We Brits don’t tend to go for booted versions of hatchbacks like the new Audi A3 saloon. We like our family workhorses with a proper hatchback tailgate – but if any vehicle can turn that tide, it’s one with Ingolstadt’s four rings carried on a massive front grille. The Audi A3 saloon is primarily aimed at the Chinese and American markets, but UK buyers can opt into the third A3 bodystyle from £24,305.
Is there more room in the Audi A3 saloon?
Yes – despite its truncated appearance, the A3 Saloon is actually 146mm longer than the five-door A3 Sportback with which it shares drivetrains and interior design. Bootspace is up by a handy 45L over the hatch, too, offering 425L with the rear seats in place; fold the rear backrests down and the Sportback proves more practical, with its 1220L load bay to the Saloon’s 880L. The two models share a wheelbase, so legroom is equally adequate in both models, if not quite as roomy as the Skoda Octavia, which shares the modular MQB platform underneath.
Is there a hot S3 to bait RS4 drivers with yet?
It’s coming, but you can’t get your hands on a turbocharged, 296bhp S3 Saloon just yet. Still, if a family friendly hot A3 is top of your shopping list, the impressive S3 Sportback is here already: click here for the CAR review. All other engines are familiar from the rest of the A3 family: all are four-cylinders. The 2.0-litre diesel is only available with a six-speed manual, but the 1.4-litre and 1.8-litre TFSI petrols have the tempting but pricey option of Audi’s seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch 'box.
What’s it like to drive?
Variable, depending on how you choose to set it up. Fiddling with the ‘drive select’ interface allows comfort, eco and sport settings for the engine and steering. The steering is fairly numb but well-weighted enough to engage keen drivers.
The six-speed manual gearbox has an enjoyable action, and the ride even on sport suspension is well controlled. Sport models have stiffer suspension and a 15mm ride height drop, but regular ‘comfort’ suspension remains a no-cost option if you fancy the racier looks but not the drop-off in ride quality.
Pick of the engines is the 138bhp 1.4-litre petrol with cylinder deactivation, which runs on two pots when it's at low speed. A brilliantly integrated system, its claimed economy of more than 60mpg will make it worthy of selection over the 2.0-litre diesel for many.
Of course, the A3’s standout feature – that cleanly styled, crisp cabin – is carried over wholesale from the hatchback models to the Saloon, and familiarity is in no way breeding contempt. Its knurled knobs, tactile buttons and high-quality materials are a real showroom lust winner. Audi’s MMI (MultiMedia Interface) infotainment system – the feature responsible for such a low overall button count – is mostly good news too, save for the strange back-to-front scrolling action, which requires anticlockwise turns to navigate down a menu.
Arguably better proportioned than the bigger, ageing A4, the A3 Saloon is a well-executed extension of the A3 range. In cooking trim, it’s no firecracker to drive – that model will come – but nevertheless it’s a car desirable enough to warrant British buyers no longer turning their noses up at compact saloons – while young execs in America and China rush to buy them in droves.
Read the full review for Audi A3 Saloon on Parkers here >>