If you’re looking for information on a newer Audi A3, we’ve published an updated review: 2019 Audi A3 Review
The 2018 Audi A3 features all the usual Audi goodness, but in a smaller package. Cool design inside and out, confident dynamics and high-quality build and materials are the hallmarks of this sedan and cabriolet (convertible), despite its status as the company’s entry-level model. The A3 is one of the best in its class.
There’s a plug-in hybrid hatchback version, the E-tron (reviewed separately), a hot S3 sedan (also reviewed separately) and the 2018 model year sees an even hotter RS3 sedan (which has its own review as well).
What’s New for 2018?
Every version receives heated front seats and a pair of USB ports as standard. Blind spot monitoring joins the Premium Plus trim’s equipment list. The optional Technology package now includes a Bang & Olufsen audio system, navigation and the Virtual Cockpit configurable driver’s information display. See the 2018 Audi A3 models for sale near you
What We Like
Overall premium feel; satisfying driving experience; respectable fuel consumption; impressive crash test performance; panoramic sunroof (for the sedan) and leather come as standard
What We Don’t
Small trunk; dashboard seems sparse; options are pricey
The basic 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine is found in front-wheel-drive versions. It produces 186 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque and is linked to a 7-speed dual-clutch (automated manual) transmission. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel consumption at 26 miles per gallon city, 35 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined. The cabriolet version achieves 25 mpg city/33 mpg hwy/28 mpg combined.
Quattro all-wheel-drive versions have a more powerful turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder engine that develops 220 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The transmission here is a 6-speed dual-clutch unit and the EPA rating is 24 mpg city/31 mpg hwy/27 mpg combined for the sedan, or 22 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/25 combined mpg for the cabriolet.
Both engines have a stop/start feature.
Standard Features & Options
The 2018 Audi A3 comes in Premium, Premium Plus or Prestige trims. Adding all-wheel drive and the more powerful engine costs around $3,000.
The 2.0T Premium ($32,925) has leather seating surfaces, 17-inch alloy wheels, panoramic sunroof (sedan only; the cabriolet has a power-folding fabric roof), 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, xenon headlights with LED running daytime lights and LED taillights, 60/40 split/folding rear seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, parking sensors front and rear, rearview camera, rain-sensing wipers, heated mirrors, 7-in screen for the Multi-Media Interface (MMI), two USB ports, SD card slot, Bluetooth and HD/satellite radio. The sedan has a 10-speaker audio system; the cabriolet has a 9-speaker setup.
Premium Plus ($36,175) adds 18-in alloy wheels, keyless entry/start, 8-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, self-dimming rearview mirror, blind spot monitoring, and the "S line" cosmetic package.
The Premium Plus trim level is eligible for an optional Technology package that brings active lane assist, adaptive cruise control, navigation, Audi’s Virtual Cockpit (a 12.3-in configurable LCD screen replacing the traditional the instrument cluster), and a Bang & Olufsen audio upgrade.
Prestige ($41,675) comes with the Technology package as standard. The sedan receives a 14-speaker/705-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system, while the cabriolet has a 13-speaker/625-watt setup. Other equipment includes full LED headlights with automatic high beams, power-folding side mirrors with auto-dimming on the driver’s side, 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot and gesture control for the infotainment system.
The front-drive cabriolet‘s prices range from $39,325-47,775.
A Sport package contains sport seats, Audi Drive Select (separate driving modes from Comfort to Sport) and a flat-bottomed steering wheel with paddle shifters. A lowered sport suspension and rear-passenger thorax/side airbags are also available.
The sedan’s trunk space measures 12.3 cu ft., although the all-wheel-drive hardware knocks that down to 10 cu ft. That’s still easily enough for a couple of golf bags. The cabriolet offers 9.9 cu ft. with the roof up, or 7.1 cu ft. when it’s folded away.
Thanks to its chassis and airbag setup (which includes knee airbags for the front occupants, plus side airbags with inflatable curtains), the A3 sedan earned a Top Safety Pick Plus accolade from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), with top scores of "Good" across the board.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the sedan a maximum five stars overall, with four stars for front impact protection, five for side impacts, and four in the rollover test. The cabriolet has not been crash tested.
Behind the Wheel
Although its interior comes across as somewhat small, the A3 sedan feels well proportioned and has sufficient rear room to encourage prolonged drives with four passengers, largely thanks to the car’s more conventional C-pillar, which doesn’t emulate the coupe-like look currently in fashion.
Extensive use of aluminum helps keep a check on weight, so acceleration and handling benefit significantly. When enhanced by all-wheel drive, the A3 tackles twisty roads with strong grip and precise changes of direction. Body control is excellent, making the A3 feel as capable of attacking a curvy canyon road as a sports car.
The soft-top cabriolet seats four (as opposed to the sedan’s five), but accommodation in the back is limited by needing somewhere to stow the folded roof. When the roof is up, it does a good job of keeping noise at civilized levels.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Acura ILX — Hard to shake the idea that this is really just a posh Honda Civic.
2018 BMW 230i — BMW has a compelling package with its 2 Series, although this coupe starts at a higher price than the A3 and becomes even pricier with the M240i.
2018 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class — Stylish and still the least expensive way to own a new Benz.
Used BMW 3 Series — For the cost of a new A3, a recent certified pre-owned (CPO) 3 Series offers more space, plenty of driving fun and just as much Euro-style status.
Fans of open-top motoring only have to consider how much they would like to spend, and whether they need the extra power that comes with all-wheel drive. For the sedan, a Premium Plus with the Technology package offers plenty of features while keeping the bottom line in some kind of check. Bang & Olufsen audio and that cool Virtual Cockpit should not be missed.