Cynics will say the 2017 Audi A3 Quattro is little more than an overpriced Volkswagen GTI hatchback with a sedan body. We’d say they’re wrong. Although the A3 may share its platform and core powertrain components with VW’s hot hatch, the Audi is greater than the sum of the shared parts.
Premium looks, premium cabin, premium technology.
Cramped rear seat, smallish trunk.
Refreshed for 2017, the A3 lineup sports an updated face with a more angular grille, a new headlight design, and a more aggressive front fascia. LED taillights and a revised rear bumper round out the updated exterior. While the all-wheel-drive A3 Quattro tested here relies on the same 220-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four and six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission as before, the front-wheel-drive A3 trades last year’s 170-hp turbo 1.8-liter four-cylinder and six-speed dual-clutch automatic for a 186-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four that runs a modified version of the Miller cycle and comes paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
The front-drive A3 is able to travel an EPA-rated 26 miles on a gallon of gasoline in the city and 35 on the highway, besting the more powerful Quattro’s 24/31-mpg ratings. During our all-wheel-drive A3 test car’s stay we averaged 27 mpg, matching the EPA combined rating. We also eked out 34 mpg from the sedan in our 75-mph highway fuel-economy test.
Quattro, Cinco, Seis
Mat the A3 Quattro’s right pedal to the floor, though, and the substantial 258 lb-ft of torque immediately makes up for the powertrain’s additional thirst for fuel. Our 3408-pound test car scooted from zero to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds and crossed the quarter-mile mark in 14.2 seconds at 98 mph. Both times beat the last Mercedes-Benz CLA250 4MATIC we tested by 0.6 second. Meanwhile, a 172-pound-lighter Golf GTI equipped with an automatic transmission needed an additional 0.1 second to complete both feats.
Passing performance was no less impressive, with the dual-clutch automatic quickly downshifting to help push this A3 from 30 to 50 mph in 3.3 seconds and from 50 to 70 in 4.1 seconds, 0.4 and 0.3 second quicker than the CLA250 4MATIC. It’s worth noting that the self-shifting GTI performs stronger here, accomplishing the same tasks 0.4 and 0.3 second more quickly.
Our A3’s Continental ProContact TX tires ultimately proved to be the entry-level luxury sedan’s Achilles’ heel. Slamming on the brakes at 70 mph left the all-season rubber grasping for grip as the A3 Quattro came to a halt in 178 feet, or 22 feet more than needed by a 2015 A3 Quattro fitted with summer tires. While this car stuck to our 300-foot skidpad at a respectable 0.87 g, its summer-tired counterpart managed to hold strong up to 0.94 g.
In day-to-day driving, the A3 Quattro’s ride and handling strike a fine balance between comfort and excitement. Quick and well-weighted steering contribute to the sedan’s nimble nature on twisty tarmac, while the composed and compliant suspension keeps body motions in check without causing undo discomfort. However, the A3 Quattro lets in more wind noise then we’d expect of a car wearing the Audi badge. Other foibles included a cramped rear seat and a smallish 10-cubic-foot trunk. Still, the folding rear bench seat’s limited space is par for the class, and the trunk at least offers a large and wide opening.
Along with a set of 10-spoke 18-inch wheels, our top-spec Prestige model also wore a set of LED headlights and an S line exterior package that gave it an S3-like front and rear appearance. Those looking to keep a lower profile may opt for the Premium version that comes with 17-inch wheels and tires, HID headlights, and tamer bodywork. (The mid-level A3 Quattro Premium Plus shares the Prestige’s wheels and body kit.)
Regardless of trim, every A3 boasts a cozy cabin that combines quality materials with impeccable fit and finish. Standard convenience features on Quattro models include leather seats, a power driver’s seat, a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, and Audi’s MMI infotainment system that uses a central control knob to interact with a 7.0-inch multimedia screen that’s able to tuck itself into the dashboard at the push of a button.
Stepping up to the Premium Plus allows one to order Audi’s Virtual Cockpit digital gauge cluster, a navigation system, and blind-spot monitoring. We’d recommend springing for the top-of-the-line Prestige, though, which comes standard with all three of those extras, as well as trim-exclusive items such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and automatic high-beam headlights.
With a starting price of $44,100, the Prestige commands an $8950 premium over the base A3 Quattro. Our test car’s as-tested price of $43,900 incorporated a $200 credit applied to early-build 2017 cars that lacked the automatic high-beams feature. Also missing from our car were any of the Prestige’s three available options: a $250 sport suspension, $350 in rear side airbags, and the $650 Sport package, which adds a flat-bottom steering wheel with paddle shifters, seats with additional bolstering, and Audi’s Drive Select that offers selectable driving modes that alter characteristics such as steering weight and throttle response.
All the Small Things
Whereas the A3 Quattro’s compact luxury sedan competitors feel built to a price point, Audi’s smallest sedan offers the same attention to detail and sense of quality that is found in the four-ringed brand’s larger and pricier products. Ultimately, the A3’s greatest triumph is that it looks, feels, and drives more like a small Audi than it does an upgraded Volkswagen.