Open gallery Close by Matt Prior 24 November 2021 Follow @matty_prior Share
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Since its introduction in 1999, the Audi A3 has been the conservative and consistent, if somewhat predictable, option in the premium family hatchback class. Now into its fourth generation, there’s no longer a three-door body, but to compensate, the designers have delivered a more appealing design for the five-door Sportback version.
Just like its new-generation Seat Leon, Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Golf relations, the new A3 uses an evolution of the Volkswagen Group’s ubiquitous MQB platform, with enhancements to accommodate a wider spread of powertrain options that will include mild hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants.
Anyone stepping out of the relatively minimalist cabin of the previous A3 and into this new one will be in for a shock, albeit mostly a pleasant one.Autocar
Three main specifications will make up the A3 offering: Sport, Technik and S line, with each receiving subtle exterior styling differences. In the case of Technik and S line, the headlights feature a small panel of 15 LEDs that provides different light signatures for each version to give greater visual differentiation. Audi distinguishes the S line exterior further with larger honeycomb structures for the side vents and the three Quattro-inspired (blanked-off) slots in the front of the bonnet. Higher-spec Edition 1 and Vorsprung versions will arrive after the start of sales.
Anyone stepping out of the relatively minimalist cabin of the previous A3 and into this new one will be in for a shock, albeit mostly a pleasant one. There is a wider variety of materials and a dashboard that is, to a degree, split in two, with a more driver-focused design.
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Every A3 will come with a 10.25in digital instrument display as standard, with Audi offering a larger 12.3in version (as already featured in several of its other models) as an optional upgrade. There’s also a 10.1in touchscreen that runs Audi’s latest MIB3 infotainment system. Smartphone mirroring for Android and Apple devices is available, although not wirelessly at launch. Usefully, there are both USB-A and USB-C ports in the centre console and an angled wireless device charging pad.
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As in other smaller models in the Audi range, there isn’t a secondary touchscreen for the climate control settings. Instead, there’s a small cluster in the lower section of the dashboard with easy-to-reach physical buttons that make frequent adjustments possible without glancing away from the road. This is the preferable set-up in our opinion.
The A3’s seats are also new and, in a bid to improve its environmental credentials, Audi now uses materials for the inlays that are manufactured from recycled PET bottles. According to the company, each A3 uses 45 discarded 1.5-litre plastic bottles in every set of seats with the new material.
Aside from that, there’s 6mm more elbow room in the front and 3mm more in the rear, thanks to an increase in the car’s width. A 7mm increase in front head room and 2mm more shoulder room are also welcome, if small, improvements.
The boot capacity of the A3 remains the same as in the previous generation, at 380 litres, and this increases to 1200 litres when the rear seats are folded forward. From Sport specification up, these are split 40:20:40, rather than 40:60.
How does the new A3 Sportback perform on the road?
Audi hasn’t enjoyed a stellar reputation for giving its cars involving steering feel, but while the A3 isn’t pitched as the last bastion of engaging dynamics, most buyers will likely have no cause for complaint.
All of the models we drove came equipped with Audi’s optional Progressive Steering, which uses a variable ratio rack. This makes the steering more direct the more you turn the wheel, which is great for parking, because you can get from lock to lock speedily, but it also makes the A3 feel incredibly biddable when attacking a sequence of especially tight corners. The variable ratio allows this without making the steering overly sensitive at or near the straight-ahead position. It’s a worthwhile upgrade no matter where you spend most of your time driving. Incidentally, the standard power steering system is electromechanical with speed-sensitive assistance.