For years, driving a luxury car meant going big or going home. Realizing that not everyone out there looking for the ultimate in comfort, style and driving response is interested in piling into a long and wide sedan, Audi set to work applying their successful premium formula to the compact car segment. The result is the 2010 Audi A3, a high-class hatchback that serves as a stunning entry-level luxury competitor.
Approaching the car from the front, the 2010 Audi A3 (MSRP $27,270) makes the same technologically advanced impression as all other Audis. The A3’s broad, horse-collar grille, low bumper air inlets and bright LED eyebrows above rectangular headlights suggest that it is a vehicle designed by automotive experts with the utmost precision and care. That feeling is maintained by the vehicle’s clean side panels, and a graceful roofline, which maintains much more of a wagon feel than many other hatches on the market. Although the A3 is certainly smaller than the other automobiles in the Audi lineup, it has a presence that is lacking in competing compact luxury cars.
The Audi A3’s interior displays the same classy touch that puts the brand amongst the most celebrated in the world when it comes to passenger compartment quality and design. Sliding behind the wheel of the A3 and closing the door evokes the feeling that you have entered a vehicle costing two or three times the asking price. Easy to read and attractive gauges face the driver, framed by the hatchback’s leather-wrapped steering wheel. An understated center stack contains entertainment, optional navigation and climate controls while the A3’s interior panels are formed of soft-touch materials that blend together flawlessly.
Leather seats are standard on the Audi A3, enhancing the compact’s premium feel right out of the box. The practical aspects of the A3’s hatch design are enhanced by the use of folding rear seats that expand the vehicle’s 19.5 cubic feet of cargo space to 39 cubic feet in total – an amount that rivals some compact crossovers. The list of included equipment is impressive on the entry Premium trim level with items such as cruise control, a driver’s information system, 10-speaker sound system with satellite radio and dual-zone automatic climate controls all present and accounted for. The Premium Plus trim adds an eight-way power driver’s seat, a Storage Package for easier cargo management, an Illumination Package and Bluetooth integration. Stand-alone options on the Audi A3 include the Open Sky sunroof, and a Sport Package, which upgrades your A3 with bolstered seats and larger wheels.
The 2010 Audi A3 is offered with two distinct drivetrains, each oriented toward a different lifestyle choice. The first is an FSI® Direct Injected 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine that makes use of a turbocharger and variable valve timing to squeeze out 200 hp and 207 lb/ft of torque. This unit’s flat torque curve and responsive throttle make it a pleasure to drive in either standard front-wheel drive form or with optional quattro all-wheel drive installed under the floorboards. The former can be had with a six-speed manual gearbox or Audi’s S tronic Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG), which features both manual and automatic shifting capabilities. Quattro models benefit from the use of the S tronic transmission. Fuel economy for this engine shows as 21 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway for manual-equipped front-wheel drive models.
Drivers who are interested in combining their driving fun with an even healthier dose of thrifty fuel consumption would do well to consider the Audi A3 TDI, which recently won the Green Car of the Year award! This unique version of the hatchback sees a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder clean diesel engine installed between the front fenders, a mill capable of generating 140 hp and a stout 236 lb/ft of torque. Mated to the S tronic DSG transmission, the front-wheel drive TDI offers fantastic performance and bumps fuel mileage up to an incredible 30 mpg around town and 42 mpg highway.
The 2010 Audi A3 is a compact luxury car whose practicality, style and available diesel fuel economy are unmatched by any of its Teutonic competitors. Once again, Audi has defied convention and has shown that its engineers and designers are capable of creating a unique premium experience thanks to their unconventional and innovative approach.