Audi A3 Saloon Review
The Audi A3 Saloon is an upmarket compact saloon with sleek looks, efficient yet strong engines and a broad range of high-tech equipment
Strengths & weaknesses
The Audi A3 Saloon is very similar to the hatchback version of the A3 (which is badged Sportback), but its saloon-car styling gives it a bit more of an upmarket feel, plus a little extra rarity value - the vast majority of A3s sold will be the Sportback body style.
That means you get the advantage of mechanical and technological parts that have been tried-and-tested in many different models, but with the bonus of a much more upmarket badge on your car’s bonnet. However, if you want an Audi for the engineering that's under the skin and solid feel, then the closely-related but cheaper VW Golf is a wise option, with the sporty looking Seat and cheaper and more practical Skoda offering better value alternatives.
Inside, there’s a genuinely sporty feel to the A3 Saloon, with a dramatic, angular dashboard angled towards the driver. That driver-focused interior hints at a car that’s fun to drive, and it delivers on its promise: if anything it feels more sporty than the larger, more expensive Audi A4 saloon from behind the wheel.
You’re better off sticking to the higher trim levels if you can, as the better-quality materials and larger screens improve the overall ambience of the car. That said, rivals such as the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe and Mercedes A-Class Saloon feel more upmarket still, so they're worth considering if you're after glamour.
Should I get an Audi A3 Saloon?
✔ High-specification models are fun to drive
✔ Broad choice of powerful yet economical engines
✔ Good levels of equipment
✘ Touchscreeen media system could be more intuitive
✘ Lower-specification models not as good to drive
✘ Previous versions had a more upmarket feel inside
If you like the smart styling and proportions of a saloon bodystyle, but want something more compact - and less expensive - than a BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 or Mercedes C-Class, then the Audi A3 Saloon will be a good choice, especially if your budget stretches to the more powerful engines and higher-specification trim levels.
The smaller footprint of the A3 Saloon can also make it feel sharper to drive than the A4 Saloon, but the BMW 3 Series - though also larger - is still a more rewarding car to drive if you enjoy winding roads. This is especially true of A3s with the lower-end engine options, which get less sophisticated suspension.
On the other hand, most A3 engine options should deliver decent fuel economy and reasonable running costs. Entry-level engines come in six-speed manual form only, but other models get the option of a seven-speed 'S tronic' automatic gearbox, which offers fast and slick gear changes.
Both the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe and Mercedes A-Class Saloon feel more upmarket inside, however. Compared with the A3 Sportback hatchback, the A3 Saloon is a little more expensive for the same trim level, but it does offer a slightly larger boot.
- Models explained
- Trim levels
- Best A3 Saloon for
- Should I buy used?
- Boot space
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Audi A3 Saloon
You get plenty of standard equipment with even the entry-level A3 Saloon. This includes parking sensors, automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, plus air-conditioning. A touchscreen media system and digital instrument cluster are standard on all models, but you’ll get bigger, better versions of these with higher-end trim levels.
The A3 also has physical climate control buttons. This is a bonus because, in the related VW Golf, you have to negotiate fiddly touchscreen submenus to adjust the temperature or fan speed. This can be distracting while driving in the Golf, taking your attention away from the road.
The range starts with the ‘30 TFSI’, which is a 1.0-litre 110hp petrol. Although this entry-level engine is reasonably peppy, the ‘40 TFSI’, with its 150hp 1.5-litre engine, is smoother and more powerful. If you cover a lot of miles, there are two economical diesel choices, which could be a better choice for you: the 115hp 2.0-litre ‘30 TDI’ and the 150hp 2.0-litre ‘35 TDI’.
Sadly, if you’re looking at running an A3 Saloon as a company car, the two low-tax plug-in hybrid options that are available in the A3 Sportback are not available on the Saloon.
Audi S3 Saloon
With the exception of some bold paint colours, there’s not all that much to set the high-performance S3 Saloon apart from the regular A3. The most striking elements are the four exhaust pipes, Audi Sport graphics on the digital instrument display behind the steering wheel, and S3-specific sports seats.
