By on December 10, 2014

A3 front headlight detail

Three years ago, I posed the question of what you’d do if your car was consumed in a natural disaster and your insurance settlement allowed you to get a brand new version of the same car. Back then, the question was about whether I’d replace our 2005 Acura TL with a 2012 edition. Now, the question concerns whether I’d replace our 2008 Audi A3 with the 2015 Audi A3.

You see, my wife and I have a lovely 2008 A3 3.2 (reviewed by our own Robert Farago in 2006) and it’s been reliable and fun to drive, even over the craptastic roads around our house (two nearby are on a recent top-ten list of worst streets in Houston). There’s a recent problem with the idle, though. Normally it purrs quietly at 600rpm, but it will occasionally decide to crank up to 1300rpm, wherein the whole car vibrates like crazy. I took it to the dealer, for the second time, in attempt to get it fixed (FWIW, it’s still not fixed). So what did they give me as a loaner? A brand new 2015 A3. So far as I can tell, it’s close to the bottom-of-the-line base $30k “Premium” model with the 1.8 liter turbo and FWD, although it does have the $1900 über traffic-aware nav system option which lets you doodle the letters in on the MMI knob. Also, this car seems to have the “cold weather package” ($500) and “aluminum style package” ($450).

"aluminum style" package

Interior / telematics: The first thing you notice is that the new A3, like all Audis, has a very refined interior. Nice leather seats. It’s a comfortable place to drive, although there are So. Many. Buttons. You see those two toggle switches above the central spinner thing? Those pick the main infotainment operating mode (nav, phone, media, radio), then the spinner thing lets you make your choices with all the UI simplicity of Atari Tempest. The four buttons next to the spinner correspond to additional options presented in the four corners of the pop-up screen. You can select things by pressing the spinner and you’ve got further a menu button and a back button below it! Everybody remember when Steve Jobs said the Mac had only one button on the mouse so you’d be unlikely to ever press the wrong button? Yeah, that’s the problem we’re talking about here.

shift knob and MMI controller

How about taking a phone call? Luckily, from my older Audi, I just happened to know that you can answer and hang up the phone by clicking the unlabeled left scroll-wheel on the steering wheel. Yes, it clicks in. You might naïvely think that you answer the phone by pressing the “talk”-looking button on the right side of the wheel. Dummkopf! No, too obvious. Also, check out all those other steering wheel buttons. So. Many. Buttons.

steering wheel detail

I used the nav to get to across town to a restaurant. The nav computer didn’t know the name of the restaurant, which has been there for well over a year. Instead, I entered the numbers and letters of the address by spinning the wheel and doodling with my finger on top of the spinner. (It’s unclear there’s much of a speed advantage either way, particularly with the non-trivial error rate on the gesture recognition.) Voice input? Not for general-purpose addresses or points of interest, although it apparently can connect to your personal address book. Rant: all of this just totally embarrassing. Dear car manufacturers: please just let Apple and Google do the job properly (via CarPlay and Android Auto, respectively). Buyers: wait a couple months until the auto manufacturers properly support this stuff, as they’ve claimed they’d do in the 2015 model year.

entering digits into the navnavigation display

So, the A3 is a technological usability disaster area, but does it at least do its job once you figure it out? The stereo system, Audi’s base model, so far as I can tell, is leaps and bounds better than our 2008 A3’s optional uprated Bose-branded system. (Friends don’t let friends buy Bose. Or Monster Cable. But I digress.) The 2008 A3 is tolerable for listening to NPR, but a polyphonic muddle for music. In contrast, the 2015 A3 is seriously good: strong bass that differentiates well across different frequencies. Tight, clear treble. Bluetooth Audio works properly, including some (but strangely not all) album art. And who really cares that there’s no CD player in the dash? (Incidentally, I recently rented a Buick LaCrosse, which also had a kick-ass stereo. I don’t know if this is a new industry-wide trend, but I strongly support it.) Summary: the A3 now has a quality sound system. No Bose about it.

Music display

Option-wise, the base A3 is missing a lot of things you might want or expect from a luxury car. Notably absent from this A3 (here sorted in order from “come on, really?” to “would be nice”): automatic climate control, memory seats, automatic-dimming rear-view mirror, HomeLink garage door opener, power passenger seat, rear-view camera, keyless entry/ignition, parking sensors, blind-spot warning, or adaptive cruise control. Some of that is available as options on the more expensive A3 models. At least the rear seats fold down so you can get some cargo utility, and all A3’s seem to include automatic headlights and rain-sensing wipers. (Curious note: Audi’s web site claims that “dual zone automatic climate control” is included in the base model. This particularly A3 proves that statement false.)

