We get to test an interesting range of vehicles here at Car_Revs_Daily, from the entry level Hyundai Accentup to the plush Mercedes E450 convertible. What is unusual for us is to test the entry-level model of a premium maker. But with an all-new Audi A3 for 2022, it gave us a great reason to try the carmaker’s most affordable vehicle.
So, is it a bargain Bahnstormer, or inexpensive imitation of greatness? Let’s find out!
Strong Family Looks
From the outside, this is one handsome sedan, if not a large one. The new model is more evolutionary than revolutionary – it’s clearly an Audi, but no problem with that, the previous model was stylish.
The front end sports a bolder look, with a larger (but not too large!) grille with sporty honeycomb pattern, a crisp headlight shape, lower grille cutouts and a sculpted hood line.
The profile echoes the aggressive look with muscular fenders and deep sculpted cut-ins at the lower door panels. The greenhouse is swept-back and coupe-like that adds to the sporty vibe. The real eye-catcher on our tester were the optional 18-inch 5-Y spoke design rims that take the lines from sensible to sensuous. We wouldn’t get an A3 without them!
Audis are synergistic in their design, so it’s no surprise to find crisp lines at the rear with shapely LED taillights tucked under the trunk line, while an integrated spoiler-like fold shields the familiar Audi 4 ring logo. Finishing off our tester was a handsome Atoll Blue Metallic – a kind of blue green that shows off the new lines without being shouty about it.
Often, when we praise a vehicle for good interior design and excellent quality, we say it’s Audi-like. So, we were pleased to see our A3 once again raises the bar for a great place to be.
Open the door to an A3 and you immediately notice a modern layout that’s tasteful and welcoming. Standard leather seating wafts up to greet your nose, reinforcing the quality impression.
Sit in those cowhides and you’ll find standard heated 8-way power seats with four-way power lumbar supports. In the past we’ve loved the optional Audi Sport seats, but we have to admit, these standard ones are supportive and comfortable. Another important point, despite the fact that the A3 is a small sedan, the front seats are well-designed, even for taller drivers.
The overall size makes the seats in back smallish – ok for adults for short trips, but that’s about it. With the rear seats up, we found trunk space to be generous, and the rear seats flip down easily to create loads of space. Not quite as spacious as a hatchback or crossover, but still there’s plenty you could fit inside.
We’d say the best seat in the house is still the driver’s though. You’d expect a full digital display in an Audi, and the A3 doesn’t disappoint with 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, and a standard 10.1” MMI® touch screen featuring the new MIB 3 system with handwriting recognition. With a wireless charger and Wireless Apple CarPlay, we were happy to not have to deal with any chords, and the Audi interface is simple and extremely easy to use.
While we normally bemoan the lack of a volume knob, Audi gives you an easy-to-use thumbwheel on the steering wheel and also a neat little button on the center console that you can trace clockwise to increase volume, and vice-versa to reduce. Audi is a master at creating controls with excellent tactile feel, and it really is a treat to use either of these.
Speaking of touch, along with a nicely sized leather wrapped wheel, Audi has gone to a small flip lever for selecting gears. It also serves up that same tactile excellence and it’s easy to use and nudge and makes us scratch our head at clunky systems like we find on the latest Honda and Acura products, including the sporty MDX Type S.
We also think Audi is very clever in choice of materials. Where you normally touch items, you’ll find soft, high quality materials, but in other places the plastics are hard and scratchy. You’ll have to go looking for them, though and we’re not surprised – this is Audi’s least expensive offering, and you expect some things to be built to cost. The overall experience is so good, you really don’t mind.
Small Car, Big Thrills
Great looks and interior aside, the drive is what sets the A3 apart.
Under the hood is a 2.0-liter, turbocharged 4, kicking out 201 horsepower and 221 lb.-ft. of torque. That may sound a little thin, compared to the likes of the Mazda 3 Turbo which puts out 250 hp and 320 lb.-ft of torque, but don’t be quick to judge.
The A3’s engine is a new one, that uses a Miller Cycle for better fuel efficiency, an impressive 31 combined EPA fuel economy (over 20% improved!) and also employs a 48-volt hybrid system, which we guess gives added punch at the lower end. Just as important as the new mill is the 7-speed dual-clutch transmission that snaps off shifts incredibly quickly, helping to keep that power on the boil. Our tester’s optional Quattro all-wheel drive makes sure you get the most out of every horse.
Horsey like a thoroughbred! In Normal mode the A3 feels quick but put it in Sport Mode and it chomps at the bit – this one wants to run, and fast. The turbo four sounds throaty and willing, and if it isn’t the fastest in raw numbers, the feel is exciting and lively and makes you smile.
The chassis is up for fun and games, and you can dial in different modes, while the steering is typically Audi, light, quick and direct. Putting it Sport Mode heavy’s up the effort, but really doesn’t enhance feel. Luckily you have individual mode, and you can tailor your choices to meet your needs. The Quattro system helps providing confidence and stability backing up your quick moves.
With the quick responsiveness and tidy exterior packaging, the A3 is a delight to carve up traffic as much as your favorite road. Ease off and it’s quiet and composed, but frankly, we were having so much fun zipping around we did little of that.
As you’d expect the A3 comes standard with a suite of safety equipment, and our tester’s Premium Plus package also added adaptive cruise control, active lane assist, side assist with rear cross traffic assist, and Parking system with park assist. You feel spoiled with all the tech that’s looking out for you!
Small Car, Big Price?
We’re as much impressed with the A3’s pricing as its performance. You can get into an A3 as little as $34,800 for the front-wheel-drive model, and for a true pedigree European performance sedan with sharp looks, that’s a bargain. Stepping up to the quattro brings you to $35,900 which would be our recco.
Our tester also had the Premium Plus Package for $3,300 and for the added security features and other niceties, again recommended. Our tester had the Black Optic Sport Package for $850 with some nice trim and the Sport Suspension, finished off with the 18” wheel package at $800. Add in $1,045 for destination, and we range the bell at $42,490.
Building up a BMW 228i came in at $48,450, so we’d say the Audi offers serious value in the European segment. We’d also look at the new Subaru WRX at $43,390 – less composed than the Audi but a great performance sedan for similar money. That Mazda 3 we loved would comp out at $34,090, making the Mazda 3 a tremendous value as well.
Stylish, advanced, and great fun to drive, the all-new 2022 Audi A3 is the bargain Bahnstormer we hoped it would be!
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.