There’s quite a difference under the bonnet, however. The 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine produces an enormous 310hp, meaning that the S3 can accelerate from 0-62mph in a rapid 4.8 seconds.
Fortunately, there’s four-wheel-drive to help control all that power and provide lots of grip under acceleration. This car can send 100% of its power to the rear wheels, plus it can brake individual wheels when needed - a system that’s called ‘torque vectoring’. Both these traits mean that this version of the S3 Saloon feels more agile than the model it replaces.
|Technik||Limited stock: The most basic A3 Saloon trim is Technik. This gets alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, automatic emergency braking, air-conditioning, cruise control, built-in sat-nav, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration.|
|Sport||From £16,000: This next tier in the trim level pecking order adds upholstery that’s a mix of faux leather and real leather, larger alloy wheels and dual-zone climate control.|
|S line||Limited stock: Step up to S line and there are still larger alloys, a sporty bodykit that includes sharper-looking bumpers and rear spoiler, sports suspension, full leather sports seats, LED rear lights and LED ambient interior lighting.|
|Vorsprung||Limited stock: Topping the regular A3 Saloon range is the Vorspung. Adaptive cruise control comes as standard here, as does a head-up display, dual-zone climate control and leather sports seats.|
Although super-efficient diesel engines are available, the regular ‘35 TFSI’, with its 1.5-litre petrol unit, offers the best overall package in the A3 Saloon range, for all but the highest mileage drivers, who could cut their fuel bills with one of the diesels.
This is a smooth-spinning and quiet engine and delivers an impressive fuel economy figure of almost 50 mpg. It’s also not much more expensive than the much less powerful entry-level 1.0-litre engine yet delivers reasonable performance.
Fitted with the ‘S Tronic’ automatic gearbox, the 35 TFSI can get from 0-62mph in a decently quick 8.4 seconds and has a top speed of 139mph. This means that it’s a relaxed and flexible motorway cruiser.
You should be able to find an Audi A3 Saloon to suit your priorities, whether that’s good fuel economy, low CO2 emissions, or sports car performance from the S3 model.
It’s not a cheap car to buy, whatever model, engine or trim you choose, but the desirable badge and image helps to contribute to relatively low PCP finance monthly payments (as these are affected just as much by how much the car is worth at the end of the contract as its initial price). As a result, monthly running costs should be manageable.
|Audi A3 Saloon 30 TFSI Technik: The entry-level Technik model is far from basic, with air-conditioning, cruise control and a touchscreen media system with built-in sat-nav.|
|Audi A3 35 TFSI Sport: The Sport trim level brings a touch of luxury to your family motoring with part-leather seats, and the 150hp 35 TFSI engine has more than enough pulling power to whisk four people and their luggage along without breaking a sweat..|
|Audi S3 Saloon: 310hp and four-wheel-drive is a combination that delivers thumping acceleration, plenty of grip and secure handling. If you want sports car pace and family car space, this delivers.|
|Audi A3 Saloon 30 TDI: Sure, diesels deliver excellent fuel economy over long distances, but the 115hp diesel in the 30 TDI is just a little weak. The 150hp model is a much more flexible and relaxing car to drive, and still delivers excellent fuel economy.|
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The core rivals for the Audi A3 Saloon are other compact upmarket saloons that also share much in common with hatchback equivalents. This largely means the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe (which is a saloon version of the BMW 1 Series) and the Mercedes A-Class Saloon.
If you’re interested in a saloon with the most upmarket feel, though, it might be worth looking at slightly larger models, as these can feel more plush inside. Go up a size and your options include the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class, or even the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Jaguar XE.
There will be a little less choice with a used Audi A3 Saloon than with an A3 Sportback hatchback, as it’s sold in smaller numbers as a new car. This means that versions that are less popular, such as the diesel models, will be even harder to come by.
As with a new A3 Saloon, your best used bet is likely to be a petrol-powered model in the Sport trim level. Sport trim brings plenty of gadgets, including dual-zone climate control, but even the basic Technik cars are well equipped. The Sport’s part-leather seats help make the car feel significantly more posh, though.
