200 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. It still manages 21 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway with front-wheel drive.
A 6-speed manual transmission is standard with the gasoline-powered A3, with a 6-speed automatic optional, as is Audi's all-wheel drive Quattro system. A 6-speed automatic is standard with the diesel engine.
No matter which engine or trim level you pick, there's plenty of standard safety features, such as ABS with vacuum power assist, hydraulic brake assist, electronic brake-pressure distribution and electronic differential lock. Front airbags and TPMS are standard; the only optional safety features are rear side airbags.
The Premium trim level comes with dual-zone automatic climate control, leather wrapped steering wheel, leather seats, cruise control and a 10-speaker, 140-watt sound system with automatic volume adjustment. Premium Plus adds a couple of items, such as an 8-way power driver's seat and Bluetooth connectivity. Both trims have standard 17-inch wheels, but 18-inchers are optional, as are wood interior trim, a sunroof and an upgrade to a Bose stereo.
A couple of packages are available for the Premium A3. The Cold Weather package heats the mirrors and windshield washer nozzles, plus the heated seats feature six levels of warmth. The Sport Package beefs up the side bolsters on the seats for more support while cornering, plus summer performance tires on 18-inch rims and a firmer suspension setting. The Premium Plus trim offers two more packages: the Convenience Package which includes rain-sensing wipers and light-sensing headlights and the Titanium Sport Package, which adds sport suspension, Piano Black interior inlays, black front grille and Alcantara inserts in the seats.