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2017 Audi A3 2.0 TFSI Quattro Progressiv Road Test Review

Just the right amount of upgrades makes the 2017 A3 feel all new 

  

The A3 Sedan arrived in Canada in late-2013 after first being shown at the New York auto show earlier that year. It was slightly wider and lower than the A3 Sportback it replaced, a model that continued forward into the new redesign in other markets yet only returns to our shores in plug-in hybrid E-Tron form this year. With a claimed electric-only range of 50 kilometers it's a PHEV I'd really like some seat time in.   That car, plus the A3 Sedan and sportier S3 Sedan, were given a mild albeit effective mid-cycle update for 2017, and I really like the results. As mentioned the A3 Sedan has been a looker since day one (as was the five-door), but the new model adds an edginess missing from the more organic, flowing lines of the outgoing car. As has been the case with all of Audi's recent designs, the A3's "horseshoe" grille grows slightly and straightens its angles for a more chiseled look, while now standard HID headlamps are slimmer with sharply scalloped lower edges. The front lower fascia and rear bumper are reworked too, whereas the new standard LED taillights are stunning when they light up at night. Of course, new alloy wheels underpin the changes, as do an assortment of new colours.

Class leading cabin includes state-of-the-art electronics

 Audi's winning formula has long included some of the nicest interiors in its models' respective segments, and the A3 is no exception. Tasteful minimalism has long been the brand's approach, along with high quality materials that often incorporate plenty of genuine aluminum trim. Critical in today's luxury market are driver configurable full colour TFT gauge clusters and leading edge infotainment systems packed with features and apps, so thankfully the new 2017 A3 benefits from such brand-wide electronic upgrades.   Those stepping up to top-tier Technik trim get Audi's brilliant Virtual Cockpit, a 12.3-inch digital TFT display that replaces the conventional analog gauge cluster and offers several driver modulated configurations, the most eye-popping being the beautifully detailed navigation setting that adds a colourful array of active maps to the central multi-information display area, plus you can make the map (or any other feature) larger and primary gauges smaller at the touch of a button, depending on need and desire. This is state-of-the-art stuff, and Audi does it more effectively than any rival. 

Some of the best infotainment in the segment 

I like that the standard infotainment display still powers up out of the dash top, its 7.0-inch screen large enough for my needs, especially in a subcompact sedan, its colours, contrast and clarity also excellent, while it can be stowed away if you'd rather have less distraction while taking in real-world sights or driving at night. The upgraded MMI Radio operating system is now designed to mimic smartphones if you connect via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, while the standard interface is also very easy to use and filled with features. I especially like the dynamic guideline assisted rearview camera that splits its screen to show how close you're getting to surrounding objects via active graphics, colouring them orange when nearing and then red when you're getting dangerously close to scratching the A3's lovely paintwork. Other MMI functions are controlled via a large rotating dial on the lower console, plus surrounding metallic-surfaced buttons, the top of that controller allowing hand gestures. A new standard USB will also be music to Android users' ears, although upper trims get Bluetooth streaming as well. 

Standard features are plentiful

Speaking of features, Komfort trim, which starts at $32,800 plus freight and dealers fees, includes new standard auto on/off xenon plus headlights with integrated LED DRLs, LED taillights, and aluminum doorsill treadplates, which were all optional last year, plus an electromechanical parking brake, micrometallic silver inlays, leather upholstery, a powered driver's seat including four-way lumbar, heatable front seats, rain-sensing wipers with heated washer nozzles, dual-zone auto HVAC, a tilt and telescopic leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, a multi-information display, Audi's MMI infotainment, 180-watt 10-speaker AM/FM/CD audio, an aux plug, satellite radio, Bluetooth, a large glass sunroof, a rear load-through system, 17-inch alloys on 225/45 all-seasons, and more.   Also standard are the usual active and passive safety features plus Audi's pre-sense basic crash response system, which helps all A3 trims earn Top Safety Pick status from the IIHS and 5 Stars from the NHTSA. None of its subcompact luxury competitors can lay claim to the same.

More performance from both standard and optional engines

You can upgrade from the base 186 horsepower 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder to a 220 horsepower version of the same engine for $4,800, which also increases torque from 221 lb-ft to 258 for a 0.8-second quicker sprint to 100km/h, now taking just 6.2 seconds; the base car gets a significant 16-horsepower bump in power and an increase of 37 lb-ft of torque over last year's model. The base Komfort trimmed car powers the front wheels via Audi's new seven-speed dual-clutch S tronic transmission enhanced with auto start/stop to reduce emissions and improve fuel economy, whereas the upgraded power unit utilizes a similar transmission with six forward gears along with Audi's legendary Quattro all-wheel drive for much improved all-weather traction.   The upgraded powertrain is good for 9.7 L/100km city, 7.5 highway and 8.7 combined on less expensive regular unleaded no less, which is very reasonable considering its performance, while the A3's standard fully independent suspension includes MacPherson struts with lower wishbones up front and a four-link setup in back, its ultra-responsive steering being speed-sensitive rack and pinion. 

