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MSRP: $31,950 - 54,900

8.1

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 8.5
Performance: 8.6
Interior: 8.0
Safety: 9.3
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

2018 Audi A3 Review

The 2018 Audi A3 delivers spirited performance. Despite its low price, the A3 has features and high-quality materials found in higher-priced Audi stablemates. However, the A3 ranks in the lower half of luxury small cars because it has less rear-seat and trunk space than most competitors. It also has a below-average predicted reliability rating.

Pros & Cons

 

  • Lively acceleration, especially with upgraded engines
  • Dynamic handling balanced with a smooth ride
  • High-tech infotainment system and available virtual cockpit
  • Spacious front seats

 

 

  • Small back seat
  • Limited cargo space in all-wheel-drive, hybrid, and convertible models

 

New for 2018

 

  • Heated front seats and two USB ports now standard
  • Safety technology added to Premium Plus trim
  • New RS 3 high-performance model introduced

 

Is the Audi A3 a Good Car?

The A3 is a great car because it's sporty, fuel-efficient, and comes loaded with technology and upscale touches. For 2018, heated front seats and two USB ports became standard, and higher trims get extra advanced safety features. The brand also introduced the high-performance RS 3. The A3 competes well with more expensive competitors, and it has the best combination of quality and value in the class, which is why it's our 2018 Best Luxury Small Car for the Money.

However, if you're looking for space or utility, the A3 really isn't that good of a car. The back seats are short on space, especially for tall riders. While the A3 features standard amenities like leather seats, driver assists, and intuitive technology, other luxury sedans give you more choices for increased opulence. 

Should I Buy the Audi A3?

The A3's roughly $32,000 price tag makes it one of the least expensive luxury small cars. That alone makes it worthy of your consideration, especially since you'll get the premium interior and technology expected from a luxury brand at a bargain cost.

The A3 has some competition from other cars on the lower end of the class's price range, like the entry-level Mercedes-Benz CLA and Acura ILX. In general, the A3 is better than those two. If you need more passenger room than what the A3 offers, stroll across the showroom floor to the Audi A4.

Compare the A3, A4, and 3 Series »

Should I Buy a New or Used Audi A3?

The current A3 generation launched with the 2015 model year, and there have been changes every year since then. The e-tron plug-in hybrid model, as well as standard parking sensors and a rearview camera, debuted in 2016. For 2017, Audi replaced the 170-horsepower base engine with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 186 horsepower. The MMI infotainment system was also refreshed to include Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, as well as a retractable screen. The 2017 model saw the introduction of the Audi Virtual Cockpit display as an available feature. 

For 2018, heated front seats and two USB ports are standard, while safety features like rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring have been added to the midrange Premium Plus trim. You can still find these features in earlier A3s, but you may have to look a little harder. The high-performance RS 3 also debuts for the 2018 model year. It features an exclusive five-cylinder, 400-horsepower engine, along with RS-specific sport design elements. 

If these additions aren't important to you, consider shopping for an older A3 to save some money. To further research the used models in this generation, read our reviews of the 2015, 2016, and 2017 Audi A3. If you decide that an older model is right for you, check out our Used Car Deals page for savings and incentives on used vehicles.

Compare the 2016, 2017, and 2018 Audi A3 »

We Did the Research for You: 36 Reviews Analyzed

We analyzed three dozen Audi A3 reviews – along with safety and reliability ratings, fuel economy estimates, and more – to help you decide if the 2018 A3 is the right new car for you. This 2018 Audi A3 review incorporates applicable research for all model years in this generation, which spans the 2015 through 2018 model years.

Why You Can Trust Us

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking and reviewing vehicles for a decade, and our team has more than a combined 75 years of experience in the automotive industry. To maintain objectivity, we don't accept incentives or expensive gifts from car companies, and an outside team handles the ads on our site.

How Much Does the Audi A3 Cost?

With its starting price of $31,950, the 2018 Audi A3 sedan is one of the least expensive luxury small cars you can buy. Pricing for the cabriolet (convertible) model starts at $38,350. High-performance trims include the S3 ($43,650) and the RS 3 ($54,900). Audi also sells a hatchback version with a plug-in hybrid powertrain: the A3 Sportback e-tron. Prices for this model start at $39,500, though some shoppers may be eligible for a $4,500 federal tax credit.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great deals at your local Audi dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Audi deals page.

Audi A3 Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: Audi A3 or Audi A4?

The Audi A4 is a better car than its little sibling in almost every way. The A4 can comfortably ferry adults in the back seat, and its larger trunk makes long travels much easier. You'll also get more standard equipment in the A4, like advanced safety technology, Apple CarPlay, and tri-zone automatic climate control. The main reason to go with the A3 is its lower price, but you'd still probably only be saving a few thousand dollars.

Which Is Better: Audi A3 or Mercedes-Benz CLA?

Though both these cars are entry-level models from their respective brands, the A3's interior outshines that of the Mercedes-Benz CLA. The Benz has features like leather upholstery and a panoramic sunroof on its options list, while they come standard in the A3. The Audi infotainment system is more user friendly and straightforward than the one in the CLA. The one way the CLS bests the A3 is with its predicted reliability score. It earned an above-average score of 3.5 out of five, while the Audi earned a below-average rating of 2.5.

