- Wide range of petrol and diesel engines
- Two high-performance versions available…
- Plus a plug-in hybrid E-Tron version
There’s a vast number of engines available across the A3 range, from dinky petrols to punchy diesels, as well as high-performance hot hatches and an efficient plug-in hybrid.
The A3 makes use of familiar VW Group diesel engines, starting with a 116hp 1.6-litre TDI unit (badged 30 TDI), capable of completing the 0-62mph sprint in 10.4 seconds. It’ll go on to reach a 125mph top speed, while a healthy 250Nm of torque means it’s a good motorway companion with strong pulling power.
As standard, it comes with a slick six-speed manual gearbox, but a seven-speed S Tronic dual-clutch automatic is available, with identical performance figures to the manual.
If you want a bit more poke, the 150hp 2.0-litre TDI (35 TDI) will be more appealing thanks to a healthy 340Nm slug of torque on tap, and a choice of six-speed manual and seven-speed S Tronic gearboxes. This engine will run the A3 from 0-62mph in 8.6 seconds, and go on to reach a 135mph top speed. It’s an excellent mid-range all-rounder.
At the top of the diesel range is a 184hp 2.0-litre TDI (also badged 35 TDI Quattro), coming with a seven-speed S Tronic gearbox only and Quattro all-wheel drive.
This combination cuts down the 0-62mph time to just 6.8 seconds, while overtaking is a doddle thanks to 380Nm of torque available from low revs. Top speed is 143mph.
The A3’s petrol line-up is also made up of powerplants with three power outputs, kicking off with a 1.0-litre three-cylinder unit, badged 30 TFSI.
It produces 116hp and 200Nm of torque, so is best if you spend most of your time pottering around town. However, with a 9.9-second 0-62mph time, it’s not too much of a slouch. In fact, it gets up to speed smoothly and progressively, and doesn’t feel out of its depth at motorway speeds thanks to good refinement and a six-speed manual gearbox as standard.
There’s also a seven-speed S Tronic auto available with this engine, with identical 0-62mph time and the same 128mph top speed.
If you need a bit more punch, then the 1.5-litre 35 TFSI engine may suit you better. This engine produces 150hp and 250Nm of torque, and is capable of completing the 0-62mph sprint in 8.2 seconds, with manual or S Tronic gearboxes.
It punches above its weight in the A3, providing nippy responses around town and surprising ability to pick up speed on the motorway. All the while remaining more refined than it is in many other VW Group products, where it can have a tendency to become a little coarse at higher revs. It’s far less audible in the A3, making it a more relaxed offering.
At the top of the regular petrol range is a 2.0-litre 40 TFSI engine producing 190hp and 320Nm. In manual form, it’ll complete the 0-62mph sprint in 6.9 seconds, while the S Tronic will manage it in 6.8 seconds.
This is the only petrol available with Quattro, and comes exclusively with the S Tronic auto ‘box. In this form it’ll sprint from 0-62mph in 6.2 seconds.
Audi S3 and RS 3 performance versions
If the regular A3 petrol engines aren’t quite punchy enough, then the S3 could appeal thanks to 300hp and 400Nm from its 2.0-litre TFSI engine, combined with Quattro all-wheel drive and an S Tronic gearbox. It’s Audi’s answer to the Volkswagen Golf R and BMW M140i.
The 0-62mph sprint is taken care of in just 4.6 seconds, and it’ll go on to reach a limited top speed of 155mph.
It’s a very rapid thing, the S3, with some characterful pops and crackles from the exhaust at times, although it’s not quite as exciting as its BMW rival in other areas. There’s no disputing its straight line pace, though.
And if you want the ultimate A3, look straight to the RS 3. This version features a five-cylinder 2.5-litre TFSI engine raging beneath the bonnet, with 400hp and 480Nm of torque on tap. Like the S3, this uses an S Tronic gearbox and Quattro all-wheel drive, and will race from 0-62mph in just 4.1 seconds, all the while sounding like a baby Lamborghini thanks to a hugely characterful engine and addictive exhaust note (especially if you specify the optional sports exhaust).
Performance is relentless without feeling overwhelming for the car, surging forwards in any drive mode, with Dynamic being the most involving. Gearchanges are fast and ferocious in this mode, but you can knock the transmission into a more relaxed mode for other types of journey. The sound is intoxicating as well, and is full of character that really eggs you on.
That RS sports exhaust comes as standard on the Audi Sport Edition models, which also add a black pack to the exterior styling and super sports seats inside.
Audi A3 E-Tron plug-in hybrid – no longer available
If you want an A3 with the best eco credentials, the plug-in hybrid E-Tron will be for you. It could be of particular interest as a company car driver thanks to low BIK costs.
This version is powered by a 1.4-litre TFSI petrol engine (that used to be available on its own before the 1.5 TFSI arrived), along with an electric motor.
These combine for a total system output of 201hp and 350Nm of torque, and with a choice of driving modes, the e-tron is capable of running on battery power alone for almost 30 miles.
It’s one of the quicker A3 models from 0-62mph with a time of 7.6 seconds, but that’s not what this is about. And if you do try drive like that everywhere, you’ll see that battery range decrease at a rapid rate.
- Tidy handling from the A3 Sportback
- Not especially exciting, but it’s well controlled
- Steering a little lifeless, but good grip
To create the Sportback, Audi stretched the three-door A3’s wheelbase by 58mm, freeing up more generous interior space and making a more practical body shape overall with a higher roofline and bigger boot.
And while it’s great for practicality, we’re pleased to report the five-door is just as good to drive as the three-door car.
B-road jaunts are enjoyable thanks to the excellent grip levels while there is minimal body lean when cornering, making the A3 Sportback a very composed car to drive that inspires confidence.
The BMW 1 Series is still a tad better for enthusiasts. You get better feedback through the steering wheel of the 1 Series and the weighting is better too. You sit lower in the BMW as well, but there’s little to complain about the controls in the A3 – everything is weighted nicely and the driving position is spot on.
Adaptive suspension is available on the A3, while S Line models come with lowered, stiffer suspension as standard compared with other model. Some may find this a little too firm around town, so Audi will let you select the softer suspension of Sport models at no extra cost.
Do this and you’ll get an A3 that blends being sporty enough without being jarring over bumps and potholes.
Unsurprisingly, the RS 3 is the most engaging model to drive on a twisty road. The combination of powerful engine, Quattro all-wheel drive and taut body control make it feel involving, but also very predictable. It's not as fun as an equivalent BMW for drivers who want to explore the limits of their cars, but few cars are as effective at covering ground quickly than an RS 3 thanks to the way it's set-up.