The 2012 Audi A3 merits a low Total Car Score, reflecting this model's age (it's being replaced soon). However, by virtue of being a five-door compact hatch, the A3 manages to meld practicality with polish and premium appointments.
It offers gasoline or diesel power, although the optional Quattro all-wheel-drive system is only available with the gas engine. The torquey diesel unit is still worth considering because it is also refined and frugal.
The A3 rides with just the right amount of tautness -- enough to be fun, not enough to be jarring. And reviews have found both engines to provide sufficient power.
However, the cabin has been faulted for letting in a tad more road noise than a car of this class should, while also not offering sufficient space for rear passengers. At least the materials and layout have been praised.
With the rear seats in place, there's 20 cubic feet of cargo area. Those seats don't go completely flat but, when folded, stowage space expands to 39 cubic feet.
The 2012 iteration represents the final year for this generation. An all-new A3 debuts soon.
The 2012 Audi A3 comes solely as a five-door, five-passenger hatchback, with either a four-cylinder, turbocharged 2.0-liter gasoline engine making 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque, or a 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel four that produces 140 hp and 236 lb-ft.
In basic form, the A3 is front-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is an option for versions with the gasoline engine. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, while there's the option of a six-speed, dual-clutch automated manual that Audi calls S-tronic.
In Premium trim, standard equipment includes dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, satellite radio and 17-inch alloy wheels. Premium Plus brings Bluetooth, steering wheel-mounted shift paddles in S-tronic models, aluminum trim and LED running lights.
Option packages include Navigation System Plus, Convenience (auto wipers and headlights, rear parking sensors and a Bose audio system), Cold Weather (heated front seats, heated mirrors and wipers), and Sport (stiffer suspension, sport seats, performance tires).
Rear side airbags are optional, but there's a commendable amount of airbags elsewhere, along with whiplash-mitigating headrests, brake force distribution and traction control.
The EPA rates the 2012 Audi A3 in front-drive/gas engine/manual trans trim at 21 mpg city, 30 highway and 24 combined. With the auto trans, it's 22/28/24 mpg. City consumption suffers by one mile per gallon with the all-wheel drive system. The diesel model is rated at 30/42/34 mpg.
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