Compact saloons haven’t made much of a splash in the UK car market. As a longer, roomier and more practical version of Audi’s five-door A3 hatchback, the A3 Saloon makes for a compelling proposition. You get a big boot, more space for rear-seat passengers and the knowledge that you’re driving something a little bit different from everyone else. Why not give it a try? You might like it.
The Audi A3 Saloon is a handsome car, sharing the sharp design cues and premium build quality of its Sportback cousin. Its elegant silhouette closely resembles that of the bigger A4, with just its large glasshouse and lower rear roofline telling them apart.
While its understated looks ensure low-key day-to-day motoring, S line trim models – which feature specially-designed alloy wheels, a lowered ride height and a subtly aggressive bodykit – give the A3 Saloon a sporty, muscular appeal.
What's it like to drive?
The A3 Saloon’s driving position is impressive, with good visibility out the front and an equally good view of the essential dials behind the wheel.
Handling-wise the car benefits from lightly weighted, precise steering, and plenty of grip, which make for a stable, confidence-inspiring drive.
In both manual and automatic, the A3 Saloon changes gear with considerable enthusiasm, adding to the car’s smooth progress along all but the most rutted of surfaces. Cars fitted with Audi’s Quattro 4-wheel-drive system benefit from even better road holding.
Due to its compact dimensions and light steering the A3 Saloon is also a great town car, as at home negotiating narrow city streets as it is squeezing into tight parking spaces.
The car’s range of diesel engines provide plenty of power for B-road overtaking manoeuvres and fast motorway cruising. The A3 Saloon’s refined ride and hushed cabin also make it eminently qualified for longer journeys.
Handling-wise the car benefits from lightly weighted, precise steering, and plenty of grip.
There’s a wide range of adjustment for both the driver’s seat and the steering wheel, so getting comfortable inside the A3 Saloon should be a breeze. All round visibility is good too, with only the large rear pillars impeding the view back just a little.
As it’s an Audi, the A3 Saloon is suitably well-equipped. The entry-level Sport model features a 5.8-inch colour screen, a DAB digital radio, 8 speakers and Bluetooth, while S line cars – the only other additional trim level – add half-leather upholstery, a sporty flat-bottomed steering wheel and that stylish bodykit.
The Technology package adds a larger infotainment screen, an upgraded sat nav and Audi’s MMI Touch system, which incorporates a touch-sensitive input panel that allows the driver to operate the sat nav without taking their eyes off the road. Additional features include an upgraded 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system and super-luxurious quilted leather seats – it’s the Imax of driving.
The A3 Saloon’s cabin is typically Audi, with a sea of soft-touch plastics and high-quality materials reminding you that you’re travelling in a well-built, premium vehicle. All the switchgear and controls are well-engineered, tactile and fall easily to hand.
With its longer dimensions and bigger boot, the A3 Saloon boasts more practicality than its Sportback cousin. There’s plenty of leg and headroom up front, with more legroom in the back as well, allowing four adults to travel in comfort over longer distances. Rear passenger headroom is slightly compromised by the car’s sloping roof. That’s the price you pay for the A3 Saloon’s sporty exterior design.
The boot space is larger than that of the A3 Sportback, with enough room to pack for a long weekend away, while the rear seats fold down to increase load capacity.
Interior storage is also impressive, with a cubby in the centre console to store smartphones, wallets and loose change, a larger compartment under the front centre armrest, a decent-sized glovebox and a pair of cupholders. Door bins are more than adequate, with enough room to take a large sparkling bottle of water each.
Reliability and running costs
The Audi A3 saloon offers good value against the competition, with generally strong residual values.
The car’s diesel engines boast impressive fuel economy as well, with the 1.6-litre version returning 68.9mpg for the 6-speed manual transmission and 70.6mpg for the auto, and the 2.0-litre TDI diesel delivering between 57.6mpg and 67.3mpg (depending on transmission and whether the car is equipped with optional 4-wheel drive).
Reliability and safety are both excellent, with the A3 Saloon sharing tried and tested engines and technology with other cars in the Volkswagen Audi group. Additionally the car feels incredibly well-built, so we don’t foresee any major problems when it comes to A3 Saloon ownership. But you can always add cinchCare for extra peace of mind.
What we love
We love the A3 Saloon’s added practicality. The A3 Sportback is a great car - the saloon version offers just a little more for families who need the extra space.
There’s a decent amount of standard safety kit as well, including a plethora of airbags, anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control. Many cars have also been optioned from new with additional safety gear including rear side airbags, hill-start assistance, a reversing camera and Audi’s pre-sense system, which will brake the car automatically if it senses an imminent collision. Unsurprisingly the A3 Saloon has a maximum 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating.
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It may not be a popular choice, but the Audi A3 Saloon has an awful lot going for it. Stylish looks, exceptional build quality, surprising practicality and smooth, economical diesel engines make it a winner in our eyes. In a small market, the A3 Saloon is a big contender.
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