In an era when sedan sales appear to be fading, automakers continue to offer entry-level compact luxury sedans.
Case in point: the Audi A3, the latest iteration in a segment brimming with competition, including the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and CLA-Class, BMW 2 Series, Lexus IS, Genesis G70, Cadillac CT4, Acura ILX and forthcoming Integra among others.
Given it has survived into its third generation for 2022, it appears Audi’s commitment to the entry-level sedan segment remains intact.
The new model is available in A3 and S3 models in Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige trim. Quattro all-wheel drive is a $2,000 option on the A3, and standard on the S3.
A slow start for a now-popular model
When the Audi A3 Sportback debuted as a four-door hatchback in 2005 as a 2006 model, it entered a U.S. market with an aversion to them, particularly those with two doors, like the Mercedes-Benz C230 Kompressor and BMW 318ti. The Saab 9-2x, although the A3 and 9-2x had four doors, attracted few buyers.
In fact, it wasn’t until the second generation arrived as a compact four-door sedan in 2014 that sales really took off. Meanwhile BMW introduced its 1 & 2 series, but they were two-door coupes, and sales trail those of the four-door Audi A3, which added a cabriolet in 2015. But poor sales led to its demise for 2020.
But the A3’s buyers are 55% female; 45% are married; 20% have children. The median buyer age is 49 years-old, slightly younger than the segment average, while median income is $120,000.
Noteworthy exterior and interior design
Audi says the new 2022 A3 has the look of a sports sedan, with blistered fenders, an RS-inspired honeycomb grille, LED headlights, and available Matrix-design LED headlights. It’s also slightly larger than before, being 1.5 inches longer, 0.8 inches wider, and a half-inch taller than the outgoing model, and has a drag coefficient of 0.27, an improvement from the old car’s 0.33. Base models come equipped with 17-inch all-season tires, while S3 models get 18-inch summer run flats
One of the new car’s most noteworthy features is the availability of a beige interior, a rarity for an automaker wed to the dreariness of gray and black interiors. The driver-oriented cockpit features a 10.25-inch display standard; 12.3-inch is optional.
Power seats with memory functionality is also new. A power panoramic sunroof is standard, as are leather seating surfaces, heated front seats, LED vanity mirrors, split-folding 40/20/40 rear seatbacks, and a rearview camera. Wood inlays are available.
Plenty of performance
The base A3 is equipped with a 2.0-liter turbocharged aluminum-alloy DOHC 4-cylinder engine rated at 201 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque augmented by a standard 48-volt mild-hybrid system.
The 48-volt mild hybrid technology adds 12 horsepower and 37 pound-feet of torque, with regenerative braking capturing up to 12 kW of power. It comes with either front-wheel drive or quattro all-wheel drive and a standard 7-speed S-tronic dual-clutch automatic with manual shifting through steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Audi quotes this A3’s 0-60 mph run at 6.3 seconds with quattro, 6.6 seconds with front-wheel drive. Yet it still returns an EPA-estimated 29 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, 32 mpg combined — a 2 mpg improvement compared to the previous A3.
The sportier S3 is endowed with a more powerful version of the same engine, rated at 306 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. Quattro and the seven-speed due clutch is standard. Fuel economy has improved 24% compared with the previous quattro model, with an EPA-estimated 28 mpg city/36 mpg highway/31 mpg combined. Yet 0-60 mph goes by in 4.5 seconds.
The A3 employs a McPherson strut front suspension, and a four-link independent rear suspension. The S3 gets an adaptive suspension with dynamic chassis control.
Tech package makes it worth the price
The technology package trickles down from the Audi A4, A5 and Q5, including Audi’s virtual cockpit, aka a digital instrument cluster that allows for a lot of customization. As mentioned, navigation is not. A head-up display is available for the first time. As for driver-assistance features, the A3 comes with park assist, land departure warning, Audi Pre Sense, and high beam assist. A head-up display is available for the first time.
The 2022 Audi A3 is a significant upgrade in technology and performance that should continue to draw in the Audi faithful prices start at $33,900 for the A3, $35,900 for the A3 quattro, and $44,900 for the S3 Premium. Prices do not include options or a $1,045 destination charge. Optics include a $1,950 Black optics Package, and a $1,500 Convenience Package, which adds Audi side assist with rear cross traffic assist, Memory driver’s seat, an alarm system with motion sensor, auto-dimming interior mirror w/ compass, auto-dimming, power-folding exterior mirrors and SiriusXM All Access service.
The 2022 A3 and S3 are now on sale. But if you crave more performance, you’ll have to wait. The RS 3 is coming soon.