Guest Drive: 2022 Audi A3
Even the best ideas evolve. In the automotive world, this is especially true. Take, for example, the hatchback—arguably the most efficient and practical automotive design ever. It provides ample storage and lots of interior room, yet has a small footprint to keep the car’s weight and size down. The only problem with hatchbacks? Americans hate them.
By Paul Herrold
Well, not all Americans, of course—but when you ask anyone to name a hatchback other than the Volkswagen Golf, you’ll probably get a long pause and a blank stare. So, in 2006, when Audi started importing an upscale A3 hatchback to the US market, it wasn’t a big surprise that it didn’t sell very well. Yet, despite years of lackluster sales, Audi kept at it, only taking a year off in model year 2014 before returning in 2015—as a sedan! The A3 had finally evolved to cater to the US market and was rewarded with record sales.
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In 2022, Audi has gone all-in on the sedan-only theme, bringing us a newly-redesigned A3 that has been thoroughly modernized inside and out. Slightly longer, wider, and taller than the outgoing model, the new A3 has an executive stance with a chiseled front end, muscular fenders, and edgy body creases—overall, this is a great-looking compact car. Inside, you’ll find a premium-quality dash with driver’s-side air vents positioned a bit higher than where you would expect them but it looks cool and together with the integrated 10.1-inch infotainment screen angled towards the driver, the A3 exudes a “driver’s car” vibe. The seats are very comfortable with adequate room in both front and back. Materials are upscale, and the buttons and switches feel nice and tactile—just beware of fingerprint-smudging gloss black plastic around the shifter knob. The volume knob isn’t actually a knob at all—it’s a small round touchpad that takes some getting used to, but also allows you to control other radio elements, and it works well. If you forget your phone on the wireless charging pad when you shut the car off, a friendly voice reminds you to please take your mobile device with you—easily my favorite feature.
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The A3 is available with front-wheel-drive or Audi’s “quattro” AWD system. With either drivetrain you’ll get a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine combined with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system that adds power during take-offs and improves fuel economy. Per the EPA, front- -drive versions hit 29 mpg/city and 38 mpg/highway, while AWD models drop slightly to 28mpg/city and 36 mpg/highway. Power delivery is smooth and linear, and the engine feels punchy. However, with 201 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque on tap, don’t expect to be blown away; the A3 runs to 60 mph from a stop in in 6.4 second—not bad, but somewhat mediocre by today’s standards. Changing gears is done through an excellent 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Shifts are extremely fast, and you can either shift the gears yourself, or, if you want to relax, put the transmission into fully automatic mode.
Driving the Audi A3 is a treat. You’ll immediately appreciate that someone at Audi took the time to design the steering wheel to be exactly in-frame with the instrument cluster—no need to stretch your neck or squat down to see all the edges of the screen. Steering is precise and nicely weighted; you can feel what the tires are doing up front. Handling is playful—the car feels very balanced in corners. When driving aggressively, however, a little bit of understeer comes into play, but it feels deliberate, so you know exactly when you’re on the edge of grip. The suspension on the A3 is probably its best feature. Road imperfections virtually disappear—no matter what you go over. Expansion joints, rough pavement, even potholes— it’s borderline magic.
Pricing starts at $36,590 including destination (quattro AWD adds $2,000.00) —which is reasonable for this class. The options list on the A3 is surprisingly restrained; a fully loaded topline Premium Plus quattro rings in at $42,190.00–for a German automaker, that’s real value.
From the way the 2022 Audi A3 looks, feels, and drives—there is a lot to like here. This is a car for people who enjoy driving, but need something practical enough to drive to work, run errands, and take the family along. Although the A3 started life in the US as a somewhat-unloved, quirky hatchback, it has since evolved into something truly special—a true sports sedan that, at least for me, checks all the boxes, so much so that I even ordered one of these for myself, albeit the much more powerful, 401-horsepower RS3 version.
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Paul is Chief Editor at the Sons of Speed, and a regular guest on the Car Stuff Podcast
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2022 Audi A3 Gallery
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