The Audi A3 is one of the German marque’s most important vehicles – even in an age where buyers globally are moving away from passenger cars and into high-riding SUVs.
Since the nameplate first launched in the mid-1990s, Audi has sold more than 5 million of them globally, and some 56,000 of those have come to Australia.
Up until only recently, the A3 has long been Audi Australia’s most popular vehicle locally, only hampered over the past 12 or 18 months by delays in getting the latest generation to our shores. But now, it’s finally here.
Once again available in five-door Sportback and four-door Sedan body styles, the 2022 Audi A3 arrives in Australia with a point of difference compared to its ‘MQB evo’ platform mates like the Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Golf – it offers some of the latest engine technologies in the VW Group portfolio.
While not the headline act, one of the more interesting models is the one we’re focusing on here – the 2022 Audi A3 Sportback 35 TFSI. It brings the latest Volkswagen Group 1.5-litre petrol engine equipped with 48V mild-hybrid tech, quoting fuel consumption figures not far off a Toyota Corolla Hybrid.
Unlike the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class, you can get an entry-level A3 under $50,000 plus on-roads with equipment levels not far off high-spec mainstream competition.
Is this base A3 the pick of the bunch? Let’s find out.
The Audi A3 35 TFSI is priced from $46,900 plus on-road costs as a five-door Sportback and $49,400 before on-roads as a four-door Sedan.
It sits as the entry point into the range, below the 40 TFSI quattro S line, S3 and RS3. All variants are available in both Sportback and Sedan guise, with the latter commanding a premium.
2022 Audi A3 pricing:
- Audi A3 Sportback 35 TFSI: $46,900
- Audi A3 Sedan 35 TFSI: $49,400
- Audi A3 Sportback 40 TFSI quattro S line: $53,400
- Audi A3 Sedan 40 TFSI quattro S line: $56,000
- Audi S3 Sportback: $70,700
- Audi S3 Sedan: $73,200
- Audi RS3 Sportback: $92,200
- Audi RS3 Sedan: $94,700
All prices exclude on-road costs
The 35 TFSI, particularly as a more affordable Sportback, is surprisingly competitive in terms of its positioning given the high-tech powertrain and decent level of spec.
Natural rivals include the typical premium German alternatives such as the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class, as well as high-grade versions of the Mazda 3 and related Volkswagen Golf.
Key rivals include:
- BMW 118i: $48,900
- Mazda 3 X20 Astina M Hybrid: $42,490
- Mercedes-Benz A180: $49,889
- Mini Cooper S Classic Hatch 5-Door: $46,950
- Volkswagen Golf 110TSI R-Line: $38,490
All the prices exclude on-road costs
A3 35 TFSI highlights:
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- Adaptive LED headlights
- LED tail lights with dynamic indicators
- Convenience key (keyless entry)
- Electric, heated side mirrors
- Electric opening boot lid (A3 Sedan)
- Leather-appointed seats
- Leather multifunction steering wheel w/ paddles
- Dual-zone climate control w/ rear vents
- Comfort front-centre armrest
- 40:20:40 rear-seat backrest
- 10.1-inch MMI touchscreen
- MMI navigation plus with Google Maps + live traffic
- Audi Connect Plus
- Apple CarPlay (wireless) + Android Auto (wired)
- 6-speaker audio
- Audi phone box light wireless charging*
*Currently unavailable due to component shortage, $260 discount applied
A3 40 TFSI quattro S line adds:
- 18-inch Audi Sport alloy wheels
- S line exterior styling
- Sport suspension
- Anodised aluminium window surrounds
- Illuminated door sill trims
- Sport front seats
- Storage and luggage compartment package
- Ambient interior lighting
- Auto-dimming rear-view mirror
- Audi drive select modes
Key option packages include:
Comfort Package (35 TFSI) – $2600
- Adaptive cruise assist
- Electric front seats with electric lumbar
- Heated front seats
- Auto-dimming rear-view mirror
- Electric folding, dimming side mirrors
Premium Package (40 TFSI) – $4500
- Head-up display
- Adaptive cruise assist
- Electric front seats with electric lumbar
- Heated front seats
- Colour ambient lighting
- Aluminium-look interior elements
- Electric folding, dimming side mirrors
- 10-speaker Audi sound system
Our test vehicle was the Glacier white metallic A3 Sportback 35 TFSI pictured throughout the review, which featured said premium paint ($1250) and larger 19-inch Audi Sport alloy wheels ($1500) for an as-tested price of $49,390 before on-roads.
