Audi is known for delivering among the best interiors you'll find in mainstream automobiles. The cabin designs are attractive and functional, all materials are of good quality, and the fit and finish first rate. While you can tell the A3 is positioned a bit downmarket from the models that garnered Audi this reputation, it's still a nice environment. One editor claimed the dash seems "too plasticky for a car costing more than $30K," but that was a minority opinion. All the plastics, leather, and trim wore well, and the car looked in new condition the day it went home. The Bose premium audio system also had great sound (although it could've used even more power); and, goodness knows, this staff loves its XM Satellite Radio, which made the A3 a popular choice for road trips. That said, two editors mentioned the seats grew uncomfortable during long rides.
The staff was split on the A3's value message. A few felt that Audi charging an additional $450 for metallic paint, $675 for a convenience package of moderate worth, and another $435 just for Bluetooth connectivity was over the top. They argued that you could get much the same car in the form of a VW GTI four-door for $5000-$7000 less. The rest felt the Audi brand cachet, and the extra equipment you can't get on the VW, made it worth the difference in buy-in.
There was but one service issue, although it surfaced twice. The 5000-mile service came and went with no issues, and then the A/C ceased to blow cold at 13,600 miles. The air-conditioning compressor, condenser, and ancillary system parts were replaced under warranty. Not 500 miles later, the same thing reoccurred. The compressor was replaced again (we had the 15K service done at the same time) and all was well for the rest of the Audi's 20,000 mile visit with us. And while it liked a quart of oil or so in between changes, the A3 proved completely reliable in every other way.
The A3, even though it shares its powertrain and some of its underguts with certain Volkswagens, still comes off as an Audi with credibility. The engine was a joy to drive and returned acceptable fuel economy. It handles and feels as only German cars do. Audis aren't known for A/C problems, so write that issue off as a fluke to this particular car. And the Direct Shift Gearbox demonstrates how good an auto-clutch transmission can be. We'd leave off a few of the options to get the sticker price under $30,000. But that would yield an A3 anyone would be happy with for a long, long time.
From the logbook:
"Excellent power and off-the-line torque. The DSG is stellar, so seamless, whether in manual or full auto mode. The throttle blips are addictive."
- Ron Kiino
"Plenty of college grads end up in Golfs or Jettas, making the A3 a perfect car for a few years after school, as they climb the corporate ladder."
- Brian Vance
"DSG is badass. End of story."
- John Kiewicz
"L.A. to Phoenix in six hours, doing 90 most of the way. One full tank of gas. Smooth all the way, although some road noise is obvious. Oh, yeah, and plenty of room for all my camping gear."
- James Dryden
"For the most part, this car is spot on. Acceleration and shifting are so smooth, there's very little turbo lag, and the steering is so responsive. The interior is ergonomic and comfortable, but wish it had seat heaters."
- Julia LaPalme