Optional trims include more for the money

The A3's mid-range Progressiv trim, which starts at $35,900, can be had with either powertrain too, and increases the wheel and tire size to 18-inch alloys on 225/40s while adding high-gloss exterior window surrounds, Mistral aluminum interior inlays, yet more aluminum trim inside, LED ambient cabin lighting, a powered front passenger seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with an integrated compass, Audi's MMI music interface featuring Bluetooth audio streaming, an additional SD card reader slot, and an extra USB charging port, plus a rearview camera with active guidelines that was only available with top-tier Technik trim last year. Lastly, this model gets useful netted pockets on the backsides of the front seats.   Technik trim, which comes standard with the more capable drivetrain and a starting price of $45,100, adds LED headlights with auto cornering (previously part of a $1,050 LED Lighting package), new dynamic taillights, proximity-sensing keyless access, pushbutton ignition, a heatable steering wheel, the aforementioned Virtual Cockpit, navigation, a superb Bang & Olufsen audio upgrade, Audi side assist to warn from approaching rear traffic that might be in your blindspot, plus front and rear parking sensors.  

No shortage of packages and standalone options

My previous 2016 A3 tester was trimmed out in Technik trim and I must say it's worth every penny of added cost just to get the upgraded gauge cluster and B&O stereo, but then again I'd be more than happy with this year's Progressiv tester thanks to my loaner's key upgrades. First off, mine included the more potent powertrain with Quattro AWD for an as-tested price of $40,700, plus it included options like $800 Glacier White Metallic paint; a $1,950 Navigation package that includes MMI Navigation plus, MMI Touch, and an enhanced colour driver information display within the gauge cluster (but alas not the Virtual Cockpit); and a $1,700 Premium package (which is discounted by $600 due to existing features) that includes Audi Advanced Key and pushbutton start plus front and rear parking sensors; all bringing the new total to a still very reasonable $44,550; value being another reason the A3 sells so well.   Also worthy of consideration are two option groups. The $1,800 S line Sport package adds some very nice exterior styling enhancements, unique titanium-colour wheels, a sport suspension, driving mode selector, a superb looking flat-bottomed steering wheel with even nicer alloy paddles, brushed aluminum interior trim, upgraded sport seats, a black headliner, unique aluminum doorsills with "S line" badging, plus yet more S line emblems all over the car; whereas the $1,050 LED Lighting package is identical to the one standard with Technik trim. These two upgrade packages are not available in base Komfort trim, while the top-line Technik can also be had with a $1,400 Technology package that includes adaptive cruise control with "Stop & Go", active lane assist, and Audi's pre sense front accident avoidance system.

Standalone features in all trims include a set of $450 rear side airbags, while Komfort models get the option of two unique 17-inch wheel sets and $800 worth of 18-inch rims; both Progressiv and Technik trims make those same optional 18s available as well, not to mention a set of $800 19-inch twin-spoke alloys that first require an upgrade to the aforementioned S line package; while priciest Technik trim allows you to upgrade the headlights with auto high beams for $200.   Lastly, colour options include two no-cost exterior hues, Brilliant Black and Ibis White, plus seven metallics for $800 apiece, including Florett Silver, Monsoon Grey, Mythos Black, Cosmos Blue, Tango Red and my tester's Glacier White, while the interior can be finished in standard Black, Chestnut Brown or Rock Grey, all at no extra charge.

Quality and practicality remain key A3 attributes

Everything mentioned comes in a car that's extremely well made, with the segment's usual fabric-wrapped pillars, ample soft-touch synthetic surfaces, just the right amount of aluminum trim, one of the nicest standard sport-style steering wheels in the industry, tightly spaced, high-quality, well-damped switchgear, a neatly trimmed dual-zone HVAC system that's stylishly detailed with red and blue ringed dual dials edged in knurled metal, plus superbly supportive and comfortable front seats.   The rear outer seats were very comfortable too, with excellent lower back support, and they were more spacious than expected with about four inches ahead of my knees when the driver's seat was set for my five-foot-eight medium-build frame, as well as about three inches above my head, three inches next to my outside shoulder, and four-to-five beside to my outer hip, while the centre armrest was nice and high for comfortable support. It includes a shallow carpeted tray under a padded lid, plus pop-out dual cup holders at front.

Superb driving dynamics set the A3 apart further

From the driver's seat, my A3 Progressiv tester was nicely balanced between comfort and performance, Audi having set it up with a compliant ride that soaks up road imperfections better than most competitors, yet still delivers the brand's characteristically sharp handling when pushed. The inclusion of Quattro means that such canyon carving can be done mid-winter too, especially appreciated on the way to the ski hill, as is the rear centre pass-through that allows boards down the middle and kids (or friends) more comfortably seated to each side, and no squabbling about getting a window seat.   Additionally, the A3 gets a surprisingly large trunk measuring 425 litres, and it's not only equipped with that just-noted centre pass-through, but also 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks to expand usability even further. The cargo area includes a nicely carpeted load floor and sidewalls plus polished metal tie-down rings.

Yes, the A3 has all bases covered. From practicality to performance it's a very livable four-door that's a blast to drive, plenty comfortable, loaded with luxuries, and as safe as this class gets. It's an intelligently conceived little sport sedan from a very smart brand.    

 

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press   

 Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press   

 Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.

   
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