Review: Audi A3 Sportback
- Tested ‘KV20 XUL’: Audi A3 Sportback 35 TDI 150PS S line S tronic, £31,655 OTR.
- Range-entry model: Technik 30 TFSI 6-speed, £23,300 OTR.
It’s been 24 years since Audi introduced the A3 as a compact hatch back based on the same ‘A’ (PQ34) platform as other cars in the Volkswagen group, including the Mk3 Golf of that era.
Originally designed by Belgian Dirk van Braeckel, the success of the model convinced Audi that other body variants of the A3 were feasible and the first Sportback arrived in 2004.
Thanks to low demand and the pressures of VW Group's post-dieselgate cost-cutting measures, the three-door A3 met its demise last year, handing its ‘Sportback’ moniker over to this larger, all-new, five-door iteration, while the new MQB Evo platform has also allowed the four-door saloon variant to grow in size, making its rear seat passengers feel a little more welcome.
I recently enjoyed a week with KV20 XUL, an A3 Sportback presented in S line trim and finished in Glacier White metallic (£575). Pop the kettle on and crack open the Hobnobs…
2020 Audi A3 Sportback – what’s new?
Apart from the trusty VW Group engine range, the 2020 A3 is entirely new from the rubber up. Style wise, Audi will have you believe that the new interior and exterior is heavily inspired by Lamborghini. To be honest, I don’t see it. But, that’s not to say the new A3 Sportback doesn’t look classy, because it most certainly does.
The car is three centimetres longer and wider than the previous model while the wheelbase length has remained the same. This allows for more interior space for passengers including the boot which is now 380 litres with the seats up, and 1,200 litres with the seats folded down.
Another change is the introduction of mild-hybrid technology – something that helps to give the car increased responsiveness and efficiency. But, more on that later.
What’s new inside?
Even after eight years in production, the third-generation A3 remained a hugely capable car, with one of the best interiors in the business. That is something Audi was keen to continue with this new car, which sees big changes being made on the technology front.
The biggest change is directly in front of the driver. Audi’s Virtual Cockpit digital instrument display comes as standard across the new A3 range and shows all your driving information on a crisp, 10.3in screen, with various layouts available.
The seats come in the usual Audi materials and feature contrast stitching, there's a new design for the gear shifter, and the centre console has changed shape to become more ergonomic.
An excellent driving position is attained with loads of steering wheel and seat adjustment. All of the controls and screens you tend to use frequently are within clear sight and easy reach, helped by the central area of the dashboard being angled towards the driver. That includes simple physical switches to operate the climate controls, which really helps with ease of use.
Trim grades and equipment
At launch, there are four trim available – Technik, Sport, S line (as tested) and Edition 1 which will eventually give way to a top-end Vorsprung model.
Standard kit includes 16-inch alloys, LED headlights and DRLs, MMI Navigation Plus with 10.1” touch screen, Audi Virtual Cockpit 10.25” display and Audi Pre-sense front with pedestrian recognition.
Sport ups the alloys to 17-inch, adds Audi Drive Select (Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, Efficiency and Individual), leather furniture, climate control and dimming door mirrors. Stepping up to the S line trim adds 18-inch alloys, LED rear lights and dynamic rear indicators, privacy glass, front sport seats and an LED interior lighting pack.
Top-end Edition 1 is superbly equipped with oversized 19-inch diamond-cut alloys, Audi matrix LED headlights, a black styling pack, Audi Virtual Cockpit ‘Plus’ and a sporty, flat-bottomed leather steering wheel.
Options fitted to KV20 XUL
In addition to the expansive list of kit on the S line trim, the test car was also fitted with Audi’s Driver assistance pack (£1,750) which includes high beam assist, adaptive cruise control and cruise assist, road sign recognition and parking assist.
Also ticked on the options list was a memory feature for driver (£1,150), matric LED exterior lighting pack (£675), storage pack (£175), heated front seats (£330), extended ambient lighting pack (£110), four-way lumbar support for the front seats (£260), ‘progressive’ steering (£240), and a Bang & Olufsen premium 3D sound system (£760).
Engines and drivetrains
The range-entry engine is a 108 bhp / 200 Nm 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol (badged 30 TFSI), which comes mated to a six-speed manual transmission or seven-speed S tronic auto. It isn’t the best match for the now larger A3, but it can still manage the 0-62 mph sprint in a respectable 10.6 seconds and top out at 127 mph.
The other petrol engine is a 148 bhp / 250 Nm 1.5-litre unit (badged 35 TFSI), which can reach 62 mph in 8.4 seconds, achieve around 46 mpg with a top speed of 139 mph. You can choose it with either a six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed S tronic automatic gearbox. This is an excellent powerplant and the same one as in my own 2020 SEAT Leon Xcellence, which I thoroughly enjoy driving when I’m not pootling about in fancy press cars.
On the diesel front, a new 114 bhp / 300 Nm 2.0-litre engine (30 TDI) replaces the 1.6-litre variant found in its predecessor. While not brimming with power, it can still send the A3 from 0-62 mph in 10.1 seconds, peaking at 128 mph. It is only available with a six-speed manual gearbox.
