In an era when sedans are dying and crossovers are taking their place in the automotive food chain, Audi is still committed to its entry-level four-door. And while the spicy S3 and rally-inspired RS3 may grab all the headlines, the base-spec A3 is the vehicle that will bring many first-time Audi buyers into the fold. So it had better be good.
And even compared to the nostalgia-steeped Acura Integra, the 2022 Audi A3 holds its own with a premium driving experience, edgy design, and impressive fuel economy (even with optional all-wheel drive). But like other small Volkswagen Automotive Group products, the new A3 is prone to some significant cost-cutting inside, making it feel less like a budget-priced A4 and more like an economy car that just so happens to wear four rings on the front. Folks trading in their current A3s may be disappointed with the cheap-feeling interior plastics, but the new sedan still has plenty going for it.
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Gallery: 2022 Audi A3 Review
|2022 Audi A3 Quattro Premium Plus
|Turbocharged 2.0-Liter I4
|201 Horsepower / 221 Pound-Feet
|28 City / 36 Highway / 31 Combined
- Exterior Color: Atoll Blue Metallic
- Interior Color: Black
- Wheel Size: 18 Inches
The 2022 Audi A3 is a study in design contrast. The outgoing sedan’s rounded silhouette continues into the new generation, but in detail, the A3 is far more sculpted than before. Kinky new headlights feature Audi’s synthwave pixelated LED accents, and the fenders feature artful creases that evoke the box flares of the original Audi Quattro coupe. My tester’s $850 Black Optic package ditches the Audi-chic matte aluminum accents for gloss black on the grille and window surrounds, front bumper air curtain trim, and rear bumper garnish. Gloss black is rarely my taste – especially compared to the standard “Alu-Optic” trim – but to each their own.
The cabin, meanwhile, is a massive departure from A3s of old, both in form and detail. A gauge cluster protrudes from the dash, flanked by HVAC outlets that give the binnacle a Top Gun vibe. A bladelike design element spans the width of the dash at knee-level, separating the glass-paned touchscreen from the switches and toggles on the center stack – continuing the fighter jet vibe.
And yet, the A3’s cabin makes abundant use of cheap-feeling materials. The front door panels have plenty of hard plastic, and the rear cabin is worse still: Padding only appears on the armrests, not the windowsills or door cards. The dash top gets a funky, cross-stitched bit of trim directly in front of the passenger, but the gauge binnacle surround is done up in creaky plastic. It’s hard to tell if the bold, attractive cabin design makes things better – at least stylists tried to liven up the chintzy materials – or worse, because the unusual shapes invite you to touch them.
save over $3,400 on average off MSRP* on a new Audi A3
- Seating Capacity: 5
- Seating Configuration: 2 / 3
- Cargo Capacity: 10.9 Cubic Feet
By the measuring tape, this Audi is a small car, but the automaker extracted as much comfort as possible with supportive seats front and rear, as well as a smooth ride that belies the subcompact bones under the A3’s skin. Even without adaptive dampers, the little four-door comports itself well over broken pavement, with good comfort over harsh potholes and gritty road surfaces alike. That said, there is some road noise that makes its way into the cabin, but it’s not egregious.
The A3 offers interior measurements that are mostly class-competitive, although the upstart Acura Integra offers a far more spacious cargo area thanks to its liftback design. In particular, the A3 feels much less claustrophobic than the chop-top Mercedes-Benz CLA – although the lame-duck A-Class is a bit better on that front.
- Center Display: 10.1-Inch Touchscreen
- Instrument Cluster Display: 10.3 Inches
- Wireless Apple CarPlay / Android Auto: Yes / Yes
For 2022, every Audi A3 comes standard with a 10.3-inch digital instrument cluster (as tested here), although some trims offer a 12.3-inch Audi Virtual Cockpit display as part of the Technology package. In either case, the A3 comes with a 10.1-inch touchscreen display with both wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and my car had inductive device charging as well. The A3 includes a full complement of USB-C charging ports – two in the front and two in the rear – so keeping phones juiced up should be easy.
