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2016 Audi A3: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader January 2016

The 2016 Audi A3 is a luxury car that just happens to be built as a compact. It follows the still relatively new path of high-end appointments in a small footprint. Quality is therefore excellent both inside and out, and design takes a prominent role -- so does refinement. One year on from its launch, this generation of the Audi A3 has expanded to include sedan, cabriolet and now hatchback body styles.

What's New for 2016?

Even the entry-level trim now has a rearview camera and parking sensors as standard, along with heated side mirrors and washer nozzles. An S-line cosmetic package joins the options list. The Advanced Technology package, which includes adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance and forward-collision mitigation, is now standard in the Premium Plus trim.

The big development for 2016, however, is the introduction of the A3 Sportback e-tron. This is the hatchback model referred to earlier that comes solely as a plug-in hybrid using a lithium-ion battery. Clever packaging means interior space doesn't suffer from having to accommodate the extra hardware.

In the wake of the VW diesel debacle, there's no TDI version this year.

What We Like

Overall premium feel; satisfying driving experience; leather and panoramic sunroof come standard in the sedan

What We Don't

Small trunk; dashboard seems sparse; adding a few options can quickly push the bottom line of even an entry-level trim into the $40,000 region

How Much?

$31,825-$40,525 (including destination)

Fuel Economy

The 1.8T uses a turbocharged 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine producing 170 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque. This unit is only available in front-wheel-drive versions. It's rated by the Environmental Protection Agency at 23 miles per gallon in the city, 33 mpg on the highway and 27 mpg combined. The cabriolet version fares better: 24 mpg city/35 mpg hwy and 28 mpg combined.

The 2.0T model comes with quattro all-wheel drive as standard, and its turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine kicks out 220 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy estimates for the sedan are 24 mpg city/33 mpg hwy, good for 27 mpg combined; the cabriolet achieves 23 mpg city/32 mpg hwy and 26 mpg combined.

The front-drive-only Sportback e-tron uses a 1.4-liter turbocharged gasoline engine and an electric motor for a combined output of 204 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. With a range of up to 17 miles in all-electric mode, there's potentially the equivalent of 83 miles per gallon equivalent. The battery recharges fully in 2.5 hours at 240 volts, and with a tankful of gas, total range is around 500 miles.

Every A3 employs a 6-speed transmission. Technically speaking, it's a dual-clutch setup, but it acts like a regular automatic.

Standard Features & Options

The 2016 Audi A3 sedan comes in 1.8T or 2.0T form. Each can be ordered in Premium, Premium Plus or Prestige trim.

The 1.8T Premium ($31,825) includes leather, a 12-way power adjustable driver's seat, xenon headlights with LED running daytime lights and 60/40-split folding rear seats.

Stepping up to the 1.8T Premium Plus ($34,525) adds an Interior Trim package with aluminum accents, keyless starting, dual-zone climate control, heated seats, 18-inch alloy wheels and the Technology package with active lane assist and adaptive cruise control.

The 1.8T Prestige ($40,675) trim comes with full LED headlights, a 14-speaker/705-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system, navigation, Audi MMI with gesture control and exterior appearance add-ons.

Move up to the 2.0T Premium ($35,125), and the same equipment as the 1.8T accompanies the more powerful engine and quattro all-wheel drive. This formula is retained for the 2.0T Premium Plus ($37,825) and 2.0T Prestige ($43,975).

Extras include: a Sport package with more aggressively bolstered seats, Audi drive select (for sportier or more comfortable settings) and paddle shifters ($800); rear-passenger thorax-side airbags ($350); and an S-line package of special front and rear bumpers, side skirts and badging ($800).

Bear in mind the Sportback e-tron ($38,825) is eligible for federal and state tax incentives, which offset the retail price. It comes as its own well-appointed trim level that includes Audi drive select and model-specific ultra-low-rolling resistance tires. Adaptive cruise control and active lane-keeping assistance are optional here.

Safety

In the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash-test program, the A3 sedan took a maximum five stars overall: four stars for frontal-impact protection and five for side-impact performance. The car was also named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, with maximum scores across the board.

Behind the Wheel

Despite a compact interior, the A3 feels well-proportioned and has sufficient rear space to encourage longer drives with four occupants, largely thanks to a conventional C-pillar that deliberately avoids the coupe-wannabe look that's the current trend.

The 1.8T has sufficient punch for most situations involving freeway driving and passing maneuvers, although the engine sometimes feels like it's working too hard. The 2.0T is far more satisfying and energetic. Aided by all-wheel drive, it handles curves with strong grip and confident direction changes. Body control in general is excellent, resisting lean through the bends. Extensive use of aluminum helps keep a check on curb weight, bringing benefits in acceleration along with handling. The 1.8T can hit 60 miles per hour from a standstill in 7.2 seconds; the 2.0T only takes 5.8 seconds.

The Sportback e-tron is actually just as much fun as any other A3. There's no punishment here for saving fuel. The soft-top Cabriolet, meanwhile, can still seat four, but accommodation in the back is limited by the requirement of space for stowing the folded roof. On the plus side, all it takes is the push of a button to operate the hood at speeds of up to 31 mph, and the operation is completed 18 seconds later.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Acura ILX -- The ILX is refreshed for 2016. It offers generous standard equipment, but it's hard to shake the idea that this is really just a posh Honda Civic.

2016 BMW 228i -- The 228i is a compelling little coupe or convertible, although it starts at a higher price of $33,845.

2016 Mercedes-Benz CLA -- The CLA is still fresh and stylish -- and the cheapest way to own a new Benz.

Used BMW 3 Series -- Yes, this is often cited as a great used alternative; that's because it is! For the price of a new A3, a recent certified pre-owned 3 Series offers more space, a ton of driving fun and just as much Euro-style status.

Autotrader's Advice

The e-tron and soft-top Cabriolet models have their own particular sets of attractive traits. When considering the regular sedan, there's no reason not to go for the 2.0T if budget allows. It brings a livelier experience and the reassurance of all-wheel drive, and it doesn't involve a penalty in fuel consumption. The $37,825 Premium Plus package won't break the bank yet still offers a useful amount of features.

Find an Audi A3 for sale

RELATED INVENTORY
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Certified 2016 Audi A3 1.8T Premium Sedan
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Used 2016 Audi A3 2.0T Premium quattro Sedan
Used 2016 Audi A3
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Used 2016 Audi A3 2.0T Premium quattro Sedan
Used 2016 Audi A3
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Used 2016 Audi A3 2.0T Premium Plus quattro Sdn
Used 2016 Audi A3
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Audi A3: New Car Review - Autotrader