I love a good hatch back. They can be sporty and fun to drive without sacrificing practicality. Who doesn’t want a sporty car with great cargo capacity, good gas mileage, seating for five, and the ability to fit just about anywhere? Crazy people, like the 110 pound woman who thinks she needs a Land Rover to cart her eight pound baby around… but that’s about it. However, there aren’t many higher-end hatch back offerings this side of the Atlantic. BMW doesn’t sell the 1-series hatch here, Mercedes does sell the B-class, but that thing is just ugly, and the Japanese and American marques simply don’t care [Although Volvo has the C30 -Peter] . However, since Audi has access to the legendary Golf platform, we are offered the A3, and it is a fun little car. My thoughts after the jump.
In general, the car just feels what can only be described as zippy. The turbo lag is minimal, and the torque is there from the moment your foot hits the pedal, and this engine is mated to either a 6-speed manual or a semi-automatic, both of which are superb. It is not a GM car though, as it can go around a corner faster than 7kph. The A3 seems to simultaneously celebrate and defy its front wheel drive, weaving between lanes quickly and directly. It feels like a VW in all of the best ways, offering all of the solidity and fun-factor that Wolfsburg has to offer on a hatch back. Fun to drive? Check.
The interior is typical Audi. There’s a lot of leather, and where there isn’t leather there is soft touch plastic. Everything feels good and like it will still feel good in ten years. While there is no real design to speak of, everything is in a logical place, looks good, is easy to operate, and feels good. It is a great interior, but a little boring.
So it’s practical, has great handling, is fast, has good manual and automatic transmission options, and a great interior. What’s not to like? Quite a bit, actually.
Stylish? No so much. While all hatch backs are a “two-box” design, most of them don’t take it quite so literally. The A3 just a box with people in it behind a box with a bunch of explosions in it. Given, Audi’s cool looking grill is on the explosion box, but that can’t carry the whole car. Like every other Audi except the A5, the TT, and the R8, it’s only good angle is dead on, and if one doesn’t like being run over, that angle should be avoided.
Here’s the real problem though: The Volkswagen GTI is the same car, but starts at $27,975. A base A3 is $31,800. The A3 and the GTI are the same damn car, but the A3 is uglier and costs and extra four grand. If you can’t stand the awful plaid GTI seats, you can get the horribly expensive ($2,400) seat upgrades for the GTI, and still be spending $1,425 less. If you aren’t getting the car with the 3.2l engine or quattro, there is no reason to buy it.
Summary: A Volkswagen GTI for pricks who want to be seen driving an Audi.
Base Price: $31,800 ($34,950 as tested)
Interior Design: 8/10 Very well done, if a bit uninspired.
Exterior Design: 6/10 Just uninspired.
Engine: 8/10 Everybody loves the 2.0TFSI.
Transmission: 8/10 No bad options.
Audio/Video: 7/10 Good, but not brilliant.
Value: 4/10 Apparently, four interlocking circles cost thousands of dollars.