Audi's compact premium offering does very little wrong
- Good range of fuel-efficient engines
- Fun to drive on smooth roads
- Practical and roomier than the three-door
- Discounts likely to be few and far between
- Lacks the style of the three-door A3
- S Line models lack ride comfort
The Audi A3 Sportback is a premium hatchback rivalling the BMW 1 Series, Mercedes-Benz A-Class and Volvo V40, as well as the Volkswagen Golf (which it shares its underpinnings with) and the leftfield Lexus CT.
There’s a comprehensive engine line-up (detailed below) including a plug-in hybrid A3 e-tron version, as well as the hotter versions already mentioned. A choice of slick manual and smooth S Tronic automatic gearboxes are available across the range, while Quattro all-wheel drive is also an option on particular models.
Badge appeal aside, one of the A3’s biggest strengths is its simple, classy, high-quality interior with slick dashboard and ergonomic design. It still feels bang up to date despite debuting in 2012.
Audi A3 Sportback engine line-up
Audi offers a wide selection of engine options for the A3, consisting of petrol and diesel, as well as a plug-in hybrid.
Providing petrol power is a choice of 1.0-litre TFSI three-cylinder, 1.5-litre TFSI four-cylinder and 2.0-litre TFSI petrols, all of which are turbocharged with the choice of manual and automatic transmissions.
Then there are S3 and RS 3 performance versions if you want a more potent A3 Sportback.
Diesel power is provided by a familiar choice of 1.6 and 2.0-litre TDI units, with 116, 150 and 184hp respectively. Again, Quattro all-wheel drive and a choice of transmissions are available.
Audi A3 e-tron hybrid: potentially 176mpg
In 2015 the range was be augmented by the plug-in hybrid e-tron model, combining a 1.4-litre TFSI petrol engine and electric motor to offer up to 176mpg and just 37g/km of CO2 output - perfect for company car users.
Audi A3 Sportback equipment
Equipment levels mirror the three-door A3 with SE, Sport, S Line and Black Edition specification levels but the Sportback also adds rear electric windows and rear door child locks in each case.
Highlights include alloy wheels, air-con, the MMI system with its 11mm-thick electrically folding screen, iPod connectivity, Bluetooth with voice control and a multi-function steering wheel.
Cloth seats are standard for SE and Sport models, while S Line versions upgrade to a mixture of cloth and leather. Move up to top spec Black Edition trim and unique 18-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, black styling additions and an upgraded Audi sound system are added to the standard kit list.
Audi S3 model details
If you fancy more power, there is of course the Audi S3. Available in two trim levels, S3 bags you lowered sports suspension, sportier progressive steering, an upgraded sound system and heated fine Nappa leather seats.
The S3 Black Edition, meanwhile, adds unique 18-inch alloy wheels, black styling pack, privacy glass and a top-end Bang & Olufsen sound system.
Like the S3, the RS 3 is a model in its own right with its own equipment specification.
The Parkers Verdict
You can't go a lot wrong with the Audi A3 Sportback. Yes, it doesn't look as good as the three-door A3 Hatchback, but it's more practical and has more room inside. As befitting its premium status, it's expensive to buy, but PCP costs are competitive, due to its strong residual values.
It's not the last word in driver's cars, but the A3 is a great motorway-demolishing tool, which is all you can ask of it. A diesel version needn't be the default option these days, as Audi offers a number of very efficient petrol and hybrid alternatives.