Most of the time, a manufacturer sends review copies of its cars fully loaded. This 2015 Audi A3 2.0T was refreshingly bare-bones, with just a few options thrown in, keeping the base price low. That didn’t detract one bit from its abilities as a fun, sporty daily driver, getting back to what Audi was in its earliest days.
Start with the styling: Audi’s painted itself in a corner a bit, because if you don’t particularly like Audi styling, they don’t offer many variations on the theme. From the smallest A3 up to the flagship A8, all Audi cars have an unmistakable family resemblance. It’s carried the brand along for years now. The cars are more chiseled than they appeared in the early 2000s, but there’s no mistaking what this car is and how different it is from most other entry-level luxury/sport sedans on the market.
When the A3 launched here back in 2003, all we got in the United States was the 5-door Sportback wagon. In true American fashion, we completely ignored it, because for some reason, we hate 92 percent of everything associated with station wagons unless they have a Subaru badge. Since 2012, when the A3 returned, all we’ve had access to is the sedan, which stinks because station wagons rule.
The A3 is based on the Volkswagen Groups MBQ platform, which allows for just about every configuration of automobile this side of a three-wheeler. Coupe, sedan, convertible, wagon, SUV, and even a panel van can be built off this one platform, with its common pedal box, front axle and engine position. From there, the cars can grow in length to accommodate a range of different vehicles. Right now, the Golf and Jetta are the only other MBQ-based vehicles in the United States, but look for a new Audi TT, along with an upcoming Passat, Tiguan and Touran to be based on this chassis.
Every Audi I’ve driven in the past half-decade has been jam-packed with every feature on the option list, but this A3 was surprisingly stripped to its elements. A Cold Weather Package with heated seats and washer nozzles pretty much rounded out the additions, which gives you an idea of just how much car you can get for this kind of money. The base price of the 2.0TSFI is $32,900. You can get even cheaper with the 1.8TSFI, but you’re going to want the additional power. A 2.0TDI diesel is available for $32,600.
For the additional three grand, you get the 2.0-liter TSFI turbocharged four-cylinder, good for 220-horsepower. That’s all well and good, but the number to pay closer attention to is torque: 258-lb.ft. of it, anywhere from 1,600 to 4,400 rpm. That’s exactly the rev range you’re looking for when you’re pulling out of side streets or accelerating from an onramp. It’s a huge increase over the 200-lb.ft. available in the 1.8 TSFI, and that caps out at 4,000 rpm. It gets you to sixty miles an hour almost two seconds faster than the smaller engine.
The engine hooks up with a six-speed S tronic automatic transmission, which funnels power to all four wheels. The transmission features a sport mode that holds shifts forever and a day; too long, if you’re asking me, but that said, I didn’t have the A3 out on a track. In normal “D” mode, its greatest attribute is how unobtrusive it is. Automatics like these DSG dual-clutch transmissions have revolutionized how an automatic works. It’s no longer a bummer to find out a stick isn’t available.
Handling is sharp and small-car-agile, but it never really feels like a tiny, Corolla-sized car. You get the substantial feel of a bigger A4, but with the dimensions of a car half a foot shorter than the Mercedes-Benz CLA. It’s some kind of a magic act, too, because with two adults up front, and two kids growing by the second in the back, it never felt like you had to contort yourself to drive it around. The trunk is small, but not overly so. Again, we would’ve loved it so much more with the hatch. Silly Americans.
If you can walk away from a car and have nothing but positive memories of what it was like to drive it, the manufacturer is doing something right. This car was a hoot to drive and worked pretty perfectly for all of a young family’s regular activities.
2015 Audi A4 2.0T
Base Price: $32,900
Price as Tested: $33,400
Cold Weather Package: $500
All the equipment you want, even in entry-level trim
Agile, athletic and fun
Great torque from the 2.0T; Well worth the $3,000
Shifts were overly abrupt in Sport mode
You either like the styling or don’t buy an Audi
The departure of the Sportback model