HVAC controls

Driving: I’m now deep into this essay and haven’t said anything about how the A3 drives. Based on not nearly enough time to really push it, I’d say: not bad. It’s got the stereotypical Teutonic stiff suspension, where you feel all the bumps but the sharp edges have been shaved off. The engine is zippy and there’s no noticeable torque steer, although there’s a definite lag while the transmission ponders whether it wants to shift gears when you stomp on the gas. (You can move the shift gate to the right and have block-rocking instantaneous DSG manual shifts. There are no flappy paddles on the base-model A3.) For contrast, our A3 3.2 performs much better when you leave it in drive. It’s not that it has any less lag, but rather than it has a whole lot more torque. Shrink the engine down and you have to shift more often.

The brakes are strong but way too grippy, requiring a super-sensitive touch to avoid jerking your passengers around in stop-and-go traffic. Likewise, Audi probably needs to tweak the DSG’s computer to smooth out low-speed launches. (Our 2008 A3, when it was new, just desperately wanted to dump the clutch into first gear with even the slightest amount of gas, which was just unacceptable. They did a software upgrade on the transmission after a year or two and it’s been smooth as silk ever since.)

steering wheel at night

Mileage: in stop-and-go traffic around town, I was seeing 15-20mpg, which is roughly in line with most other cars I’ve tested or owned. However, I had some spare time on Saturday morning so I took it for a spin on mostly empty freeways, sticking to the right and going with the flow. As you can see from the photo, this yielded an astonishing 37.4mpg (indicated) over the course of a 28-ish mile drive (of which maybe one mile was on surface roads before I got on the freeway). Compare those numbers to the EPA estimates (23 city / 33 highway) and make of it what you will. I’m impressed.

37.4 mpg!

37.4 mpg!

Overall: Should you buy a totally stripped out A3? At that price point, you’re right in the thick of well-optioned standard sedans (e.g., Camry, Accord, Altima, Mazda 6) as well as entry-level luxury competition from other manufacturers  (e.g., Acura TLX or the aforementioned Buick LaCrosse). I hate to end with a cop-out, but it’s really hard to say that there’s any one winner at the $30k price point for four-door performance sedans. Too many shadows, whispering voices. Cars on web sites, too many choices. That said, if my 2008 A3 was consumed by Godzilla and I was looking to get a good replacement for it tomorrow, I’d be looking primarily at the Volvo V60, the Volkswagen GTI, or the replacement A3 hatchback when it finally comes back to the U.S. market.

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109 Comments on “Loaner Car Review: 2015 Audi A3 (1.8T)...”


  • avatar
    cartunez

    Nice Pet Shop Boys reference great review.

    • 0 avatar
      tremorcontrol

      +1 on both counts.
      I’d say Volvo V60 if had to buy today but do agree about waiting for CarPlay and Android Car.

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        Really want to like the V60, and I’ve driven it a few times now. My two biggest gripes with the V60 are the relatively high levels of noise in the cabin, especially on the freeway, and the price. While a stripped V60 would compare a bit better in this sample, even a lightly optioned FWD model is pushing $40k. I just can’t justify it.

        • 0 avatar
          tariqv

          The v60 is a pretty silent cruiser IMO, maybe the car you tested had the optional 19″ wheels, which should increase road noise significantly. The v60 is one step above the A3 and more of a competiotor to the A4; plus the 40K car you built should be loaded compared to this bare standard A3.

          • 0 avatar
            hreardon

            Yeah, Tariqv, I found the V60 to be ‘okay’ acoustically, but the $39k V60 I drove had more road and wind noise than the A3 and the recent allroads I’ve driven.

            If between a V60 and a CPO’d allroad, I’d take the allroad everyday of the week.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    I absolutely agree on the Bose. For some reason they have a consumer following, but it is just not a good system. I think car companies (as a whole) are making great strides in quality systems.

    • 0 avatar
      319583076

      Bose is garbage – but they’ve aggressively marketed, so their name is associated with “premium audio” and most people accept that. This strategy has worked well with all sorts of products.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Amazing the power of Marketing. Bose: no highs no lows;Bose blows. The system in my Altima makes acoustic mincemeat of the Bose system in my C7.

      • 0 avatar
        Andy

        Word. Like, for example, when people buy A3s instead of Jettas or Golfs…

        • 0 avatar
          hreardon

          Yeah, yeah. We’ve heard this one before. My ’06 A3 2.0T has been a great car, and when I purchased it in 2005 it was far superior to anything VW offered.

          Heck, the service experience alone at my Audi dealer as compared to most VW shops is worth the premium on its own.

          I’m with the author, however – when my A3 gets replaced next year it more than likely will be with a new GTI. I have driven the new A3 extensively and while it’s a nice package, it’s very sterile. The GTI just begs to be driven.

          The new GTI also gets the trick adaptive suspension, which when you’ve got craptastic roads like I do, is worth every penny.

          I don’t necessarily need/want a wagon – I find the A3 sedan to be very handsome, if not a bit boring, but the GTI feels and looks like that middle-aged former punk rocker: he may be wearing a suit now, but he still has the tats from his hooligan days.

