SAN FRANCISCO -- Audi is unveiling a new version of its A3 to compete in the entry-level luxury sedan market, and the German brand has loaded this ride with technology as it takes aim at younger buyers. Audi, which presented the car to journalists in beautiful northern California, made the A3 with great driving dynamics, understated styling and good fuel economy.
Audi also put a modest price tag on the A3, starting at around $30,000. But add a few features and it quickly rises to around $36,000 or more, topping out at around $42,000.
There are two engine choices: a 1.8 liter four-cylinder turbocharged that makes 170 horsepower and a a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 220 horsepower. The latter has standard all-wheel drive and a six-speed automated manual transmission.
That model's base Premium trim has leather seating, xenon headlights and a panoramic sunroof standard.
We noticed a bit of turbo lag upon acceleration, but other than that, the A3 drives like a champ, or as many of the folks who were attending the launch event said, "it drives like an Audi."
Handling and braking are superb, and there is little road or wind noise in the cabin.
We were able to take the A3 on some twisty, hilly roads, and the A3 was a star.
But even in normal driving conditions, the A3 impresses with its smoothness and easy maneuverability.
The 1.8-liter engine model is rated at 23 mpg city. 33 highway, while the 2.0-liter is rated at 24 and 33.
Audi reportedly will roll out a TDI diesel version as well as a plug-in hybrid version in the future.
On the inside, the A3 offered plenty of head and leg room, even for taller drivers and passengers. In the back seat? Not so much. That area is most suited for carrying kids.
The driver's seat is 12-way power adjustable, but the front passenger seat must be moved manually.
You might be a bit underwhelmed by the interior design - it's pretty basic.But at least everything is neatly arranged.
If you opt for the Premium Plus or Prestige trim levels, you can get sport seats and dual-zone automatic climate control.
But, it's the technology that Audi seems most proud of in this model. It was not just a coincidence that the company unveiled the car in the Silicon Valley area. It partnered with a number of tech firms in producing connectivity features for the A3.
One such feature is the handwriting recognition system, in which users can trace letters on a pad on the control knob to do searches of the navigation system or for digitally stored music.
Also, there are plenty of high-speed Internet functions at your disposal, such as email and social media messages that are read aloud, voice command texting and videoconferencing capabilities.
One of the neatest features though involves a Google Maps program in which you can arrive at a destination, take a photo of that destination, then save it into the system and call it up later and be given directions for reaching that place.
If you're into the latest whiz-bang technology, this is the car for you.
On the practicality side, you won't get much room from the A3's trunk, so that, coupled with the snug back seat would probably not let this compact qualify as a good family vehicle.
But that's probably not what it's aiming to be, as Audi is seeking to lure younger buyers with this model.
Overall, we were impressed with the A3's driving dynamics, technology and fuel economy. This model should continue Audi's momentum in the luxury segment.