2022 Audi A3 First Drive Review: Properly Audi
The SUV boom means every automaker is focused on developing SUVs of every size, but something bizarre is happening in the entry-level luxury sedan segment. Although the Audi A3 has been in the U.S. for three generations, it was the sole player in the class for many years. Then Acura launched the ILX in 2013, and more recently the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe arrived stateside. A new Acura Integra is set to replace the ILX next year, and the newly developed Cadillac CT4 also joined the list to compete against the German trio. Why is this segment suddenly booming? Because automakers want to welcome young customers to their brands, with the hope those customers stay in the family in the future. The 2022 Audi A3 combines Audi’s technology with sharp styling in an overall package that is more than compelling enough to conquer young buyers looking for their first luxury experience.
2022 Audi A3: The Car
Sharing its chassis with the new Volkswagen Golf Mk VIII and Seat León, the 2022 Audi A3 is based on Volkswagen Group’s MQB Evo platform. The new sedan is 0.8 inch wider, 1.4 inches longer, and 0.5 inch higher than its predecessor, giving rear passengers a bit more legroom than in the current car.
Powering the new A3 is a 2.0-liter turbo-four engine that delivers 201 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. While those numbers are in line with the competition, they are a bit lower compared to the 228 hp in the 2020 model with Quattro all-wheel drive. Audi says it reduced the power to further distinguish the A3 from the S3, and to get better fuel efficiency. Unlike the past, front-drive models get the same power as AWD models.
The power loss in the A3 quattro is replaced by Audi’s 48-volt mild hybrid system, giving the subcompact sedan a lift in performance and efficiency. The system gives the A3 more low-end torque from a stop and allows for coasting with the engine off in certain situations.
Besides the new exterior design, a new interior is the biggest upgrade to the 2022 Audi A3. The outgoing model still looks fresh inside and out, but the new cabin provides a younger-feeling vibe. Audi designers added sharp, angular lines throughout the cockpit, from the air vents to the door handles, and you can easily see Audi’s ambition to conquest young buyers embodied in the changes. A new compact shifter similar to the one seen in the new VW Golf GTI and Porsche models makes its way into the A3, as well.
All these changes combine with premium materials, which is where the 2022 Audi A3 stands out most from the competition. The seats are soft, the leather feels upscale, the dashboard and door panels have soft plastics throughout (though that’s not the case in the rear), and the cabin’s overall design feels like a proper Audi.
The technology adds to that. All 2022 Audi A3 models get a standard 10.1-inch touchscreen with the marque’s latest infotainment system and no hard buttons. A small, round controller that you use like a touchpad is located next to the shifter and allows you to turn up or down the volume, change songs or radio stations, or turn off the screen. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, and unlike the outgoing model, which had its screen atop the dashboard, the new A3 has the display front and center within easy reach for the driver. Customers can upgrade the infotainment experience to add Google Maps navigation and Audi’s 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit as part of the Technology package in the Premium Plus model ($2,250, which also includes a Bang & Olufsen premium sound system and traffic sign recognition).
Despite the A3 being the smallest Audi, interior space is decent. A 6-foot-tall adult fits fine in the rear, though legroom and headroom might be problematic for anyone taller than that.
With the Denver area and snowcapped Rocky Mountains as our backdrop, we drove the 2022 Audi A3 on canyon roads, interstates, and local highways. Our first impression was how quiet and serene the cabin is. Tire noise and wind noise are minimal, and although most of the roads we drove on were smooth, we were impressed with how little noise came into the cabin.
The 2.0-liter turbo engine is peppy enough to push through the canyons with ease, but the seven-speed transmission takes a bit of coaxing to downshift. Even with the gearbox set to Sport, the transmission took its time to select lower ratios. Things change a little with Dynamic mode engaged, but we preferred using the paddle shifters, which are standard across the lineup.
Audi estimates the 2022 A3 with Quattro accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds, which is a bit slower compared to the 5.4 seconds it took the 2015 Audi A3 2.0T Quattro we last tested. We’ll have to wait a little longer to get our own test numbers on the 2022 Audi A3, but we suspect the manufacturer’s official numbers might be a bit conservative.
On canyon roads and highways, the new A3 handled with confidence. Our A3 Quattro Premium Plus test car felt settled in the corners and showed little body roll. With the suspension dissipating bumps from the broken pavement, the ride was mostly settled. A surprising early snowstorm caused us to drive with caution on parts of the route, as our car was equipped with the 18-inch wheels and summer tires, but we were fond of the way it behaved on twisty roads. We did, however, wish the braking were more consistent. The initial bite was strong, but then it loosened up a little. On other occasions the bite would be strong all the way through the pedal’s travel.
The new mild hybrid system, which works in line with the stop-start function, starts the engine seamlessly. Driving down the mountain also gave us the chance to see how the coasting feature worked. You essentially get the same kind of experience you get in a hybrid car when the engine shuts off and the battery takes over—smooth and flawless. Fuel economy stands at 29/38/32 mpg city/highway/combined for front-drive models and 28/36/31 for all-wheel-drive cars, improvements compared to the 27/36 mpg and 22/30 mpg the 2020 model delivered, respectively.
How Much Does It Cost?
The 2022 Audi A3 starts at $34,945 for the Premium FWD model. Adding Quattro ups the price by $2,000 in every trim. The 17-inch wheels, four USB-C ports, heated front seats with lumbar support, and three-zone climate control are standard in every new A3.
Upgrading to Premium Plus adds adaptive cruise control with lane guidance, a wireless phone charger, full LED headlights with daytime running lights, and a top-view camera system. Expect to pay $38,245 for the front-drive Premium Plus.
Lastly, the Prestige model adds wood trim, Audi’s cool headlight animation, a head-up display, the Technology package, and an LED interior lighting package. Prestige models start at $42,245. Every trim has the Black Optic Sport package available for $1,645; it adds 18-inch wheels with all-season tires and a sport suspension.
Should I Buy a New Audi A3?
The 2022 Audi A3 is a good upgrade over the previous generation; it brings a sportier design, more technology, and more premium materials. Audi is trying hard to get customers into its showrooms and products, and the new A3 is good enough to entice them. It’s absolutely worth a long look for anyone shopping in this welcomely non-SUV segment.
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