In terms of engines, the ‘35 TFSI’ models are the best bet as they balance reasonable power with decent fuel economy, and offer the more sophisticated suspension setup that lower-spec models lack and so are better to drive.
Diesel models may also cost more per month on PCP finance, but they offer low running costs if you do a lot of motorway miles, so could make sense if you cover high annual mileages, as your fuel savings from going diesel could outweigh potentially higher monthly payments.
Audi A3 Saloon dimensions
At just under 4.5 metres long, 1.8 metres wide (just under 2.0 metres if you include the door mirrors) and just under 1.5 metres tall, the Audi A3 Saloon is almost identical in its exterior dimension to its two closest competitors - the Mercedes A-Class Saloon and the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe.
At 25 centimetres shorter than an Audi A4, it’s practical for tricky parking spaces in busy car parks or urban streets. Plus, all models get rear parking sensors at least, while higher-level trims add a 360-degree parking camera.
The Saloon is around 20 centimetres longer than the A3 Sportback hatchback, however, so if you want the easiest A3 to park, go for the Sportback.
|Length 4,495mm||Width 1,816mm|
|Height 1,425mm||Weight 1,490kg|
With 425 litres of space in the boot, the Audi A3 Saloon actually offers more carrying capacity than the hatchback Audi A3 Sportback. That’s partly due to the car’s extra length, but although there is some extra volume, the more awkward shape and narrower boot opening makes the saloon less flexible than the hatchback. At least the rear seatbacks fold down for longer loads, however.
Compared with its rivals, the A3 Saloon offers about the same amount of boot space as its main rivals. It gives you five litres less than the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, but 5 litres more than the Mercedes A-Class Saloon, though these differences are too small to be noticeable in everyday use.
|Boot space 425 litres|
Perhaps a little disappointingly, Audi rarely posts stellar results in reliability or owner satisfaction surveys. In fact, the previous version of the A3 (sold up until 2020) came 55th out of 75 models in a recent Driver Power owner satisfaction survey. It scored below average for both reliability and build quality.
That said, you should find that no A3 suffers from major issues, being based largely on tried and tested technology shared with the other members of the Volkswagen group of brands - including VW, Seat and Skoda.
You’ll get a standard warranty for three years or 60,000 miles with the Audi A3 Saloon, plus a three-year roadside assistance deal. That’s pretty much what you’d expect from most manufacturers, though it’s not as good as the seven-year 100,000 mile cover offered by Kia or the 10-year warranty available from Toyota.
On the other hand, you can upgrade for a relatively small fee to an extended warranty, which will cover you for five years and 90,000 miles.
|3 years||60,000 miles|
AVERAGE REPAIR COST PAID BY WARRANTYWISE: £643
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The best overall proposition in the A3 Saloon range is the 35 TFSI Sport. This mixes a powerful yet sensibly efficient engine with plenty of standard equipment and a few luxury touches such as dual-zone climate control.
Unfortunately, it’s rather more expensive than the VW Golf 1.5 TSI 150 Style, which is the VW equivalent of the Audi, and uses exactly the same engine and much of the same tech. The A3 is undeniably a more premium-feeling product, but you do have to be prepared to pay for it.
At the performance end of things, the Audi S3 Saloon is a smart choice. It offers stylish looks that are something a bit different from a normal hot hatchback, plus a little bit of extra boot space.
*Representative PCP finance - 2018 Ford Fiesta 1.0 ST-Line Hatchback:
|PCP representative example||APR rates available|
|Cash price £12,000||APR 7.90%||Value of loan||From|
|Fixed monthly payment £218.12||Annual mileage of 8,000pa||£25,000+||6.9%|
|Total cost of credit £2,755.55||Term 48 months||£12,000-£24,999||7.9%|
|Optional final payment £4,285.79||Loan value £12,000||£8,000-£11,999||8.9%|
|Total amount payable £14,755.55||Deposit £0||<8,000||9.9%|
BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.
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