A second, more potent diesel is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder (35 TDI) unit that offers 148 bhp / 360 Nm and is said to achieve around 60 mpg. It is available only with the seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic.
Following the launch engine line-up early next year will be a second version of the 1.5 TFSI with a mild hybrid system (MHEV). In addition, Audi will gradually expand the A3 range by adding other TFSI and TDI powerplants, including some with quattro drive, as well as a plug-in hybrid in two power levels.
On the road
The Audi A3 has always been a smooth, assured car to drive and, now riding on an ‘Evo’ upgrade of the existing MQB platform, there's little about the latest A3 that tears up the rulebook and the A3 has similarly mature and slick manners as before.
The lesser-powered models have a standard suspension set-up while those offering 148bhp get a more sophisticated system. While I have only driven the A3 in this S line trim, I reckon the standard setup will be the financial sweet spot in the range, providing a good combination of handling and comfort. It’s less firm than sporty rivals, which will suit the majority of A3 buyers.
However, if you want something a bit more dynamic, S line models have sports suspension, which sits 15mm lower to the road. This provides a firmer ride, not helped by the S line’s standard-fit 18-inch alloy wheels. It’s not uncomfortable, but we reckon the standard springs suit the A3 better – and they’re a no-cost option.
In typical Audi fashion, the A3 Sportback remains very composed during cornering, but enthusiastic drivers will find the steering a little too numb for enthusiastic drivers. That said, it does translate into nice, light steering around town.
Off the road
Not recommended. Until the quattro arrives early next year, your front-wheel drive A3 is best kept to a spot of mild green-laning.
While the Audi A3’s compact dimensions means it’s unlikely to be a popular tow car, it should be up to the job of towing a light trailer or even a small caravan. With its 360Nm of torque, the 2.0-litre 35 TDI will be the pick of the range for towing. With this engine, the A3 Sportback has a 1600kg towing capacity, while its 1410kg kerb weight means inexperienced towers should be able to lug around 1200kg going by the widely-accepted 85 per cent rule.
During the week’s test, I spent a total of 13.5 hours driving the car over a total of 433 mixed road-miles at an average speed of 32 mph. The average fuel consumption was recorded at 60.6 mpg, which exceeded the official 57.6mpg WLTP.
No attempt was made or conscious effort given to achieving an above-average mpg at any point during the test week. I do, however, deploy the active cruise control at every available opportunity.
Euro NCAP – the independent body responsible for crash testing new cars – is yet to give the 2020 A3 Sportback a safety rating. I’d be very surprised if it received anything less than five stars, though, seeing as the mechanically similar Volkswagen Golf received the top five out of five safety rating.
There’s a huge level of passive and active safety equipment including Audi’s pre sense front – the marque’s automatic braking system – across the 2020 model range. The optional Driver Assistance Package adds useful lane change and exit warnings. The former alerts the driver to a vehicle in their blind spot when changing lanes, while the exit warning will warn you of vehicles and cyclists approaching from behind when the car is at a standstill.
Rear parking sensors are standard while you should look for examples with the Comfort and Sound Pack if you’re concerned about parking. This features a reversing camera as well as parking assist with parking system plus. This sounds complicated but essentially lets the car reverse into parallel or perpendicular parking spaces for you at the touch of a button.
The 2020 Audi A3 Sportback is a masterclass in how to put premium gloss on a humble hatchback. The latest A3 iteration combines angular and aggressive new styling with a swanky cabin bristling with the latest technology. The foundations beneath play it a little safer but Audi knows its customers and the style and content are enough to make it a desirable alternative to its mainstream rivals.
Would I? You bet…quicker than you can say Mercedes-Benz A-Class.
2020 Audi A3 Sportback timeline:
- 2020: March Revealed online in lieu of the cancelled Geneva Motor Show.
- 2020: August First deliveries to UK customers.
Key Facts: Audi A3 Sportback 35 TDI 150PS S line S tronic
- Engine: Front-mounted, inline 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel.
- Power /torque: 148hp (150PS) @ 3,000-4,200rpm / 360Nm @ 1,600-2,750rpm.
- Transmission: Seven-speed automatic gearbox (S tronic).
- Acceleration: 0-62mph: 8.4 seconds.
- Top speed: 139 mph.
- MPG (combined WLTP): 57.6 in S line trim
- Fuel tank capacity: 50 litres (11 Imperial gallons).
- Theoretical range: 630 miles.
- Ad-Blue tank capacity: 12 litres.
- Emissions: 128 CO₂/km (in diesel S line trim)
- First year VED: £170.
- 2020/21 BiK (Benefit in Kind): 28%, 29% (2021/22), 30% (2022/23).
- Kerb weight: 1,410kg.
- Luggage capacity: 380 / 1,200 litres.
- Towing weight (braked): 1,800 kg.
- Tow ball weight: 80kg.
- Roof luggage weight: 70kg.
- Warranty & roadside assistance: 3 years / 60,000 miles.
- Insurance group: 26 (model as tested).
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