    • 0 avatar

      The secret to Bose’s following is the commercials. If you watch one, you somehow feel like you have just read a positive review. It’s really weird. Dyson does exactly the same thing, with their vacuums, and especially with their $200+ “blade-less” (it has a blade) fan, which puts out less air than a 16 dollar box fan, and makes a higher pitched noise.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Except that the Dyson corded machines actually work very well, last a long time, and have great design features….if Bose was vacuum it wouldn’t even be a Shark.

        • 0 avatar
          raresleeper

          @golden2husky:

          Talk to your friends at Sewing and Vacuum/vacuum repair shops about Dyson repairs.

          I wouldn’t recommend a Dyson to my worst enemy, lol

          • 0 avatar
            energetik9

            I can only speak from personal experience. I have two Dysons. Love em. My corded Dyson I’ve had for 5 years. The amount of pet hair that things pulls from the carpet is amazing and it pulls significantly more than my hoover did. I don’t think I’ve ever in my life had to repair a vacuum.

          • 0 avatar
            raresleeper

            I work for a company that manufactures sewing machines, floor care equipment (residential and commercial), ceiling fans, I could go on.

            I handle all the accounts receivable for a large territory across the United States, many of my customers are vacuum cleaner dealers/repairmen.

            An overwhelmingly large portion of them label Dysons as junk. The repairs are A.) never cheap and B.) numerous.

            When my dealers business is slow, they can always count on Dyson repairs to keep them busy, lol.

            Dyson is kind of like buying a VW car, if you will. Its a pleasure to use, but just wait until it breaks.

            That completes today’s segment of TTAV, The Truth About Vacuums.

        • 0 avatar
          guardian452

          I really like every bose 901 system I’ve heard. They are different, but in a good way. I wouldn’t trade my focal speakers for them, but if I could afford the money and space I would have both.

          If you are talking about the cheapo $300 stereos from target with the bose badge or equally inexpensive headphones, or anything put in a car, then, that is something different. You get what you pay for.

          • 0 avatar
            Sixray

            I have an $30 “Stinger” shop vac from the Home Depot, I got an $4 extension attachment for it off of Amazon and it has successfully tackled horrific messes that would kill a fancy $600 vacuum in a heartbeat. (wet spent grain from brewing comes to mind.)

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        +1 to the Bose blows commentaries. I’m interested in the Dyson comparison, though, because my wife is *convinced* we need to mortgage our house in order to buy one. I’m not buying it, but am curious as to what others think (not to threadjack….)

        • 0 avatar
          raresleeper

          I work for a company that manufactures and distributes commercial and residential floor care equipment (along with sewing machines, sewing notions, ceiling fans, among others).

          I handle receivables across a large territory of the United States, many of my (long time) customers being vacuum dealers/repairmen.

          An overwhelmingly large portion of my dealers label them as junk. When their business slows, there’s always Dyson repairs that help keep them afloat, and they are always costly.

          Yea, Dysons are neat. People love using them. But I wouldn’t touch one with a ten foot pole.

          Get yourself a Simplicity of Riccar upright with its Tandem Air Technology and lifelong belt guarantee. You’ll get years of use out of it. We just brought the Maytag Vacuums back out to market, as well, which are essentially the same as Riccar/Simplicity.

          That concludes today’s segment of TTAV (The Truth About Vacuums).

        • 0 avatar
          raresleeper

          Ok, I’ve had two comments eaten, so I will keep it short.

          Avoid Dyson (junk). Get yourself a Simplicity or Riccar (upright or canister) and spare yourself the headaches of costly repairs down the line.

          The Riccar/Simplicity (and now Maytag, just brought them back to market) have lifelong belt guarantees and tandem air technology. All of them are assembled in Missouri, as well. Can’t go wrong.

          Sorry folks, I’m in the industry. lol

          • 0 avatar
            raresleeper

            Hey moderator, is there a way we can keep previously eaten posts from re-appearing?

            Just doing my part to avoid the cluster f***.

            Many thanks, many thanks.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            You’re a vacuum salesman!? Are you the old Oreck XL man!

          • 0 avatar
            raresleeper

            Lol, no, no. Not a salesman.

            Accounting. But we all upsell.

            And Jesus, all of the comments that previously disappeared now come back all at once.

            Smh.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Yeah right after I asked the question you’d already answered, EVERYTHING showed back up. lol

