DRIVEN: Audi A3 Saloon 35 TFSi

The Audi A3 has been fettled, refined and updated. They’ve added more sculpture, a bigger face and even more technology. But is it any good? We’ve spent a week with the arguably prettier saloon version to find out.

In the world of Audi, there are many unique names for things that have more mundane names elsewhere. Quattro means all-wheel-drive. Avant means estate and in the case of the A3, Sportback means hatchback (although, to confuse matters, on their SUV range it means quasi-coupe). Therefore it’s odd that the saloon version of the A3 is simply called the A3 Saloon. A mundane name for what I believe is the more interesting version.

The latest A3 saloon is the second time Audi have slapped a boot on the A3. The last version was a handsome car and looked, at least to my eyes, better than the hatch (sorry, Sportback). They have repeated the same trick with the new version. The slightly extended proportions and subtly bolstered arches give the A3 Saloon a muscular stance without looking over-the-top. From the side and rear three-quarters I’d argue it’s the best looking saloon in Audi’s line-up.

Sadly the same can’t be said for the front. An angle shared with the Sportback variant. It is by no means ugly but park it next to the last-gen car and the design looks a little bulbous and fussy. The rear on the other-hand is sleek & aggressive and is only really let down by a pair of fake vents in the bumper. A design trend all car-makers are guilty of. Overall the look of the A3 Saloon is rather pleasing and suitably upmarket without being ostentatious.

On the move the A3 is surprisingly fun. I say surprisingly because this isn’t the hot version of the A3. The 35 TFSi we had for this test comes with a 1.5l petrol engine that kicks out around 150bhp. Hardly hardcore stuff but it feels quicker than the 8.7 second 0-60 would suggest and never felt underpowered. It is more than rapid enough for most people and returns decent economy. It rides well whilst feeling taught and direct in the bends. It managed to put a smile on this pedantic petrolhead’s face on more than a few occasions. Impressive for a cooking model car from a brand that used to favour safe and numb driving dynamics.

The interior is typical Audi and has more than a hint of modern Lamborghini about it. The MMI (Audi’s media/nav system) is one of the best in the business and easy to use. The A3 has a large main touchscreen but thankfully keeps real buttons for the climate controls. This makes it far easier to live than some of the more expensive models in Audi’s line-up that ditch tactile switches in favour of a bevvy of screens. The now-ubiquitous Audi Digital Cockpit is included which is gives all the info you could possibly need in an easily readable way. I love the way you can minimise the dials and display a large map meaning navigation distracts you from the road far less.

The Size of the A3 is one of its major selling points for me. It’s the size of an A4 from a decade or so ago. A size that works well on UK roads. It never feels oversized on the move and parking it is easy. In my week with it I never felt like I was missing the extra size of an A4 or the convenience of a hatchback. The interior has plenty of room for four adults and the boot is easily large enough for a weekend away or a weekly shop for all the family.

Overall, the A3 Saloon is an appealing choice for small families or people covering decent miles who don’t need the extra space that an estate (or Avant) would bring. I think it makes more sense in the UK than the A4 Saloon and looks better too. The interior quality is top notch and actually easier to live with than some of the more expensive Audis thanks to the inclusion of real buttons. I think it looks pretty good in red too.