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Audi A3 Saloon engines, drive and performance

2013 - 2020 (change model)
Performance rating: 4 out of 54.0

Written by Parkers Published: 6 June 2019 Updated: 6 June 2019

  • Wide choice of turbocharged engines
  • Diesels are punchy and frugal
  • Petrols are smooth and refined

The A3 Saloon’s engine line-up largely mimics that of the regular A3’s, but doing without entry-level units, as such.

TFSI petrol options

If you’re looking for a petrol A3 Saloon, your options kick off with a 1.5-litre TFSI unit producing 150hp and 250Nm of torque.

It’s capable of completing the 0-62mph benchmark sprint in 8.2 seconds, and will go onto reach a top speed of 139mph. It’s a clever engine, though, featuring active cylinder technology which, switching off cylinders to boost efficiency when the car doesn’t need to be using them.

You can specify this engine with a six-speed manual or a seven-speed S Tronic dual-clutch automatic, both offering identical performance figures.

If you want more petrol power before you reach the dedicated sports versions, there’s a 2.0-litre TFSI offering 190hp and 320Nm of torque.

This engine offers a noticeable drop in 0-62mph time, taking just 6.9 seconds to complete the sprint, and will go onto reach 155mph.

Go for a manual version and it’s front-wheel drive, while opting for the S Tronic version adds Quattro all-wheel drive into the mix, bringing the 0-62mph time down again, to 6.2 seconds. Top speed for this version is 150mph.

TDI diesels

Buyers can pick from a trio of diesels in the A3 Saloon, starting off with a sensible 1.6-litre TDI with 116hp and 250Nm of torque. It’ll complete the 0-62mph sprint in 10.4 seconds when fitted with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed S Tronic auto gearbox, and will go onto reach 127mph at the top end.

Next up is a 150hp 2.0-litre TDI, both using a six-speed manual gearbox, but with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive Quattro. It produces 340Nm of pulling power.

The front-wheel drive version takes care of the 0-62mph sprint in 8.6 seconds, while the Quattro will manage it in 8.3 seconds. Both go on to reach 137mph at the top end.

Providing the most diesel performance is a 2.0-litre TDI with 184hp and 380Nm of torque. It’s driven through Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system and a seven-speed S Tronic gearbox, and sprints from 0-62mph in just 6.8 seconds. It’ll go onto reach a 147mph top speed.

S3 Saloon

The S3 Saloon steps up the performance if you’re looking for a fast everyday saloon.

With a 2.0-litre TFSI petrol engine under the bonnet and 310hp on tap, it’s certainly no slouch thanks to Quattro all-wheel drive and a slick-shifting S Tronic gearbox delivering a 0-62mph time of just 4.6 seconds.

This car will go on to reach a limited top speed of 155mph, should you find yourself on an autobahn and in need of a blast.

RS 3 Saloon

If you want peak performance from your A3 Saloon, the RS 3 will be the one for you. Powered by a sonorous 2.5-litre TFSI turbo petrol, it produces 400hp and is capable of launching from 0-62mph in just 4.2 seconds.

It delivers its power relentlessly, powering through the S Tronic transmission incredibly quickly and smoothly (unless you want a more ferocious set-up in Sport), and feels like it’ll keep going on and on.

There’s sound to match, too, especially if you opt for the sports exhaust system at extra cost, sounding every bit the bargain Lamborghini.

Engines no longer available

The A3 Saloon was launched with a different set of TFSI petrol engines which have since been discontinued. They included a 1.4 TFSI with 140hp and 260Nm of torque, since replaced by the 1.5-litre TFSI with active cylinder shutdown.

It managed the 0-62mph sprint in 8.4 seconds and went on to reach a 132mph top speed.

Your more powerful alternative was a 1.8-litre TFSI with 180hp and 250Nm of torque. The 0-62mph time falls to 7.3 seconds and top speed up to 144mph, however it’s the 1.4-litre TFSI that feels the more cohesive package if you’re looking at a used A3 Saloon. 

  • Tidy handling, but not exciting
  • Strong grip levels and little body roll
  • Several suspension set-ups

In general, the handling of the Audi A3 Saloon is very good. It’s well balanced and there’s loads of grip on offer too. The steering, while a little numb, is direct and electronically well-weighted to provide some engagement for keener drivers.

There are three suspension options available – standard, sports and S line sports suspension.

On Sport trim level models, sports suspension comes as standard but you have the option of de-selecting and going for the standard suspension for no extra cost. You’ll see a 15mm lower ride height with sports suspension.

On S line models you also get sports suspension as standard, while you can have the same no-cost option to revert back to standard suspension or the option of S line sports suspension, which lowers the car a further 10mm.

Audi’s drive select system allows you to tweak the steering between dynamic and comfort depending upon your driving requirements, or you can leave it in Auto and let the car decide what’s best for the way you’re driving. You can also set up your own individual parameters.