        • 0 avatar
          MBella

          Having used two Dyson knock-offs, (Hoover and Eureka) and an actual Dyson, I can say they are all junk. They share the same flawed concept. If you actually use it for a whole bunch of vacuuming they are very tiresome. The best one out of the bunch was the Hoover. It was also about 5 years older than the Eureka and Dyson. When I looked at the new Hoovers they seemed to be more inline with the Eureka. The old Hoover worked well, but you had to constantly empty out the container. There is a mark on the top off all the canisters of all these bagless vacuums where if dirt in the cyclone gets above you have to empty it. This never takes long. If you don’t, it all the little passages clog up very quickly and you need to take it apart and clean it. (I used to use a shop vac to clean the Hoover) The passages will clog up after some use anyway, even after emptying it out constantly. I used to spend more time emptying the damn thing then actual vacuuming. Finally after about five years, a pulley for the brush broke that you could not buy. I went to the store, and the new Hoover seemed cheaply made, and very similar in quality to the the Eurekas. So I bought the best Eureka they had because It seemed like it wouldn’t make a difference. The Eureka had all the drawbacks of my old old Hoover. However after a couple hours of use, it started making noises, and then the belt broke. I returned it and bought a Dyson, listening to all the “no loss of suction” ads. The Dyson worked like all the others. Same drawbacks. It seemed very similar to the old Hoover, (The Hoover was a complete knock off and it was even advertised as such on the box when I bought it) For the price though, I did not see where the money was going. I was fed up with all the constant emptying. I went on Amazon, and bought an Oreck XL. That thing has been great, everything is heavy duty. You can see why Hotels use these. The suction feels stronger than the bagless ones. With the bag, you can fill it up until the bag is about to pop. Then you throw it away. You are never transferring dust from one container to the other leaving a dust cloud in your area. Forget the bagless crap, and get a real vacuum with a bag.

          • 0 avatar
            Carlson Fan

            No thanks on a vacuum with a bag. I agree the flying dust when emptying is a pain which is why I do it on the garage.

            We liked our original Dyson so well we bought a second for the cabin. Bought a cheaper one at first but got rid of it because it just didn’t have the suction of the Dyson. Both of ours are around 10 ten years old. The amount of dirt those Dysons pull out of the carpet is amazing. No doubt with a Dyson your paying for the name but I have no complaints with either of ours.

          • 0 avatar
            WildcatMatt

            There is a reason why I pay to maintain the 1976 Electrolux Model J which has been in my family since it was new.

    • 0 avatar
      jacob_coulter

      The flip side is I have two Lexus with “upgraded” Mark Levinson systems that are junk. Both are 2004 models.

      It’s a funny irony because Mark Levinson makes some of the best home audio equipment money can buy, you would think they would make sure they made a half decent system. Nope. You could make a better system going to Walmart and buying a few things off their shelf.

      I had a rental Mustang V6 that had a better stereo system than a flagship Lexus.

      Bose does make overpriced junk with home audio audio, but the cars I’ve been in that had “Bose” systems were actually pretty decent. Go figure.

    • 0 avatar
      Mainliner

      They’re a marketing company that sells speakers.

    • 0 avatar

      Back in the day, the Bose 901 had a following, but since then, it’s mid fi for hi fi money. If you’ve never been exposed to real sound equipment it (bose) sounds good to you. If you always played things back “flat”, then you’ll hear their equalization curve.

      No Memory seats ? At that price point ?

      Also, the climate control system is the same as on my TDi. It does work well though. I’m not a huge fan of thermostat controls as I think I still push the buttons as much as a manual system.

      Still, no memory seats ????

  • avatar
    energetik9

    Most of the reviews I’ve seen on the new A3 describe it as a good car, but low on driver engagement. Detached usually the key word. I don’t think it comes with a manual either. Any thoughts on all that? FYI, I always liked the last gen A3. If I were in this segment, I think the BMW 2 series is the closest competitor and I hear great things on the BMW M235 especially. The Merc CLA might be the other. I think TTAC needs to do a comparison soon.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      energetik9 –

      That’s pretty much it. Very nice car, nice cabin to be in, great fuel economy – but not terribly engaging. Audi knows they’re targeting up-and-coming commuters for whom creature comfort outweighs hooliganism. That’s what the GTI is for.

      You are correct on the transmission: no manual, not even in the S3. That said, Audi of America has strongly hinted that an MT6 option will be coming to the S3 next year. Rejoice!

      I’m impressed at how VW/Audi have taken their new MQB architecture and developed two cars with very distinct personalities. The A3 is very buttoned down and no-nonsense. The new GTI looks and feels grown up, but from the cockpit is light years more entertaining to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      hotdog453

      “Low on driver engagement” might as well be the motto for Audi in general. I like my 2012 S4, but even with a 6MT, it’s not exactly the most involving machine in the world.

      • 0 avatar
        raresleeper

        Did you just compare your 6MT S4 to a vehicle which you called (and I quote) “low on driver engagement”?

        Good God, man. Have a little cheese with that “whine”.

        • 0 avatar
          moorewr

          He has a point, though. Consider the competing cars, consider the numb steering and that (sweet powerful) V6T – it’s almost too good an engine.. no power peaks, no massive V8 noise.. AWD v. the rivals RWD…

  • avatar
    319583076

    I enjoyed your review, thanks.

    You said, “Notably absent from this A3 (here sorted in order from “come on, really?” to “would be nice”): automatic climate control, memory seats, automatic-dimming rear-view mirror, HomeLink garage door opener, power passenger seat, rear-view camera, keyless entry/ignition, parking sensors, blind-spot warning, or adaptive cruise control.”

    I have to ask if you meant things like automatic climate control and dimming re-view are expected on Audis, expected on premium vehicles, or expected on 2015 model cars?

    I personally loathe auto climate control and dimming rear-views along with most of the rest of the missing features list.

