$22,444 - $38,697

2017 Audi A3 Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2017 Audi A3 was new.

Scorecard

Performance: 8.4

Critics agree the 2017 Audi A3 engine lineup is satisfying, from the base engine to the performance-tuned S3's potent power maker. Acceleration is lively, regardless of trim, with more power than you might expect. All-wheel-drive models add more pep and crisper road handling skills – not that the base A3 lacks by any means. The S3's performance is even sportier, with its upgraded suspension and steering. For those who want to save money, the A3 Sportback e-tron makes a great choice, as it achieves class-leading fuel economy. Ride quality in all A3 models is smoother than what you might expect from a car that handles so well.

  •  +"The A3's crisp handling doesn't come at the expense of a punishing ride, and its satisfying acceleration doesn't incur a big penalty at the pump." -- Edmunds
  • "Another big software update – one that you're more likely to feel through the seat of your pants than your hands and eyes – comes in the form of a re-vamped all-wheel drive system, and the result is a noticeably better driving experience." -- New York Daily News
  • Its 2.0-liter inline-four is carryover and different from the new, 186-hp 2.0 T in the base A3 sedan. The iron blocks are the same, but the S3 has a different head, fortified innards and a different turbo." -- Autoweek

Acceleration and Power

Front-wheel-drive 2017 A3 models come standard with a new-for-2017 turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which makes 186 horsepower. Audi pairs it to a new seven-speed automatic transmission, while all other trims use a six-speed automatic transmission. Although the base engine and transmission work quite well together and provide plenty of power, the absence of a manual transmission option will be disheartening to some shoppers. The standard setup gives the A3 an EPA-estimated fuel economy of 26 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. That drops 1 mpg each for Cabriolet models.

All-wheel-drive models have a 220-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine alongside a six-speed automatic transmission. Gas mileage in these models drops to 22/30 mpg city/highway.

Performance-tuned S3 models use another turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, but this variant makes 292 horsepower. Acceleration is quite lively, whether dashing around an urban setting or frolicking on the freeway.

  • And while we find the new 7-speed dual-clutch S-Tronic automatic to be more than up to the job, a car this size really deserves the option of a good 6-speed manual." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Though its available steering-wheel shift paddles give the driver more control, the dual-clutch automatic transmission is suitably responsive when left to its own devices." -- Edmunds
  • "The engine is engaging, four-cylinder or not, and generally punches above its weight. This 2.0T can get some weird harmonics going when it's held at certain revs, but you'll notice only if you're looking for it. It never intrudes in the normal course of business. Cruising along at 90 on an empty freeway, engine turning a bit past 3,000 rpm, you're never inclined to think 'this thing has a four.'" -- Autoweek

Alternative Fuels/Charging

If it's fuel economy you care about most, the A3 Sportback e-tron is the way to go. Its 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and 75-kilowatt electric motor each produce 102 horsepower. Combined, they make 204 horsepower for the A3, which is more power than the base model offers.

This is a plug-in hybrid, which can operate solely on electric power or a combination of both gas and electric. A 240-volt home charger restores the battery in two hours and 15 minutes, whereas a standard 120-volt household outlet will do the job in about eight hours. The EPA estimates the e-tron earns 34 mpg combined city/highway and 83 mpg-e in electric-only mode. (For more about mpg-e, click here.) It can drive up to 16 miles on a full charge.

Handling and Braking

With its impressive cornering ability, the A3 isn't afraid of spirited driving, especially in models with all-wheel drive. There's virtually no body roll around corners, so you can have some fun without feeling unstable.

With handling as sharp as the A3's is, you might suspect poor ride quality, since cars can sometimes favor one over the other. However, that's not the case with this Audi. The ride is smooth and tame, providing great comfort for a typical commute.

The performance-oriented S3 offers quicker handling responses, without too much of a sacrifice to ride quality. This is something of an accomplishment for performance models, as many ride quite harshly in the name of corner carving. In other words, the A3 better suits a more grown-up driving personality, leaving hot hatches and tuner cars to more boyish motorists.

  • "Toggling the Drive Mode Select system to Comfort brings a smoother ride, lighter steering and power delivery that isn't as rambunctious, which is great for the 90 percent of driving people do on a daily basis." -- CNET
  • "Yes, the S3 is incredibly fast when flung around a back road at seven tenths (push any harder and you're either angling for a Darwin award or a vehicular homicide indictment). No, it's not as rewarding or involving as some of the alternatives to drive, but it's not as punishing, either. The S3 is the compact sport sedan for grownups; it's for those who have left Golf Rs and WRXs and Evos and Focuses and their ilk in life's rearview mirror, but who still want speed, grip, and handling. They just aren't so willing to compromise to achieve it anymore." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Aided by all-wheel drive, it handles curves with strong grip and confident direction changes. Body control in general is excellent, resisting lean through the bends. Extensive use of aluminum helps keep a check on curb weight, bringing benefits in acceleration along with handling." -- Autotrader (2016)

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