Audi’s infotainment system features crisp graphics and is reasonably easy to use after a day of familiarization. The Premium Plus trim I drove doesn’t get embedded navigation – no big deal to those who use smartphone integration but a potential problem if you forget your phone or lose cell service. If that’s a concern for you, tick the box for the $2,250 Tech package and you get navigation, the larger digital instrument cluster with a full-screen map view, and a Bang & Olufsen sound system. Personally, I felt like the A3 was spec’d perfectly.
- Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-Liter Inline-Four
- Output: 201 Horsepower / 221 Pound-Feet
- Transmission: Seven-Speed Dual-Clutch
While the Audi S3 and RS3 are the obvious performers in the lineup, the standard A3 is no slouch when it’s time to have some fun. I was surprised to learn after a spirited drive that Audi only offers the A3 with the 201-horsepower version (40 TFSI in company parlance) of the corporate 2.0-liter – my butt dyno told me I was working with more. That could be the work of 221 pound-feet of torque at just 1,600 rpm, or it could be the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission’s quick responses in Sport mode. There’s also a 48-volt mild-hybrid system that provides some electric assist, though it’s mostly there to smooth out the engine idle-stop system.
Although it’s down on power relative to its BMW and Mercedes rivals, the A3 feels spry and snappy when the light turns green, with a 0-60 time in a respectable 6.3 seconds according to Audi. It’s also pretty fun to drive up a winding road. A quick-witted Quattro all-wheel-drive system reduces torque steer when powering out of corners, and the A3’s just-right suspension tuning gives adequate body control and good behavior through mid-corner bumps. The steering is numb but heavy enough to impart a sense of stability when hustling up the canyon.
- Driver Assistance Level: SAE Level 2 (Hands-On)
- NHTSA Rating: Not Rated
- IIHS Rating: Not Rated
If you want your 2022 Audi A3 with more active safety features than just automatic emergency braking and lane departure intervention, then you’ll have to step up from the base Premium into the Premium Plus trim. Do that and you’ll be rewarded with driver-assist tech like adaptive cruise control, active lane departure prevention with lane centering, and blind spot monitoring. It’s disappointing that the base A3 doesn’t even have SAE Level 1 technology on board, but at least it all comes standard on the top dog.
The driver assistance suite is easy to activate and operates very well. The cruise control and lane centering technology also operate independently of the other if desired, as when negotiating a freeway with faded or non-existent lane lines – keep the adaptive cruise on and kill the lane tech for a smooth ride free of any wheel tugging. On better-maintained roads, don’t bother deactivating anything, because it all works just fine.
- City: 28 MPG
- Highway: 36 MPG
- Combined: 31 MPG
|Audi A3 2.0T Quattro
|Acura Integra A-Spec
|BMW 228i xDrive Gran Coupe
|Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 4Matic
- Base Price: $33,900 + $1,045 Destination
- Trim Base Price: $40,245
- As-Tested Price: $42,490
Starting at $34,945 including destination, the 2022 Audi A3 is a reasonable value if you want a premium badge on the hood. In my mind, Quattro all-wheel drive is a must on almost every Audi, and it costs an additional $2,000 on the A3. I’d also recommend springing for the Premium Plus, which starts at $40,245 and includes more active safety features, full LED headlights, and leatherette trim for the armrests – goodbye padded urethane. My tester’s Black Optic package costs $850 and mandates the $800 18-inch wheels, and a $595 coat of Atoll Blue metallic paint (gorgeous, by the way) brings the total to $42,490.
That’s less expensive than a BMW 228i xDrive Gran Coupe that starts at $39,295 with destination and costs $43,495 comparably equipped. It also undercuts the $41,250 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 4Matic, whose price rises to $47,250 with advanced driver-assistance features added in. The bargain play in the class is the spacious (though front-drive–only) Acura Integra, which starts at $31,895 and includes adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assistance right out of the box. Upgrade to the A-Spec Technology trim and you get adaptive dampers and a brilliant ELS Studio 3D system for a hard-loaded price of $37,395.
A3 Competitor Reviews:
2022 Audi A3 Quattro Premium Plus