    • 0 avatar
      stevelovescars

      I agree, I have never found an automatic climate control system that did the job better than twisting the knobs myself. I find them annoying in that I lose control over the system or have to end up making MORE adjustments to turn down the loud fan or override it. Similarly, auto-dimming rearview mirrors often don’t dim as dark nor change quickly enough when I want them to.

      It seems like a lot of these other things are nice to have or will be mandatory soon (rearview camera for example?). Keyless entry seems like a cheap cop-out on Audi’s part. I think the last Mazda3 I tested even had that and the incremental cost to include it must be nearly zero by now.

      Blind spot warning and adaptive cruise control fall into my personal “annoying, not necessary, and not worth paying extra for” category. So, I guess I like that these features remain extra-cost options since I don’t want to pay for them if I like the basic package.

      That said, $30k for a base FWD Audi seems to also push me to other options. I think a mid-level Mazda6 with a host of options but a manual transmission has a sticker price of around $24k. That would likely be top of my list. It’s a roomy comfortable car that I found really pleasant to live with. The rest is just brand cache to me and I don’t find it worth paying for.

      • 0 avatar
        Fordson

        It has keyless entry – he just referred to “keyless entry/ignition” because it was faster than addressing the presence or absence of those features separately.

        Because on the internet, faster is better.

      • 0 avatar

        Blind Spot Warning is called ‘aspherical mirrors’. You can retrofit any car which is also sold in europe with them. My two Germans have them, and each mirror has paid for itself many times over.

        Why we seem to need ultrasonic or tiny K Band transmitters to light up a symbol on a mirror is beyond me when you can….just bend the outer corner of the mirror a bit….and stop falsing my Valentine One

        I guess it is easier to sell a $2500 option package than to get NHTSA to change the spec. Ford, at least, with the compound mirrors on the new cars, takes the right approach.

      • 0 avatar
        WildcatMatt

        Huh. The automatic climate control is one of the (many) things I loved about my ’97 Volvo 850. Back when I lived in upstate NY it was awesome to get into the car on a frosty morning and have the fan kick in automagically when the car had warmed up.

        Down here in DE it’s less of an issue but I do miss it now that it’s gone.

        • 0 avatar
          moorewr

          In Florida w/o climate control you have to endlessly mess with the controls to deal with the varying solar load. When I’m in my wife’s car or our inherited Civic I always spend a few minutes way too hot or cold until I remember I have to play thermostat.

    • 0 avatar
      energetik9

      I don’t know what auto climate systems you all have, but all three of my cars have auto climate. I love it and primarily because it is so simple. Not to be funny, but I just set the temp and never worry about the rest. I find I spend far less time adjusting with an auto system.

      Big fan of auto dimming mirrors too for that matter. Same reason, I never have to mess with it. Works great when you’re in a low sitting sports car and alomst every headlight is visible through the back window.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        I agree with energetik9. I won’t buy a car without auto climate control, and I get super-annoyed by constantly having to adjust manual systems. The auto system in my Forester isn’t great (it’s very reluctant to turn up the heat), but all the other ones I’ve ever owned or used for a long period have been flawless, starting with my ’89 Taurus SHO and continuing through my G8 GXP.

      • 0 avatar
        319583076

        I had auto climate control and auto-dimming on my 09 MS3. My GF’s MINI has auto climate control and I hate it as well. Given the control, I almost never run fans at full power. On longer drives, once the cabin temperature is adjusted for comfort – only small adjustments are required to maintain. I just don’t get the utility of the auto climate control.

        I think the MINI has the auto-dimming mirror, but it hasn’t bothered me because the back convertible window is so small, I don’t notice headlights behind me.

        Now I’m driving an MX-5 Club and it has standard climate control which I like and a manually-adjustable mirror which I adore because driving a Miata guarantees that headlights behind you are filling up the rear view.

        • 0 avatar
          Quentin

          The auto climate control in my wife’s Rav4 and her old Prius v was perfect. I pretty much never have to adjust it. On my manual systems, it always felt like there needed to be a 0.5 fan speed.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          The only time any of my auto-equipped cars ever run the fan at full power is either when I first get into a scalding car in the summer or in the special “max defrost” mode.

          “Only small adjustments” are needed to maintain, but I find they are pretty much constant. There are few low-grade annoyances I hate more than realizing I’m too cold or too hot every 5 minutes, and having to tweak a knob *again*, on a long drive in a rental car with manual controls. My G8’s auto climate control just handles it and I’m always comfortable.

        • 0 avatar
          darkwing

          Drive a few miles in a cold car on a 0 degree F day and you’ll see the utility right away.

          At first, the fans don’t do much, because they’d just blow cold air. As the engine warms up, the fans spin up along with it. And in a few minutes, when the cabin gets nice and toasty, they spin down again. All while the windows are getting defrosted.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      I also hate auto climate control and auto dimming mirrors (that can’t be turned off).

      • 0 avatar
        MK

        Ha, ill split the middle on this…. I hate the auto climate control. Just pointless and annoying really.