Front-wheel drive versions of the new Audi A3 wear a five-star ANCAP safety rating with 2020 date stamp. The 40 TFSI quattro and S3 all-wheel drive versions remain unrated.
It scored 89 per cent for adult occupant protection, 81 per cent for child occupant protection, 68 per cent for vulnerable road users and 73 per cent for safety assist.
All versions of the Audi A3 come with:
- AEB with pedestrian/cyclist detection
- Lane departure warning
- Lane-keep assist
- Blind-spot monitoring with exit warning*
- Rear cross-traffic assist*
- Front + rear parking sensors
- Park assist
- Reversing camera
*Currently unavailable due to component shortages
In addition to the above safety equipment, there’s dual frontal side chest and side curtain airbags as standard, as well as a front-centre airbag in line with the latest ANCAP and Euro NCAP criteria.
The previous-generation A3 was lauded as the benchmark for compact car interiors, so this new one has big shoes to fill.
For the generational change the new A3 has adopted Audi’s latest interior design and layout, with certain elements like the air vents inspired by Lamborghini.
Your eyes are immediately drawn to the beautiful 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster and the 10.1-inch MMI touch infotainment display, both offering the crispest of graphics and buttery smooth animations.
Like we’ve seen in other Audi models, the MMI touchscreen offers haptic feedback and ‘clicks’ in response to touch inputs, adding a satisfying element to the experience much like Audi’s clicky switchgear.
The inbuilt satellite navigation system offers Google Maps, online traffic updates and hazard alerts, parking information, weather updates and fuel prices, thanks to a three-year subscription to Audi connect.
Audi has also implemented the stubby shift-by-wire selector that we’re seeing roll out across the Volkswagen Group. While it’s claimed to save space, there’s an expanse of gloss black around it with minimal storage – call me old school, but I like a more prominent shifter.
Even the base A3 35 TFSI has a creamy leather steering wheel that feels great in the hand, and wheel-mounted paddle shifters are fitted if you want to take control of the transmission yourself. We also appreciate the proper climate controls, as opposed a screen-based setup like we’ve seen in the Golf and Skoda Octavia.
Ahead of the shifter surround is a cubby to store your phone, which would normally have a Qi wireless smartphone but due to component shortages is temporarily unavailable. A $260 discount is applied for the lack of charging pad.
Comfort up front is good even in the standard, manually-adjustable first-row pews. The seats don’t have extendable under-thigh cushions and the standard leather-accented trim isn’t a patch on the S3’s standard Nappa hide, but it’s all still nice and befitting of an entry premium product.
While everything feels well screwed together, some of the materials don’t feel quite as good as we’ve come to expect from the four-ringed marque. There’s a higher ratio of hard, scratchy plastics dotted throughout the mid tiers of the cabin, including the doors and dashboard, and the centre console surround feels the same as you’d find in a Golf or Skoda.
It’s a trend we’re seeing across the industry as manufacturers balance costs with expensive new technologies and materials. With that said, when you close any of the A3 Sportback’s five doors, the solid thud sounds like you’re shutting a bank vault.
Row two in the regular A3 is slightly more spacious than the performance-oriented S3 as you don’t have the tall S seats with integrated headrests up front. Forward visibility in the rear is also improved as a result.
I’m a little over 6’1 and can fit behind my own driving position relatively comfortably, but any taller in either row and it could be a slight squeeze. Two adults could fit in the back fine, and kids will be more than happy.
Speaking of kids, there’s ISOFIX anchor points on the outboard pews and top-tether points behind all three positions. While Australians tend to see SUVs as family cars, Europeans have used cars like the A3 as family runabouts for decades – it’s more than up to the task.
