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Audi A3 engines, driving and performance

How does the Audi A3 drive?

The Audi A3 has a very well-judged driving experience. It’s not quite as fun to drive as a BMW 1 Series or a Mazda 3, but it drives better than the Mercedes A-Class. It’s slap bang in the middle of its rivals for sportiness and steering weight, and most drivers will find it engaging enough. It’s capable and direct on a back road, while still being excellent on long motorway journeys.

The plug-in hybrid A3 40 TFSI e juggles its petrol and electric power well and, provided there’s enough charge in the battery, the switch between the power sources is near-enough seamless. Take it out of the ‘auto’ driving mode and you can choose to run on electric power alone, save the electric range for later in your journey or use the petrol engine to recharge the battery slightly – although this is only effective in town. At higher speeds and once the battery has run out, it will feel like a normal petrol car.

Speed freaks will be drawn to the S3 and, in particular, the RS3, which is fast enough to humble most sports cars. Its bespoke suspension setup and new ‘torque splitter’, which monitors the power being sent to each wheel, ensure it’s hugely entertaining to drive. Previous RS3s were undeniably rapid but didn’t make you feel part of the action. Where legal, you can corner at amazing speeds and, when you need to slow down, the RS3’s optional ceramic brakes are excellent. They also make a loud squeal when you press them hard, making you feel like you’re behind the wheel of a racing car.

Is the Audi A3 comfortable?

The comfort king in this class is the Mercedes A-Class, but the Audi A3 isn’t very far behind. You’d be hard pressed to call it uncomfortable, and even the S Line and performance models with their firmer suspension take the jolt out of the majority of bumps. There’s a little more tyre and road noise than in the A-Class and 1 Series, but it’s generally not too intrusive.

What’s the best Audi A3 engine to get?

We think the best all-rounder is the 35 TFSI petrol engine – a 1.5-litre unit with 150hp, which is fairly quick off-the-line and quiet at speed. At a steady cruise, this engine will return 50mpg, so you really do get the best of both worlds when it comes to performance and economy. There’s also a 1.0-litre petrol with 110hp, badged 30 TFSI, which is cheaper to buy and cheaper to insure than the 35 TFSI if you’re not too bothered about performance.

The pair of 2.0-litre diesel engines are still a popular choice in the A3 lineup. They’re a little noisy at low speeds but are barely audible at higher speeds. Regardless of whether you pick the 116hp 30 TDI engine or the 150hp 35 TDI engine, you can potentially see over 60mpg. The diesels are aimed at higher-mileage drivers as, if you only drive around town in a diesel, you could have DPF issues. Diesel A3s use AdBlue, a substance that helps to reduce toxic emissions, so this will need to be periodically topped up.

What if you predominantly drive around town or want to dip your toe into an electrified car? In this case, the plug-in hybrid could be the best option for you. It offers around 40 miles of fully electric driving and the promise of over 200mpg – although you can expect more like 40mpg when the battery is empty and you’re only running on petrol power.

Audi A3 performance

The entry-level engine doesn’t look particularly fast on paper, achieving 0-62mph in 10.6 seconds, but it’s quite peppy and doesn’t feel out of its depth at motorway speeds. Above that, the 150hp petrol knocks two seconds off the acceleration time and feels much quicker away from a set of traffic lights. The plug-in hybrid is actually the fastest standard A3, hitting 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds thanks to a burst of instantly available electric power.

The diesels offer broadly similar performance to the petrols, but their low-down torque makes them feel quite punchy in practice.

At the top of the range, the S3 gets from 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds, and the blitzing RS3 knocks another second off that time. The RS3 is the fastest-accelerating petrol hot hatch on sale right now, beating the similarly powerful Mercedes-AMG A45 S by a tenth of a second.

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