Reviews

2015 Audi A3 Walk Around

Size-wise, the 2015 Audi A3 is about 10 inches shorter than the Audi A4 sedan, but longer than the Audi TT coupe. It's about seven inches shorter than the Mercedes-Benz CLA.

Design follows Audi's philosophy of placing two-thirds of the vehicle's mass below the daylight opening, or the space the windows occupy. Audi designers say concentrating volume at the bottom of the vehicle gives it a planted, aggressive stance.

Up front, the A3 uses Audi's signature trapezoidal single-frame grille, a tall, gaping maw with strong horizontal lines and the four-ring emblem affixed up top. Below, the grille is flanked on either side by air intakes that create a double-winged design. Daytime running lights are LED and are a unique shape to the A3 (with full-LED headlights on upper trim levels).

The roofline is more sloping than the A4, giving it a sportier appearance, but not curvy like the TT coupe, allowing for more rear headroom. A strong character line runs from the top corner of the wraparound headlight lenses, above the door handles and into the top corner of the LED taillights. A deep-cut, angular rocker panel rises sharply from the front fender to the rear. All new wheel designs appear on the 2015 A3 sedan, with standard 17-inch alloys on the base model.

In the rear, the curved decklid sits up high, with an integrated lip spoiler. New LED taillights are slimmer than before, and exhaust pipes are nestled in to the black plastic diffuser below.

Interior

Like all Audis, the interior of the 2015 A3 is of high quality, with soft-touch materials, a clean, simple layout, and attention to detail. Bauhaus is the word Audi designers use frequently in discussing the design of this third-generation Audi A3, yet they also insist the German minimalist philosophy was infused with some warmth, softening what could have otherwise been a too-austere look.

This is immediately evident in the dash design, a long, single piece, unfettered by the usual cut lines and variety of trim materials most carmakers use. The result is clean, yet in some ways almost boring. Fortunately, the dash material is a soft-touch plastic, with a feel and texture that keep it from seeming cheap. We were bothered, however, by a few blank buttons on the instrument panel and on the center console, a constant reminder that our car wasn't equipped with all the options.

The A3 is packed with many standard features not always found on base models, including leather upholstery, automatic climate control, power driver's seat, power sunroof and automatic wipers. Knobs and switches have a quality feel, more so than those found on the Mercedes-Benz CLA or the BMW 2 Series. Even the climate control knobs have a well-built, substantial feel.

The color display screen is thin and retracts into the dash when not in use, a more elegant design than the screen found in the Mercedes-Benz CLA, which is stuck on top of the dash and not movable.

A new version of Audi's MMI control interface is equipped with 4G LTE data connectivity that effectively turns the A4 into a mobile hotspot, allowing users to pair up to eight compatible devices. Navigation is powered by Google Earth and Google Street View, with real-time weather, traffic and gas prices. (An updated plug-and-play architecture allows Audi to update MMI hardware and software more frequently during the life cycle of the model, to ensure A3s rolling off the assembly line will have the latest technology.)

But despite Audi billing the A3 sedan as avant-garde in the tech department, we were dismayed to find that our 2.0T test car in the base trim did not come with a USB port, only the Audi music interface, which uses a last-generation iPod/iPhone cable. Consequently, we scrambled to find an adapter for our iPhone 5s. Upper trim levels come with one USB port, but for charging only, it does not pair the device with the MMI.

The front seat fit us nicely, and look higher-end than the CLA's one-piece design. Smaller adults will especially like that the A3's seat cushions are not too long, meaning that average-sized people will be able to bend their knees while sitting. Bolsters also hugged us nicely, though our 6-foot-3 driving companion complained the seats weren't long or wide enough.

The Audi A3 is best on long trips for one or two. On paper, the A3 offers several inches more legroom and slightly more headroom than the CLA, but we found rear-seat space adequate for average-sized adults on short commutes, not long drives.

Cargo space measures 12.2 cubic feet in the 1.8-liter base model, and only 10 cubic feet in the 2.0T model. That falls short compared with 13.1 cubic feet in the Mercedes-Benz CLA and 13.8 in the BMW 2 Series coupe. Split-folding rear seats, including a center pass-through slot, help to make the A3 more versatile.

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