A luxurious alternative for Volkswagen Golf owners that are looking for a more prestigious ride without an appreciable increase in vehicle size, the 2018 Audi A3 soldiers on with minor equipment changes.
The 2018 Audi A3 scores a solid 7.3 out of 10, thanks to a class-leading feature set and an impressive focus on safety. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Audi introduced the revised A3 line three years ago, offering owners the choice of three trim levels—Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige—in either a four-door sedan, a two-door soft-top-convertible, or a plug-in-hybrid hatchback. A sporty S3 (covered separately) joined the base model, offering sedan and convertible bodies and the top two trims.
Modern Audi styling has been a case of who wears it better, with the A3, A4, A5, A6, A7, and A8 representing different sizes of the same outfit. In our opinion the tiny A3’s proportions—the short, cute rear deck, compact cabin, and short wheelbase—complement Audi’s clean, conservative overall design language. This is a clean, attractive car that’s much more conservative than a Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class, but no less attractive from the right angle.
Audi made its popular 2.0-liter, turbocharged inline-4 the A3’s standard engine last year, although there are still two distinct power levels. Regardless of trim, engines in front-drive models produce 186 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque, while A3s with Quattro all-wheel drive get a 220-hp, 258 lb-ft version of the same engine. A 7-speed dual-clutch automatic is standard on front-drive A3s, while all-wheel-drive models use a 6-speed dual-clutch.
The Audi A3 e-tron, meanwhile, offers a green alternative, with a turbocharged, 1.4-liter inline-4, a 75-kilowatt electric motor, and an 8.8-kilowatt-hour battery pack. It produces 204 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque while returning up to 83 MPGe combined.
Audi focused the A3’s cabin around its impressive Virtual Cockpit. While the 12.3-inch display replaces a traditional instrument cluster, it effectively does the job of the traditional center display, integrating navigation, communication, entertainment, and vehicle data into a beautiful, unified housing.
The A3 boasts impressive standard safety equipment, including forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. Blind-spot monitoring with rear-cross traffic alert is available on mid-range Premium Plus and standard on range-topping Prestige models, while a rearview camera is standard across the range. The A3 should carry on with last year’s IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating.
The A3 is available with two fewer doors and less one roof, if that’s what you’re into. The tiny A3 Cabriolet’s only real challenger is the underpowered Buick Cascada and larger, pricier German rivals like the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet and the BMW 4-Series Convertible—indirect competitors include the 4-cylinder Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro convertibles. The fabric roof drops into the trunk in just 18 seconds and at speeds of up to 31 miles per hour, although that canvas top does cut into the sedan’s already miniscule 12.3 cubic feet of cargo space, reducing the total figure to just 9.9 cubes.