Which Is Better: Audi A3 or Acura ILX?

The Acura ILX’s price is in the same ballpark as the Audi A3, and it earns a better predicted reliability score. However, it's not as upscale, and it doesn’t deliver the same fun performance as the A3. The ILX's cabin materials feel cheaper, and it has a stiff ride over uneven pavement. Lastly, it comes with fewer standard features than the A3.

Compare the A3, CLA, and ILX »

A3 Interior

How Many People Does the A3 Seat?

You can seat five people in sedan and hatchback configurations of the A3 and four people in the convertible. Leather seats are standard, and those sitting in the front get 12-way power adjustments and heated seats. These, along with comfortable cushioning, will have everyone clamoring over the front seats. Like many other vehicles this size, the rear seats are best left for your prodigy and not your peers. If you frequently use your back seat, it's worth noting that the A3 has more leg- and headroom than a Mercedes-Benz CLA and Acura ILX.

A3 and Car Seats

All Audi A3s come with a tether anchor and a set of lower anchors on the rear outboard seats. Body styles with a middle seat include a third tether anchor for this seating position. For the most part, caregivers will have little trouble locating and using the LATCH hardware, though the lower anchors are a little tight to move around.

A3 Interior Quality

This is the cheapest model you can buy new from the Audi dealer, but even with the low starting price, it doesn't feel as though the interior has been shortchanged. Everything feels solid and durable, and materials include high-grade selections like genuine leather and aluminum inlays. Though you can find a few swankier interiors in the luxury small car segment, you have to spend about $5,000 more for them.

A3 Cargo Space

Cargo space varies depending on the model, but all A3s come up short in this area. The sedan has 12.3 cubic feet of cargo room, which is less than most compact sedans. Still, some test drivers found it large enough to carry four carry-on-size suitcases, plus a couple of small bags. The hatchback body of the A3 e-tron is a little larger, at 13.6 cubic feet. All-wheel-drive sedan models and convertible models measure around 10 cubic feet.

A3 Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

No matter which A3 trim you choose, you'll get an infotainment system that's responsive, straightforward, and easy to use. The base system features a 7-inch display and a control knob, with two USB ports, a 10-speaker audio system, and a rearview camera in every model.

The technology options list has a couple items that turn up the wow factor, starting with Audi's virtual cockpit – a 12.3-inch driver's gauge cluster display screen that's also found in models like the A4 and TT. A little more subtle, but still state-of-the-art, is the enhanced infotainment system. Its handwriting recognition lets you trace letters and numbers to quickly input an address into the navigation system, and smartphone integration (through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) gives you quick access to your favorite apps.

Read more about interior »

A3 Performance

A3 Engine: From Plug-In to High Performance

There's a rich selection when it comes to powering your new Audi A3. Most come with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. In the standard setup with front-wheel drive, this engine pairs with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and has a rating of 186 horsepower. Upgrade to Quattro all-wheel drive and you'll get a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and a 220-horsepower rating. This 2.0 turbocharged engine is lively, and both transmissions feel smooth and responsive.

The S3 has the same engine, tuned to crank out 292 horsepower. If you really want to shake things up, you can achieve blistering acceleration times with the 400-horsepower Audi RS 3. It comes with a turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine, which bears a unique exhaust sound.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron. This plug-in hybrid uses a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor that together produce 204 horsepower.

A3 Gas Mileage: One of the Most Economical

The A3 manages to be both energetic and economical. Its base 2.0-liter engine has one of the highest fuel economy ratings among luxury small cars, at 26 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. Opting for all-wheel drive drops this to 24 mpg city/31 mpg highway, and as you move up in horsepower, gas mileage decreases even further. Expect 22/28 mpg with the high-performance S3, and subtract 3 mpg in the city for the RS 3’s rating.

The Sportback e-tron also does an excellent job of delivering peppy performance in a fuel-sipping package. When powered by both electricity and gasoline, it gets 83 mpg-equivalent and can drive about 16 miles on all-electric power.

A3 Ride and Handling: Light and Lively

Front-wheel drive is standard in the A3 sedan, but if you pony up around $3,000 more, you can get Audi's highly praised Quattro all-wheel-drive system in all models but the A3 e-tron. This system, which is standard in the S3 and RS 3, brings extra grip, an increase in horsepower, and a six-speed automatic transmission. The steering is precise, and you can adjust it (along with throttle response and transmission shifts) by setting the car in Comfort, Dynamic, Auto, or Individual mode.

Read more about performance »

A3 Reliability

Is the Audi A3 Reliable?

The 2018 A3 has a predicted reliability rating of 2.5 out of five, which is below average for a new vehicle. The segment has an average score of 3.5. The 2018 Cadillac ATS and 2018 BMW 4 Series are among the 15 class rivals with a higher predicted reliability score.

Audi A3 Warranty

All Audi A3s come with a four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty.

