Audi's A3 premium compact car has the same dramatic front end as its
bigger, far more expensive siblings. It also drives like a high-end
European luxury car, despite its small car size.
Despite its lower
price, the A3 doesn't skimp in the cabin. It has the same great build
quality and expensive-feeling, stylish materials you'll find in Audi's
top-end vehicles. Now you can get big car luxury in a small car package
When I first drove the
Audi A3 after it was introduced a couple of years ago, I was skeptical
it would sell very well. It wasn't that the A3 was a bad car, it was
actually an unusually impressive one, but it ran completely contrary to
conventional wisdom. Here in America, unlike in Europe, there's really
no such thing as a "premium" compact car. Over here, compact cars are
always cheap, and luxury cars are always big.
But this Audi breaks
with tradition. It's definitely a premium car, with the kind of
perfectly crafted cabin and high-tech features you usually only see in
luxury cars that cost $50,000 or more. And it's also a small car,
roughly the same size as a Volkswagen Golf. "This A3 is fantastic, but
nobody's going to buy it," I thought at the time. "People are going to
look at the size and think 'cheap.' And they're going to look at the
price tag and think 'no.'"
The A3 starts around
$26,000, which is about $10,000 more than a base Honda Civic. If you
want it with the more powerful V6 engine, it boosts the price to nearly
The price didn't stop
more than 1 million people worldwide from buying the current generation
A3, though, making it a huge sales hit for Audi. It's even been a modest
success here in America, bringing some enthusiastic new buyers to the
That's no surprise.
Once you drive an A3, you'll fall in love with it.
This car has the kind
of sophisticated handling and premium performance that are rare in
luxury sedans twice its price. It just oozes style and athleticism, from
its gaping grille to its perfectly designed mechanicals.
It has a dual-clutch
automatic gearbox that I think is the very best transmission in the
world, hands down. It comes with all-wheel drive, a beautifully weighted
suspension, and optional shock absorbers that use magnetic fluid to
instantly change the damping rate as you're driving. The whole car is a
stunning showcase of German engineering. I want to find something to
criticize because, after all, that's the job of a car critic. It's just
that this car makes it so incredibly difficult.
What was tested?
The 2009 Audi A3 3.2 with a base price of $34,915.
Options on the test car: None. Total MSRP price including the
destination charge is: $34,915.
Why avoid it? If
you're really picky about your factory-installed radio's sound quality,
you won't be happy with the A3.
Why buy it?
Audi's compact A3 looks, drives and feels like a $50,000 luxury car, but
it starts at half the price. It's a showcase of the latest German
engineering and still gets good gas mileage.
Bottom Line: OK,
the base radio sounds a bit tinny. But that's all I could find. I really
hope America jumps on board the premium-compact bandwagon. When a car
drives like a BMW 5-Series, looks like a supermodel and still gets great
gas mileage, it comes mighty close to automotive perfection.
By Derek Price ©
AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Byline: Audi Review provided by Tony
Leopardo © AutoWire.Net
Audi Home Page
Column Name: Audi's
compact A3 looks, drives and feels like a luxury car
Topic: The 2009 Audi A3
Word Count: 656
Photo Caption: The
2009 Audi A3 3.2
Photo Credits: Audi A3
Series #: 2009 - 21
the Microsoft Word version here:
2009 Audi A3
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2009 Audi A3