First Drive: 2014 Audi A3 Sedan luxury cars first drives audi
First Drive: 2014 Audi A3 Sedan luxury cars first drives audi
2014 Audi A3 Sedan. Click image to enlarge

Originally published July 5, 2013

Review and photos by Brendan McAleer

The Audi design philosophy might best be described as, “One sausage, three lengths.” Take your pick: the A4, A6 and A8 all provide the same sort of delicious leather-lined bratwurst in various sizes, with various optional stuffing, at various prices. So say hello to their new cocktail weenie.

This is the A3 sedan, or limousine, as it’s described in Europe – which is a bit of a stretch, as it’s hardly a stretch… limo. It’s a new entry in the compact luxury market segment. An arena that Audi is quick to tell us is the fastest growing market segment in the world. Good for it.

My experience of “market segments” is that they’re the sort of thing that only PR people obsess about. Folks who might actually be interested in buying Audi’s wee nipper could end up cross-shopping it with everything from a fully loaded Honda Accord to a used 5-series BMW – who knows? A newly created peer group isn’t as important as the answer to the question: is this thing any good?

It is! I think. I’m pretty sure though.

First off, this is a handsome little car. As luck would have it our Hungarian drive route presented an unexpected side-by-side evaluation opportunity when an also-new Mercedes-Benz CLA came barrelling up beside our convoy. As it paced the mid-level A3 ahead of us, waiting for the fast lane to clear of slow, bulbous diesel Euro-hatchbacks, I was able to make a quick judgement call. At least from the back, the A3 is better looking than Mercedes’ B-Class-based front-driver. The Merc’ tails away from its bluff, broad nose with a pinched rear, sort of reminding me of a cuttlefish. The Audi, on the other hand, is squared-off and handsome in typical four-ring fashion.

Things are good up front as well, with that big, square grille that Audi invented and everybody else now copies flanked by new all-LED headlights. These are very well done – the LED headlights in the S6 and the Acura RLX are all insectoid, like a close-up mugshot of a spider, but the A3′s unique design is clean-looking and modern.

Really, it looks like what it is: a 3/4-size Audi A4. And, climbing inside, we find again a 3/4 A4, with a few different touches.

First Drive: 2014 Audi A3 Sedan luxury cars first drives audi First Drive: 2014 Audi A3 Sedan luxury cars first drives audi First Drive: 2014 Audi A3 Sedan luxury cars first drives audi First Drive: 2014 Audi A3 Sedan luxury cars first drives audi
2014 Audi A3 Sedan. Click image to enlarge

Four large silver-ringed air-vents (oh I get it – four rings!) dominate the dash, which is split into a lower section for the air-con controls, an upper row of switches that control vehicle dynamic settings and so on, and a retractable screen for the navigation that slides cleanly into the dash upon shut-down. Everything’s nicely within reach, as well it should be considering that it’s a trifle snug in here.

Setting my usual driving position in a non-sunroof car – I’m 5’11” – I jump into the back to find that rear legroom is actually not bad. The slope of the roof does mean that I have to perch on the seat, leaning slightly forward as though going through a job interview, but anyone who remembers how tight the back seat of the 2004–2008 A4 was will wonder where Audi found the space.

The trunk qualifies as reasonable for a small car, with 425 L of space. This is slightly more than the official rating for the currently available hatchback version, but doesn’t take the hatch’s flexibility into account. Seats fold 60/40 but aren’t flush when all the way down and there’s a pass-through for long, skinny things.

Audi expects their volume-selling model to be the 2.0TFSI version, which will come equipped with around 200 hp from a four-cylinder turbo. I imagine it’ll drive quite nicely. I have to imagine, because Audi didn’t have one here to try.

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