Rear amenities in the base model include rear air vents, bottle holders in the doors as well as a fold-down centre armrest with additional cup holders. Oddly, the A3 doesn’t get the Golf’s standard three-zone climate control and the base 35 TFSI misses out on rear map pockets.
Boot areas vary depending on body style and trim level.
The A3 Sportback quotes 380L in 35 TFSI guise, while the A3 Sedan offers 425L in base trim – 45L more than the hatch. Fold the seats down and the A3 Sportback ups volume to 1200L.
However, the added hardware under the rear of 40 TFSI quattro versions means the A3 Sportback drops to 325L and the A3 Sedan quotes 390L. The A3 Sportback 40 TFSI’s two-seat figure is 1145L.
The 40 TFSI and S3 score the storage and luggage compartment package which add map pockets on the backs of the front seats, 12V sockets at the rear of the centre console and in the boot, as well as luggage compartment nets.
Under the bonnet of the A3 35 TFSI is a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine hooked up to what Audi calls a belt alternator starter (BAS), which feeds a 48V mild-hybrid setup incorporating a small lithium-ion battery under the front passenger seat.
The petrol engine quotes outputs of 110kW (5000-6000rpm) and 250Nm (1500-3500rpm), with drive sent exclusively to the front wheels through a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission.
It’s the first time the 48V version of the 1.5 TFSI engine is being offered in the Australian market across the Volkswagen Group. It’s meant to offer equivalent performance to the previous A3’s 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine (0-100 in 8.4s) while offering a fuel consumption advantage of “up to 0.4L/100km” in official testing.
Efficiency is rated at 5.0L/100km for the A3 Sportback 35 TFSI and 4.9L/100km for the A3 Sedan 35 TFSI. With a standard 50-litre fuel tank, that means a theoretical driving range of 1000 kilometres per tank.
The previous A3 35 TFSI could do 0-100 in a slightly sprightlier 8.2 seconds and quoted fuel use 5.2L/100km on the combined cycle, likely on an older testing regime.
Meanwhile, A3 40 TFSI quattro models are powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol generating 140kW (4200-6000rpm) and 320Nm (1500-4100rpm), sent to an on-demand quattro all-wheel drive system via a seven-speed dual-clutch.
Audi claims the 40 TFSI quattro will dash from 0-100 in 7.0 seconds, and use fuel at a rate of 6.6L-6.7L/100km (Sedan-Sportback) on the combined cycle. The A3 40 TFSI gets a slightly larger 55-litre tank.
All versions of the new Audi A3 in Australia offer Euro 6-certified powertrains with PPFs, and both 35 TFSI and 40 TFSI models are rated for minimum 95 RON premium unleaded.
We spent a day with just the A3 Sportback 35 TFSI during our launch drive, and while it may not wow with quattro grip and the torquier 2.0 TFSI petrol engine of the 40 TFSI, I was quite impressed with the base offering.
Being a Volkswagen Golf owner myself, and a long-term custodian of a previous-gen A3 Sedan 40 TFSI, there is an air of familiarity to the way the new A3 drives.
What’s new with this vehicle, and this variant in particular, is the powertrain.
The 1.5 TFSI petrol is the same willing and well-rounded unit we know and love from other Volkswagen products, namely the Skoda Kamiq and Scala, as well as formerly in the Karoq.
This new generation of 48V mild-hybrid technology is possibly the best implementation of the tech I’ve experienced thus far, and it’s genuinely efficient in the real world based on our time with the A3 35 TFSI.
Performance feels unhindered despite the added weight of the electrical components and battery, and the system makes the drive experience almost seamless in everyday commuting.
Audi says the new mild-hybrid system uses vehicle sensors to know when to turn the engine off or on, and it’s now able to coast when you’re creeping in traffic rather than firing up the petrol engine once you lift off the brake pedal.
It seems to know what you want, when you want it, which in previous cases wasn’t necessarily the case. Seeing the stop/start display in the digital instruments was so interesting, and refinement is so good you rarely notice when the engine is off or on.