        But in a low sports car. Or anything really, the auto dimming mirrors are amazing. I have them in both my f150 and carrera and it’s much better than the manual choice.

    • 0 avatar

      I like automatic climate control systems, at least on the cars I’ve owned in the past. Likewise, I’ve had auto-dimming mirrors and it was surprising to have to flip the mirror manually on a “luxury” car. For the article, I tried to list all the “luxury” features that were lacking on this particular A3 and sort them based on the degree to which they’re expected to be standard on luxury vehicles.

      • 0 avatar
        Fred

        Auto climate doesn’t work for me in the spring and fall when it tends to blow cold when I want heat or vice a versa. My Acura has auto-dim mirror and it doesn’t dim fast enough or as dark as I like.

    • 0 avatar
      Mainliner

      What’s not to like about auto climate control? It’s one of my favorite features on my E350. I don’t think I’ve had to touch the settings in years, even though we have 4 wildly variable seasons in my neck of the woods.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    No dual zone climate control? Bizarre.

    Especially with that myriad of buttons and controls.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    I would leave the rings alone and buy a fully loaded something else, Accord if you need the room, GTI if you want the German feel, TLX if you did not want to visit the dealer to often, or just buy a CPO A4 for the same amount. You had a advantage in being a previous Audi owner and this car still made you work to hard to drive it, well at least the inside did.

  • avatar
    Opus

    “Friends don’t let friends buy Bose. Or Monster Cable.”

    Or Beats headphones. You forgot to mention that one.

  • avatar
    kosmo

    I was ready to buy an A3 at one point, just thinking I would wait for the new version. No hatchback! No sale! It is hard for me to imagine alienating a customer base with a move like that (from all HB to none), but hey, it also seems to be working for the new WRX.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      Hatch should be here in Q1 2015 in both diesel and e-tron hybrid plug-in variants. No official word on getting the Sportback with the 2.0T, but I imagine that Audi of America will be expanding the lineup in the coming years, so I’d expect to see it again.

      • 0 avatar
        sproc

        As the owner of an ’08 A3 that we still love, I can only wish the hatch will make a return to the US, but I’m not so sure it’ll be offered beyond the hybrid and diesel. As has been discussed ad nauseum here, those who want just a little more functionality are supposedly looking at the Q3.

        • 0 avatar
          hreardon

          Q3 sales (and those of other ‘micro-luxury-ute’ makers) have gotten off to a far slower start than expected. I fully expected Q3 sales to match those of the A3 sedan, or eat into the sedan, but in the three months so far that’s not the case.

          I suspect that as Audi builds volume in the US they’ll be able to support the case for a broader range of Sportback powertrains for us. That said, I really wouldn’t expect anything other than TDI and e-tron until the facelift in another two years.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            I’m not sure if this is because of consumer preference or supply constraints. I think the Q3 will easily outsell the A3 in the long run.

      • 0 avatar
        TMA1

        I hope Audi is a little more organized with product rollouts than VW, or Q1 may turn into Q3. If you’re really been bad this year, 2015 will turn into 2016.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      It was the hatch, not the lack of a hatch, that was alienating the bulk of the customer base.

      Given US sales volumes it would be dumb to do anything but start with the sedan first when you are rolling out the lineup.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    I actually sort of like this car, but if I ever came close to buying it, I would slap myself thusly and go to VW dealer to buy Golf with stickshift and extended B2B warranty, thus saving 10k to 12k a d getting approximately same vehicle.

  • avatar
    galloping_gael

    Don’t tar all the Bose systems with the same brush. I have a Bose system in my 2004 SRX, along with a DVD system in the rear. The sound is fantastic, and a simple hack enables DVD-A audio play through the DVD in the dash, so I can listen to high resolution audio files. The UX is not great, but the sound is.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      I think the point may be that Bose is cashing out whatever performance once justified its premium in the pursuit of volume. Similar to tiny German sedans from Audi and Mercedes.

    • 0 avatar

      Of course, not all stereo systems are the system, and I’ve heard some very high-end Bose home systems that sound reasonable. That said, Bose is all about the marketing, and the fancy Bose stereo in my 2008 A3 3.2 is definitely crap.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I have a Bose in mine, and it’s superior to the Mark Levinson in my prior GS.

        Course it also has more speakers, so that might have something to do with it. I do not have the upgraded Bose with the speakers at the top of the seats.

    • 0 avatar
      blppt

      I’ll second that. The Bose system in my friend’s 2001 Maxima was fantastic. And the legendary 901 home speakers can sound astonishingly good on certain material. No, not even close to the most accurate sound on the planet, but hey, if it sounds enjoyable to the listener, isn’t that more important than how accurate a speaker is?

      That being said, I’m also addicted the the Klipsch sound with those horn-tweeters. Another somewhat inaccurate but lively sound…I dig it.

  • avatar
    berndl

    Your review sounds quite fair within my experiences. I drive a 2006 A4 Avant with the 3.2 V6: did you get the ignition coils replaced under service action?

