The sound system is also sensational. While the standard stereo offers six speakers, the optional 400W sound system increases that count to 10 and offers even more punch. But, audiophiles will want to go for the $1750 Bang & Olufsen stereo that delivers tremendous amounts of bass with crystal clear treble quality.
Visibility out of the cabin is also impressive thanks to an open glasshouse and expansive wing mirrors. Leg and headroom up front is excellent, but the same can’t be said for the second row. It’s fairly cramped in there for adults and getting in and out can be tricky due to a lower floor pan and an intrusive B-pillar. The A3 isn’t a car you would want to spend a great deal of time in the back of.
Rear air vents are joined by twin in-seat map pockets and a second row that folds in a 60:40 split configuration. The second row also comes with ISOFIX anchor points, but lacks a centre armrest for rear seat passengers.
Cargo capacity comes in at a respectable 425 litres. The boot’s fairly narrow entry and heightened lip means it could be harder to load wide items like a bicycle into the cargo hold. That’s where the Sportback model may be a better choice.
On first glance the engine offers enough power and torque to get it by. Producing 110kW of power and 250Nm of torque, it sips just 4.9L/100km on the combined cycle. But, as you set off around the city, it becomes immediately obvious that it’s let down by a hesitant dual-clutch automatic gearbox.
From a standing start with the engine switched off, it jerks a little off the line as it gets moving. In fact, we found it quite difficult to get the car moving from a standing start smoothly when the car exits a stop/start phase. Once it is moving, there’s hesitation from the throttle before the car hits its stride.
The process of moving it off the line smoothly then results in more throttle input to catch up to traffic that has left the mark. The process can be helped somewhat by using the gearbox’s Sport mode, which sharpens throttle response and increases eagerness of the line.
Once moving, the gearbox is great and offers timely gearshifts with plenty of punch. Steering wheel paddle-shifters allow the driver to manually shift gears at any time.
While the ride in standard A3 sedans is quite good, this particular car was let down by a firmer ride due to the optional 18-inch alloy wheels and sports suspension. That resulted in sharper reactions to potholes and bumps in the city and a slight tendency for mild kickback through the steering wheel over bumps under throttle from a standing start.
An electrically-assisted steering rack offers ample feel through the wheel and teams with the vehicle’s drive modes to offer increased resistance as the car moves from Eco through to Dynamic. The wheel feels great to hold and the flat bottom portion of the steering wheel adds a bit of character to the driving experience.
With just a driver on board, the engine delivers enough thrill to have fun and is zippy enough through the city when the car is on the move. But, load three extra passengers in the car and acceleration drops off dramatically. In fact, it gets to the point where it feels quite lacking during acceleration and at times where you need urgent hussle.
We found the same issue during our recent Volkswagen Golf v Holden Astra comparison, where the Golf’s 110kW engine was lacking the extra 37kW of power and 30Nm of torque available in the Astra. While this engine is great for fuel efficiency on paper, it falls down in the real world.