While it offers effortless performance, the 35 TFSI’s 110kW and 250Nm mean it’s not quite as fast as the Sportback’s chunky design and 19-inch alloys might suggest. Sure, Audi quotes a respectable 0-100 time of 8.4 seconds but for those obsessed with on-paper acceleration times it may not be enough.
Peak torque is on tap from just 1500rpm and sticks around through to 3500rpm, so you have this effortless wave to ride. This car is best driven in a measured manner as designed.
It’s very smooth in operation whether you’re in traffic or on the highway. Such is the level of engine refinement that you really notice the tyre roar entering the cabin over anything other than smooth blacktop – as is typical of entry-level premium Euros. It’s not by any means worse than its competitors, but the Mk8 Golf is more serene at a cruise.
Speaking of ‘cruise’, the standard cruise control system takes away from the luxury experience. I’d definitely be ticking the box for the Comfort package ($2600) to get the excellent adaptive cruise assist function that basically enables Level 2 semi-autonomous highway driving.
It’s also worth noting the blind-spot monitoring and rear-cross traffic alert functions fitted as standard to our test car are not currently available for new orders, and will bring a further discount ($TBA) if you order a vehicle today. That’s a shame because the added safety net of these features is always good to have, whether you think you need them or not.
Ride and handling is pretty well balanced as you’d expect, with a taut chassis bringing tight body control and an almost sporty balance in corners, though a level of give in the suspension that irons out the lumps and bumps of city driving nicely – even on the optional 19-inch wheels seen here.
I personally am quite a fan of Audi’s lighter, more fluid steering feel for its non-performance models, though keener drivers may go as far to say it feels numb or disconnected. This is a comfort-focused premium product, after all.
We didn’t try the sportier 40 TFSI quattro S line models at launch, so we’ll have to wait until we get them through the CarExpert garage to make further critique.
As of January 1, 2022, Audi Australia covers all its vehicles with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty – including S, RS an e-tron models.
There’s also five years warranty cover for body and paintwork, as well as 12 years of bodywork corrosion cover.
Scheduled maintenance can be covered by an Audi Genuine Care Service Plan, which spans five years or 75,000km – whichever comes first. For both 35 TFSI and 40 TFSI versions of the A3, the package is advertised for $2250.
As for fuel consumption, the A3 35 TFSI’s trick 48V mild-hybrid system really did the hard yards. Over a mix of busy urban, highway and freeway driving – with plenty of stop/start traffic and varying speed limits – the A3 was showing an indicated figure of 5.7L/100km, though we did see it dip closer to 5.0L/100km throughout our drive.
My recent test of the current Toyota Corolla Hybrid yielded an indicated figure of 5.1L/100km, so it’s incredible the Audi managed to get within breathing distance of a proper hybrid system while offering better performance and refinement.
The key to the A3’s success is its consistency. It’s classy, comfortable, composed, and pretty well equipped from the base level.
We’re very impressed by the new 48V mild-hybrid powertrain in the entry-level 35 TFSI that has long been forbidden fruit across the wider VW Group. The real-world efficiency is surprisingly good, almost Corolla Hybrid good, and its refinement and user-friendliness even more so.
It’s just a shame that these developments have come at the cost of material quality in the cabin, and in the case of our tester, insulation from road noise. I’d be interested to try an A3 on smaller 18-inch wheels, but it shouldn’t make that much of a difference unless it’s a completely different tyre compound.
The A3 Sportback 35 TFSI is probably all the premium small car anyone could ever need. It doesn’t change the game in any given area but it’s so good in just about every measure that it’s an excellent compact all-rounder.
I’d recommend ticking the Comfort package option so you get adaptive cruise control and electric seats, because you then aren’t really left wanting for spec and the list price stays under $50,000.
Even better, it’s not much more expensive than most high-spec mainstream-branded alternatives, including the related Golf, meaning if you’re looking for a nicer daily runabout a premium German badge isn’t out of reach.
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