CRITICS' CORNER

Audi's smallest entry quick, clean, comfortable (and a little boring)

2015 Audi A3

Audi has rebuilt its smallest entry, the A3. Now available in sedan and convertible -- there's no hatchback -- the new A3 moves to Volkswagen Group's acclaimed MQB platform. Here are a few snippets of recent reviews:

"The base car starts out with a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine making 170 horsepower and 200 pounds-feet of torque that's sent only to the front wheels through Audi's S tronic six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. That may not seem like a lot of power, but it comes on surprisingly strong and zips the A3 1.8T from zero to 60 mph in a respectable 7.2 seconds. In practice, it feels a lot quicker -- and if you keep the transmission in Sport mode, different algorithms designed for sportier performance will keep the turbo engine in the sweet spot to allow for aggressive driving. Get hard on the accelerator and the steering wheel will pull left and right thanks to some surprising torque steer; the 1.8T will even chirp the tires from a standing start, so it's by no means slow. The A3 is a rare instance where a car's base engine is actually desirable." -- Cars.com

"The A3's standard-issue front seats are comfortable enough, although their lack of lateral support was evident on our brisk run through the mountains southwest of Silicon Valley and along scenic Pacific Coast Highway. The driver's chair features 12-way power adjustments, but we recommend springing for the $550 Sport package available on higher-end trims, which brings shift paddles, sport seats, and the Audi Drive Select system, the latter for tailoring shifting, throttle mapping, and steering effort to the driver's liking. The rear seat is tight, but hardly the penalty bench found in back of the Mercedes CLA, and it splits and folds to expand the A3's trunk space from a minimum 12.3 cubic feet (10.0 with Quattro). Another highlight is a large moonroof that Audi describes as "panoramic," over the front-seat area." -- Car and Driver

"The 2.0-liter TDI diesel offers excellent fuel economy without sacrificing performance. Knocking out gear changes with impressive speed and smoothness, a standard 6-speed dual-clutch S-Tronic transmission rounds out the A3's well-sorted dynamic package." -- KBB.com

"You could almost convince me that the A3 exterior and interior were designed by the same individual, as that clean, unfussy (and vaguely boring) character is found in the cabin as well. Audi has really worked to consolidate control of its systems and clean up its user interfaces in the process.

"On the positive side of that, I found that functionality offered by this iteration of its MultiMedia Interface infotainment system is very high, and the controls simple to understand. Notably, the touchpad on the top of the central control dial is remarkably clever at understanding inputs, and all menus are both easy to read and to navigate.

"The central display pops out of the dash in a way that a few of you have taken issue with in other cars, but the fact that it can be stowed flush into the dashtop should help assuage that peccadillo. Harder to fix is the expanse of black plastic from the driver's eyes forward -- those not interested in ultra minimal interior design might be tempted to call this sleek space 'boring' or worse." -- AutoBlog

You can reach at autonews@crain.com. -- Follow on Twitter

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