    That said, having driven the A4 Allroad I found nothing in the driving experience of overall car that makes me want to trade in and have to make payments. The new A3 is nice but I’m partial to wagons / hatches. I also concluded that in the event of accident or disaster, I’m more likely to look towards a GTI than what Audi is currently offering. Or, if they do decide to bring it over, the wagon R would get a VERY serious look from me.

    • 0 avatar

      The only recall on my Audi had something to do with the fuel system. I don’t believe they’ve done anything with the ignition coils. It appears that issue only applied to older cars. http://www.audiworld.com/forums/a4-b7-platform-discussion-69/recall-28f2-j1-ignition-coil-inspection-replacement-2769810/

  • avatar
    darex

    Pet Shop Boys! Got it right away.

    I think it’s funny how the MMI’s button array and touch-pad look just like a mirror image of BMW’s iDrive (so it’s not a “copy”, in China-speak). Whose system came first?

    No direct mention of how sucky giving up a hatch for a trunk must have seemed, both in terms of practicality, and in terms of having to park with a long appendage jutting out the back?

  • avatar
    hreardon

    The first batch of A3s that came over earlier this year had the manual climate control. A few weeks into the launch Audi changed that and made it standard across the board, offering a credit to early buyers. My assumption is the A3 you drove was an early production unit.

  • avatar
    spyked

    Fine car. Excellent use of PSB lyrics. Interesting bit of trivia, in Chris Heath’s book “Literally”, one of the PSBs mentions a preference for Audis, way back the late 80/early 90s.

    I’m old.

  • avatar
    carguy

    I liked the old A3 wagon as it was practical and different. I have seen a new base A3 in traffic recently and it doesn’t look any more luxury than a Jetta.

    For around $36K you can get a RWD 2.0T Cadillac ATS with upgraded stereo, memory seats, sunroof, nav and a host of other options that you can’t even get on the A3. As a bonus it’s not based on an economy hatchback and will be fun to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      carguy,

      For $36k you can get an A3 2.0T quattro and most of those options.

      Plus, the A3 is *not* based on an economy hatchback. MQB vehicles share one fixed point: the distance between front axle and the pedal box. They’ll share some items such as brake systems and HVAC equipment, but otherwise, the Audi and the VW are completely unique products.

      • 0 avatar
        carguy

        “Most of those options” being the operative phrase. The A3 has some pretty expensive options which include some basic features such as key-less entry. The MBQ platform is refined enough but simply can’t match the driving dynamics of the GM Alpha platform.

        The A3 simply charges too much for the four ringed badge.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        Your still buying a European compliance sized engine in a supposed luxury car with a price tag 3x that of the vehicle the engine should be in.
        This is a lose-lose situation.

        • 0 avatar
          JD23

          Please tell me where I can a find a car with a 220hp 2.0T for $12k. I would like to buy that car.

        • 0 avatar
          davefromcalgary

          Whats wrong with the EA888 Hummer?

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          The engine is not the problem with this car. The EA888 is the best 2.0T there is, full stop. It’s refined, torquey, sounds nice, and gets good mileage.

          The problem is that the interior is not enough nicer than the Golf’s, and too obviously built to a price point. But the CLA250’s is much worse. If you’re going to get one of these cut-rate luxury-branded cars, I think this is the one to get.

          The other problem is the Haldex AWD, but only car nerds care about that.

  • avatar
    Fred

    I thought about the new A3 to replace my 2007 2.0T manual, but without a manual and no hatch I went for a test drive with negativity. For me it just wasn’t enough of an upgrade to justify the price. I actually thought about ordering a A4 quattro to get a manual but with the same 2.0l engine, heavier and even more money my time with Audi was over. I still miss it.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    I wonder how well this Audi reads the writing of a southpaw trying to input directions right-handed.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    Can somebody explain to me why the interior of this thing is supposedly so nice? I just don’t get it. To me it looks like one big slab of Rubbermaid black plastic. I hate to even imagine how drab and boring it must look without the optional “aluminum style package.” They should make that standard so stripper model buyers don’t commit suicide after sitting in their black caves too long.

    Honestly I think the MKVII Golf interior is NICER looking than this car, and I just don’t see how the price premium is in any way justified over a loaded Golf SEL which has many of the features this car does not, plus an easier to use NAV system.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      I agree – there are some fine points in the new A3, but a lot of it feels rather cheap (that centre console in particular, feels and sounds rather hollow if you don’t get one with the full MMI controls).

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      It looks good only in comparison with its direct competition, the cheaper CLA 250.

      The materials are not great but not horrible either (whereas in the CLA everything below chest level really is pretty horrible), and the design is a good execution of Audi minimalism. If minimalism isn’t your thing, you won’t like it. I do and I’d like this interior if it had A6-grade materials. I’m particularly fond of the retractable screen.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      @Davekaybsc – You noticed the cheap looking interior too. In the picture the steering wheel looks like it came off a Fisher Price toy. Let me tell you, Audi interiors are not what they used to be. The interior of the ’05 TT my wife leased years back was heads and tails nicer than the one on her ’14 A4. Many of the interior bits and pieces of the 7 year old Chevy SUV parked next to it in our garage are as nice or nicer than what you’ll find in that new A4. The steering wheel in her A4 definitely looks and feel cheap. Taking the wheel out of the Tahoe and putting it in the A4 would be an upgrade.

