2015 Audi A3

2015 Audi A3 Review

Audi tries to lure millennials with a sporty entry-level sedan.

By: David Merline

Web2Carz Contributing Writer

Published: July 11th, 2014

Audi, like fellow luxury brands Mercedes and BMW, is expanding its lineup in an attempt to appeal to a broader spectrum of car buyers. Or to put it more plainly, Audi is starting to build cars for people who work for a living.

From a certain standpoint, expanding one's brand to accommodate a larger segment of the population makes perfect sense, but for a luxury brand it can be a tricky proposition. Luxury brands depend largely on the perception that their products are available to only a select few. Owning certain brands is meant to signify one's status in terms of wealth, so if that brand becomes too common, it loses its luster.

Audi's entry into the "affordable luxury car" market is the A3, a sporty turbocharged sedan that is clearly aimed at the heart of the midsize sedan market. So not only is the A3 tasked with luring young people over to the Audi brand's corner of the Volkswagen Group territory, it's also meant to compete against a host of other beginner-luxury models, like the BMW 1-series, the Mercedes CLA, and the Acura ILX.

And with its base price coming in just under $30,000, the A3 even inches onto the ultra-competitive Accord/Camry playing field, which is where it needs to be if it's going to tempt non-wealthy twenty-somethings.

It's a difficult balance, making an affordable luxury car, especially one that's aimed at young buyers. Luxury car makers aren't exactly the leading experts on what young people want, and this is where the A3 mostly stumbles.

From the outside, the A3 is an eye-catcher. It has that refined subtlety that Audi does so well, and its small size (it's roughly the size of a Honda Civic) should appeal to young buyers rebelling against the impractical automobile choices of their parents.

The A3 also delivers impressive fuel economy (averaging 27 mpg), is roomy enough to seat four in relative comfort, and comes standard with a decent amount of luxury-class features, like a leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather seats, and very classy panoramic sunroof.

Unfortunately, the A3 loses quite a bit of millennial appeal with its poor media integration. Even with the optional MMI-Plus package ($2,000), connecting a phone directly to the car audio system requires a cumbersome cable, and an adapter if you have an iPhone 5, which you probably do if you're a millennial.

The interior is also a bit drab for something calling itself a luxury car. The one upscale item in the car - the pop-up media screen - looks like it was taken from an A7 and backwards-engineered to emerge clumsily from a tacky-looking slot in the center of the otherwise characterless dash.

From the outside, the A3's looks are all Audi, but the interior has much more of a VW vibe. Not that that's a bad thing, it's just not necessarily what one associates with Audi.

Once you're on the road however, the Audi aura returns. Despite its cylinder count, the 1.8-liter TFSI engine manages to create enough torque to make the A3 feel like it's packing more than 170 horses.

VW/Audi seems to have some secret recipe for conjuring up brilliant suspension feel, and the A3 is easily as tight and composed as an A4. The steering is nicely balanced, and it's tightened up just right in Sport mode. Speaking of which, the A3 may be one of the most fun cars in which to actually use the fake-manual transmission (it even has paddle shifters).

The sound system is VW-decent, but can be upgraded to a much more stellar Bang & Olufsen for a fairly ridiculous sum of money ($850 for the item, but you'd need to upgrade to the Premium Plus package for an extra $2,550 to get it). Overall, the interior is plenty comfortable, even if it doesn't exactly seem like living in luxury.

Whether or not the A3 ends up luring young buyers to the Audi side of the VW/Audi divide remains to be seen, but regardless of its larger purpose, it remains an extremely attractive option in the single most competitive segment of the auto market.

  • Specs & Prices

    Engine: 1.8-liter turbocharged inline-four

    Transmission: 6-speed automatic.

    Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel drive.

    Power Output: 170 hp / 400 lb.-ft.

    Fuel Economy (mpg): 19 city / 29 highway

    Price (base): $29,900

    Price (as tested): $34,345 (includes $895 destination charge)

    Available Features:

    Audi MMI Navigation package: Touchpad with handwriting recognition, color dashboard screen, navigation.

    Cold-Weather package: Headed front seats, power-adjustable heated side mirrors, heated wiper nozzles.

    Aluminum Style package: Interior trim, exterior window trim.

    Individual options: Exhaust tips, black cloth headliner, iPod integration, rear-passenger side airbags.

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