2015 Audi A3: A Compact Sedan That Deserves the Hype
Audi's new A3 is perfect for long highway drives and narrow city parking spaces.
Audi's marketing team has been pushing the A3 hard, with ads aimed at wealthy, young urbanites. Between the craft beer-focused hipster parties and TV ads featuring celebrity chef David Chang, it almost seems like the automaker is trying to alienate more buyers than it intends to attract.
But even if you prefer pot roast and Bud Light to Momofuku and Bell's Oberon, the A3 stands on its own merits.
First, let's talk about looks. Yes, Audi could've just put an A4 into Photoshop and downsized it by 20 percent, but the A3's parts are proportionate, and a swooping beltline ties the whole package together. If you're not into the sedan, convertible and Sportback variants are coming soon.
The minimalist interior offers enough space to stretch out up front, room for occasional passengers in the back, and a trunk that's big enough for a Costco run.
Steering might feel a little light at first, but comes into its own as soon as you leave the stop-and-go traffic behind. Push the A3 in a curve and it will reward you with superb balance and grip. And while dual-clutch transmissions can be a bit touch-and-go around town, the A3's six-speed S-Tronic (no other transmissions are available) keeps jerkiness to a minimum.
There's plenty of tech on board—though it's doled out in odd proportions.
The Premium Edition A3 I drove had the latest version of Audi's superb MMI interface, and it impressed. Voice recognition was near-flawless, and the top of the MMI's center-console controller doubles as a touchpad for spelling out addresses with your fingertip. If you hate the look of a giant LED screen, the A3's display folds into a dashboard that could've come straight off a 1972 100 LS.
You can activate a dedicated 4G connection that turns the car into a WiFi hotspot, while also adding Google maps and online services—but it'll cost you extra.
An interesting feature is Picture Destination. Plug in a compatible phone or GPS-encoded SD card, and the A3 will take you back to that beach where you took a picture of a perfect sunset. Pretty cool, right?
Unfortunately, there are also bizarre omissions for a car in this price range. To get a proximity key or backup camera, you've got to pay even more for the Premium Plus package and Driver Assistance package. You might think I'm spoiled, but I think the A3 should be at least as well-equipped as a Kia, Volkswagen, or Nissan that costs $10k less.
Purists will also lament the absence of a stick shift option—although it's unlikely many of them would've actually bought a car equipped with a manual.
Luckily, the A3's benefits make up for what its few shortcomings. If you're looking for a small, practical sedan that doesn't want for luxury and style, the newest, littlest Audi should be on your shopping list.
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