2015 Audi A3: Small, techy and ready for action
Whether or not America knows it, luxurious small cars are everything right now. The Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class, BMW 2-Series and even the oddball Buick Encore are all testament that better does not always mean bigger. And Audi is about to blow the little-lux-car market wide open with its new family of A3 models — the first of which will be a sedan model tailor-made for the U.S. market, which I've just driven.
The A3 is the first new Audi built using Volkswagen’s MQB chassis, the building blocks that underpin all sorts of other small VW group products like the Mk 7 VW Golf/GTI, the upcoming 2015 Audi TT and many more. The A3 will be offered here in no fewer than four variants: the four-door sedan you see here starting in April, followed by a two-door A3 cabriolet and Q3 crossover this fall. Early next year, a five-door “A3 e-tron” plug-in hybrid model join the party. Diesel engines and a sportified S3 sedan model will also arrive this fall, the latter we already drove last year in Monaco.
How small are we talking? The A3 is nearly seven inches shorter than the slinky Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class, and casts nearly the same shadow as Audi’s original A4, which was introduced way back in 1995 and went on to become Audi’s best seller for most of the years since. Compared to the 2014 A4, the A3 is 10 inches shorter, about an inch narrower and the roof is about an inch lower. As such, the A3 represents something of a return to form for an entry-level Audi.
Unlike some competitors, the streamlined cabin of the A3 feels convincingly upscale even at its most basic levels, with panel/gap tolerances and materials befitting a true luxury brand. It’s a snug space, but thanks to a standard moonroof, which Audi describes as “panoramic” even though it only covers the front seats, it is not claustrophobic. While there are occasional hard plastics, Audi has a way of making even that stuff feel un-cheap. Classy metal trim pieces are sprinkled throughout the cabin, and the $450 Aluminum Style package puts knurled metal rings around the air vents.