Read more about reliability »

A3 Safety

A3 Crash Test Results

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2018 A3 a Top Safety Pick+ designation. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded the A3 an overall safety rating of five out of five stars, with five stars for the side crash test and four stars for the rollover and frontal crash tests.

A3 Safety Features

Standard safety equipment includes Audi Pre Sense Front (front collision warning and brake assist), Audi Pre Sense Basic (a system that prepares the car for an impact by rolling up the windows and sunroof, activating the hazard warning lights, and tightening seat belts), a rearview camera, and rain-sensing wipers and headlights. Optional safety features include adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capabilities, front and rear parking sensors, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert.

Read more about safety »

Which Audi A3 Model Is Right for Me?

There's a bevy of choices to sort through when selecting the right A3 for you, including front-wheel or all-wheel drive, three trim levels, three body styles, two high-performance editions, and a plug-in hybrid variant. For the drivetrain, a few trims come standard with the Quattro all-wheel-drive system. All others have front-wheel drive, with the option to upgrade to all-wheel drive for between $2,700 and $3,000.

For its excellent value, we recommend the base Premium trim. Its starting price of $31,950 makes it one of the least expensive luxury small cars you can buy, but it doesn't feel like Audi skimped on luxury features. Leather upholstery, a panoramic sunroof, and a 10-speaker audio system give the car a high-class feel. Goodies like heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 7-inch display, two USB ports, a rearview camera, and advanced safety assistance features are also included. The Premium trim level is also available as a convertible (the A3 cabriolet) for $38,350.

Audi A3 Premium Plus

For an extra $3,250, you can add smartphone integration (via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), a proximity key, and push-button and remote start to your new A3 sedan. These tech treats are part of the Premium Plus trim, which also grants you a power-adjustable passenger seat and Audi Side Assist (a safety package that includes rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring). The sedan's MSRP starts at $35,200, and pricing for the cabriolet version starts at $41,600.

Audi A3 Prestige

The Prestige sedan ($40,700) and Prestige cabriolet ($46,800) are the highest trim levels of the A3. In addition to standard features from the Premium Plus trim, you also get an upgraded infotainment system with navigation, voice commands, handwriting recognition, and a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system. Standard safety features include lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capabilities.

Audi A3 Sportback e-tron

The Sportback e-tron is the plug-in hybrid edition of the A3. Its solitary configuration includes front-wheel drive, a hatchback body style, and a hybrid powertrain (a 1.4-liter gasoline engine and a single electric motor). The A3 e-tron is available in all three trim levels: Premium ($39,500), Premium Plus ($42,600), and Prestige ($48,100).

Audi S3 and RS 3

Audi's performance-tuned models are the S3 and the all-new RS 3. With the S3, you get the same size engine as the A3, but horsepower increases to 292. A six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, all-wheel drive, heated front sport seats, and a sport suspension are among the enhancements. Pricing also gets a boost, to $43,650 for the S3 Premium Plus and $48,950 for the S3 Prestige.

The RS 3 comes with a 400-horsepower five-cylinder engine mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and has a starting price of $54,900. Other standard features include all-wheel drive, Nappa leather seats with diamond-patterned stitching, and a specially tuned magnetic ride suspension system.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great deals at your local Audi dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Audi deals page.

See 2018 Audi A3 specs and trims »

The Final Call

The Audi A3 is a great car if you want to ease into the luxury segment and like the performance and sophistication characteristically associated with German engineering. Its refined powertrains quickly get you up to speed (especially the high-performance variants), and you'll get one of the best fuel economy ratings with the base engine. The sedan has a low starting price compared to its competitors, yet still offers an authentic luxury experience, with leather seats and advanced technology included in every trim. Sizewise, this car works best if you plan to mainly use the front seats and have few groceries or bulky items to haul.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "With a base price starting around $33,000, it's easy to load up a 2018 Audi A3 Sedan or Cabriolet convertible with familiar Audi luxury features and still walk away for less than $40K. The sport-oriented S3 and RS 3 offer sizzling performance, but at a hefty price. … The 2018 Audi A3 doesn't have the same visual pop as a Mercedes-Benz CLA or an Infiniti QX30, and you'll find a better price and more legroom in an Acura ILX. Although its base price is attractive, once you start piling on options, the A3/S3 can easily approach the $50,000 mark." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Just because it has a premium badge doesn't mean it's out of your reach. Attractive, upscale and fun to drive, the 2017 Audi A3 sets the standard for the new smaller crop of entry-level luxury cars." -- Edmunds (2017)
  • "The 2017 Audi S3 starts at $43,850, but can reach $56,000 when loaded up. Although the price may seem a bit high due to the car's lack of refinement in some respects, the car keeps its promise on cornering, power, and overall performance, which are much more important qualities for this car." -- Motor Trend (2017)

Buying

Expert Advice

Last Updated: November 16, 2018

Slowing Demand: The Audi A3 is selling decently within the luxury small car class, although sales are currently down 17.4 percent versus the same period in 2017. Both of its segment siblings, the Audi A4 and A5 Sportback are more popular than the small A3 right now. The slightly larger A4 is outselling it nearly 2 to 1.

Research more buying advice »
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