REVIEW: Audi A3 Sedan TDI S tronic – Classy Efficiency

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Don’t panic, parking-obsessed and upwardly-mobile urbanites: the A3 hatchback will return mid-2015. If you can’t wait, or if you actually kinda want a sedan, then you may like the new-for-2015 A3 sedan, because hits a lot of marks.


Looking very much like the first Audi A4 of the late 1990s, the new A3 sedan appears solid and athletic. There’s a place in the Audi lineup for a sedan this size – its 175.4-inch length is almost ten inches shorter than the A4, which has swelled from its intro length of 178 inches.  A length of 175 means you can grab spaces sized for the hordes of old Civic and Corolla sedans, although folks who are coming from the A3 hatchback may find the sedan’s extra 6.4 inches a bitter pill.

That’s OK. The hatchback – Audi prefers we call it a Sportback now – will return this summer, in two forms: plug-in hybrid e-tron, and diesel TDI.


For now, we have the A3 and S3 sedan, with base prices starting at a hair under $30K and hitting a $47K peak with the S3 Prestige. There’s also a Cabriolet if you’re looking for some extra fresh air.


The tested sedan is a TDI, which starts at $32,600. Options included the $550 “Scuba Blue Metallic” paint, and the aluminum window surrounds are part of the $2,550 A3 Premium Plus package. Both are eye-catching, although Audi’s choice to go with gloss black plastic for the B-pillar has it immediately populated with fingerprints.


The 10-spoke, 18-inch wheels seem wide open; one friend asked if debris ever got caught in them. They’re also part of the A3 Premium Plus Package…


…as are the heated front seats…


…and the power front-seat adjustments, with four-way lumbar support.


Audi calls the standard sunroof “panoramic”, but it’s more glassy than hole-y.


The $2,600 Audi MMI Navigation Plus Package includes a crisp seven-inch display that motors up from the instrument panel and is easily manipulated with console-mounted controls.

Also included is Audi connect, which uses in-car 4G LTE for Internet radio streaming, Facebook updates, apps, etc. This automotive application of 4G service is an industry first, although GM isn’t far behind, and it’s logical that this feature will become common. That’s of course if buyers embrace paying $20 or so per month on top of their cell plans for extra gigs; you’d want to map out which apps are accessed by the car while still minding the data cap.


The A3 has four engine choices – three grades of gas turbos, ranging from 170 to 292 horsepower, alongside the 2.0-liter diesel TDI. Typical for a diesel, it generates a relatively low 150 horsepower but compensates with a deep-pulling 236 lb.-ft. of torque. That means the A3 TDI lights off the line with authority and feels all kinds of zippy at lower speeds. The turbo is there to wring out the upper rev ranges at higher speeds, and the TDI ends up feeling pleasantly responsive overall. You can occasionally catch the turbo off its game, but you quickly learn when to keep the TDI engaged to prevent that from happening. The EPA pegs it at 36 mpg overall.


The six-speed S tronic had paddle shifters but was clever enough that you just let it do its thing. It’s relaxed in daily operation and ready to snap off a downshift whenever you need it.


Handling is best described by a friend who climbed in and after the first few blocks said, “Wow! This thing feels really stable.” And it does. It’s not sporty, but it feels broad-shouldered and ready to react. Note that Audi’s signature quattro all-wheel drive system is not available on the TDI – only the larger gas turbo and S3 have it.

Inside, the standard front seats can be dialed into a supportive buckety shape. If you wanted more, you get the $800 Sport package with its more heavily bolstered thrones.


Headrests adjust forward and back to place them at a comfortable distance.


Rear-seat legroom is decent, but its 36.1 inches of headroom had my six-foot-one frame bent forward to fit.


This A3 is another pricey German compact that arrived with no backup camera – you’d have to pony up $1,400 for the Driver’s Assistance package, which also includes side assist. Given that this is the standard rear view, with no sense of the car’s rear end, the camera should be standard.


The instrument panel is minimal and simple in style.


There’s a deep console well big enough for big phones, like this 5.5-inch phablet. The Audi Music Interface (AMI) is there to accept connections from a variety of devices if you have the right cord.


Overall, the A3 TDI impressed with its agility and economy. Forty Gs can buy a lot of neat sedans, and compared to some of the glitz you can get, this A3 might seem a little plain and pricey. But it never failed to make a impression on people as being a quality piece, and that combined with its virtues makes the A3 one to consider.

2015 Audi A3 Sedan TDI S tronic 

Base Price:  $32,600

Price as Tested: $39,195

Optional Equipment

Audi MMI Navigation plus package: $2,600
1 CD/DVD player with HD radio
Audi MMI Navigation plus w/voice control
Audi MMI touch
Color driver information display
Audi connect

A3 Premium Plus: $2,550
18-inch 10-spoke wheels, all-season tires
Heated power adjustable front seats with four-way lumbar support
Heated exterior mirrors
Audi advanced key
Aluminum window surrounds
Aluminum interior package

Scuba Blue Metallic Paint: $550

Destination Charge: $895


Smooth and stable feel
Premium appearance
Agile feel


Pricey options
Backup camera should be standard
Limited rear headroom