As a bestseller in the premium hatchback class for over two decades, the Audi A3 has certainly found favour with UK car buyers. For 2020, the latest A3 has undergone a futuristic hi-tech makeover to stay competitive against the BMW 1 Series, Mercedes A-Class and the new Volkswagen Golf.
The fourth-generation A3 will only be available as a five-door Sportback and a four-door saloon. It’s undergone a striking redesign, with wider side flanks and several design tweaks, including changes to the lights and styling depending on the trim level you choose. The Audi A3 35 TFSI Sport we’ve tested here is likely to be the sweet spot in the range, boasting a decent amount of standard kit for a starting price of £26,925.
The latest A3 is built on the VW Group’s MQB platform, which also underpins the new Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Golf. The new A3 has a wider track (the distance between the driver and passenger side wheels) and is slightly wider and longer too. As a result, there is now more headroom and legroom inside than the old car. Boot space remains unchanged at 380 litres with the rear seats in place and 1,200 litres with them folded flat.
From the driver’s seat, the interior of the new A3 has been thoroughly modernised with a futuristic design. All of the important displays and controls are angled towards the driver, with Audi’s 10.25-inch Audi’s Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster fitted as standard (a larger 12.5-inch version is on the options list) alongside a dash-mounted 10.1-inch infotainment touchscreen. Together with the angular design of the dashboard, the interior has a very modern feel.
Our test car was equipped with Audi’s S tronic seven-speed automatic gearbox, which is controlled by a toggle switch rather than a traditional gearstick, adding more space on the centre console for a cleaner look.
As with all recent Audi models, the naming of the A3 35 TFSI gives few clues as to what’s under the bonnet, with this car getting a turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol engine producing 148bhp. It features smart fuel-saving technology that allows it to run using only two cylinders when cruising.
New for this generation is mild-hybrid assistance. A 48-volt electrical system allows the car to coast with the engine switched off for short distances, while harvesting energy when slowing down. The stop/start hardware has been tweaked too, making the restart of the engine less noticeable and smoother. However, the addition of this tech gives the brake pedal a distinct lack of feel over when compared to an A3 without it.
To drive, the A3 35 TFSI is refined and relaxing. This petrole engine gets the A3 from 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds, making it swift enough for accelerating up to speed on faster roads and flexible at lower speeds.
The engine promises fuel economy of up to 48.7mpg, which is only bettered by the diesel 35 TDI, which is capable of up to 60mpg. While the diesel engine offers the same 0-62mph time, it’s nosier and less smooth than the petrol engine. Add to this that it costs around £2,000 more to buy and it’s difficult to justify unless you intend on covering a higher number of miles each year.
Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive doesn’t feel necessary either, as the front-wheel drive chassis gives the car plenty of grip and a composed feel when cornering. Turn-in is precise, with the car’s multi-link rear suspension helping to keep body roll to a minimum in faster corners.
During urban driving, the optional Progressive Steering setup requires fewer turns from lock to lock at low speed, making the car easy to maneuver in tight spaces. Our test car was fitted with standard suspension, which offers an excellent level of refinement on the majority of road surfaces. Buyers can opt for upgraded adaptive suspension, which has been improved over previous versions, but given the quality of the standard setup, it’s no longer a must-have option.
Verdict – 4/5
The new A3 35 TFSI has succeeded in retaining all of the elements that made the outgoing model a hit with buyers. The bold redesign makes it look more distinctive than its nearest rivals, with the high-quality interior and new technology representing a huge leap forward. It’s well equipped, and the slick driving experience is perfectly in keeping with Audi’s upmarket image.