Audi A3 fights the good fight in a tough, competitive automotive segment

The Audi A3 is in its second year as a four-door sedan after spending its first generation as a five-door hatchback.

2016 Audi A3 sedan

Rating:Star5 Star Star Star Star

As an entry level luxury sedan, the Audi A3 faces very tough competition in its class and not just from traditional segment like the BMW 3-Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Audi also offers its slightly larger A4 sedan for just about $5,000 more than the A3 base MSRP of $30,825.

Still, according to the latest sales numbers released by Audi for November, the various configurations of the A3 — A3 and S3 sedans and A3 cabriolet — are the company’s second-best seller with a jump of nearly 21 percent in sales for the month over the previous year and a huge leap of over 67 percent in 2015 sales over the previous year’s numbers.

With 32,732 in sales for the year, the A3 portfolio is outselling everything the German automaker has to offer this year save for its Q5 crossover.

That’s pretty good validation that Audi made a good decision when it reconfigured the A3 into a sedan for the 2015 model year from the previous generation’s five-door hatchback.

For 2016, Audi gives A3 sedan customers the choice of three trim levels (Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige) and three different engines, all four-cylinders. The 1.8-liter and 2.0-liter are both turbocharged, and there is also a 2.0-liter diesel for those seeking more miles out of a gallon of fuel. EPA figures for the 1.8T are 23 miles-per-gallon city, 33 highway and 27 combined and for the 2.0T 24/33/27. Numbers for the diesel are 31/43/36.

As for performance, the 1.8T is measured at 170 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque with a zero-to-60 mph clocking of 7.2 seconds and the 2.0T at 220 hp, 258 lb.-ft. of torque and 5.8 seconds. The diesel, by comparison, is a relatively pokey in getting from zero-to-60 in 8.1 seconds with its 150 hp and 236 lb.-ft. of torque.

All the engines are mated to a six-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission that works as an automatic with manual gear selection. Front-wheel drive is standard on the 1.8T and diesel models. The 2.0T features Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system.

Our test vehicle came with the Prestige package that tacked on $8,850 to the MSRP of $34,200. The package includes heated power front seats with four-way lumbar support, navigation and Audi’s MMI touch system for operation of various functions with the punch of a button and turn of a knob, a Bang & Olufsan premium sound system, adaptive cruise control, and other convenience features.

Add a Sport package (front sport seats, Audi drive select controls for adjusting the throttle response to dynamic or comfort mode, three-spoke steering wheel with paddle shifters, and sport suspension) and replace the 18-inch wheels in the Prestige package with 19-inch titanium finish wheels and the total cost was up to $45,575.

That’s a hefty increase over the base MSRP, but considering all you get is worth if you can extend your budget far.

The A3 may be at the so-called entry level of the luxury genre, but it is no cheapie when it comes to comfort and convenience features. The interior features lots of soft materials in eye-pleasing designs. Leather upholstery is standard, and the way the screen rises from the dash in models equipped with the MMI system emits a futuristic aura to the atmosphere. Among standard features are a panoramic sunroof, Bluetooth with audio streaming, satellite and HD radio, dual-zone climate control, rearview camera and a parking system.

If there is any downside to the A3 it is in overall cabin and storage space. Backseat passengers may find the going tight, taller drivers may find headroom lacking, and the trunk is on the smallish side.

On the plus side, the A3’s smallish size is an advantage when maneuvering in tight quarters and adds to the feeling of sportiness when it comes to driving dynamics. While the driver has fun, passengers will appreciate the A3’s quiet and smooth ride on the highway.

For a look at the A3 2.0T quattro sedan and some specs, check out the accompanying slide show.