  • avatar
    wmba

    If a review has to expend half its words on the dam navigation/sound system, I’m out. I’ll worry about operating it after I own the car, since every single one I’ve tried is counter-intuitive to begin with. Better yet, I wouldn’t bother getting it in the first place.

    I really preferred the A3 2.0t over the GTI myself, would never even bother wobbling around in the FWD model, which is probably why I didn’t like the Golf GTI particularly, and it was a manual and way too noisy. Plus the A3 has an extra 10hp standard, and to my way of thinking a much better styled interior, instead of the usual depressing same-as-always VW interior.

    So here, the A3 2.0t AWD is $36K, and comes with heated leather seats in front, light and rain sensor, and sunroof. Options are well overpriced, and mostly involve bling like more and more LEDs, aluminum inlays, and a rear view camera, in usual FGC manner. The nav only comes on the highest priced model. But then, I’ve had 50 years to learn the roads around here, so couldn’t care less.

    I drove the A3 2.0t half an hour after driving a new TLX SH-AWD with its rubbish 9 speed. The A3 demolished the TLX in driving dynamics and ease of use but cost $4K less although it wasn’t as quiet and was smaller. Didn’t like the hesitation on startoff as the main clutch engaged. Certainly scooted though.

    Sorry, an Accord or Mazda6 doesn’t compare as a decent drive except for the Accord Coupe V6 6MT, and then you get crap brakes, FWD and a barge-like turning circle.

    The real question to me is why not a single one of these new cars comes close to my LGT as a driving machine. They get better mileage and that’s about it. Fail to see the progress and any reason to spend a buck even though I’d like to for a change of perspective. But the change has to offer some advantage, or what’s the point?

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      WMBA –

      The extra 10hp on the A3 gets you nothing but bragging rights: the torque figures are identical, plus the Performance Package GTI nets you those additional 10HP, plus a mechanical limited slip differential and bigger brakes.

      If you’re driving the new GTI I’m surprised you comment on noise – the Golf/GTI is generally considered to be just as quiet as, if not slightly quieter than, the A3 – especially the A3 Sportback. VW has done a good job of isolating road and wind noise in both cars, but in the UK the A3 catches a lot of flack for tire (pardon, “tyre”) noise.

      If we’re comparing road manners to the Hondas/Acuras/Mazdas o the world I’ll agree that the A3 is more dynamic and engaging, but I think the new GTI runs circles around the A3.

      I’m with Chris Harris: if I had to only own one car for a long time it would more than likely be a GTI, especially if the choice were between that and the new A3.

  • avatar

    Mr. Wallach, so you wanted a hit?

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    The flip side is I have two Lexus with “upgraded” Mark Levinson systems that are junk. Both are 2004 models.

    It’s a funny irony because Mark Levinson makes some of the best home audio equipment money can buy, you would think they would make sure they made a half decent system. Nope. You could make a better system going to Walmart and buying a few things off their shelf.

    The cars I’ve had with Bose systems sounded better.

  • avatar
    Prado

    “Audi probably needs to tweak the DSG’s computer to smooth out low-speed launches” I’m surprised nobody has pointed this out yet, but the 1.8 A3 does not have a DSG. So having said that, I have no idea on what the reviewer is experiencing that is not smooth.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      Prado,

      All of the A3 models use the DSG transmission (“S-Tronic” in Audispeak).

    • 0 avatar

      Indeed, there’s a dual-clutch transmission hiding inside this and all new A3’s (at least in the U.S. market). The place where it’s awesome is when you move the gate to the right and drive it yourself. Downshifts are quick and the throttle blips are just right. The place where it sucks is stop-and-go traffic, when you’ve just got it in “Drive” and you want to start and stop to inch yourself along. Even without giving it any gas, it really wants to lurch forward.

      My experience with my 2008 A3 3.2 is that this is entirely a software problem and they’ll probably straighten it out with a software upgrade at some point in the future.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Concerning your comment about the Bose system, I have one in my ’04 GMC Sierra and ’07 Chevy Tahoe. I think they sound great. My wife has the B&O upgrade in her ’14 A4 and that blows away either Bose system, but for what it cost it should. The tuner is amazing and I really enjoy driving that car because of the awesome sound system.

  • avatar
    vaportrail

    In general I concur with the Bose theme here, but their system in my 997 Turbo sounds remarkably good. As it should.

  • avatar
    colinthomasking

    This car seems to be quite polarizing. Have you driven the 2.0t model? It seems to have an identical transmission, engine and chassis as the GTI with the performance pack (if you don’t get a stick), so what’s the disparity of the audi 2.0t and the gti?

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