Audi A3 Sportback (2016-2019)

Models Covered:

5dr Hatch (1.0 TFSI, 1.4 TFSI, 1.5 TFSI, 2.0 TFSI, 2.5 TFSI petrol / 1.6 TDI, 2.0 TDI) [SE, Sport, S line,S3, RS 3])

By Jonathan Crouch

* Introduction

The Sportback. It’s Audi-speak for ‘five doors’, the configuration in which most versions of Audi’s third generation A3 family hatch were sold. This MK3 ‘Type 8V’ model was first launched in 2013 but substantially updated in 2016 with greater efficiency and technology. It’s the updated post-2016 MK3 A3 Sportback variant we look at here as a used buy. Sure, for the same money, you could consider buying a bigger car from a lesser brand, but after trying this one, Audi hopes that you won’t want to.

* The History

Brand Loyalty. It’s hard to put a price on it. Hard at least, if you’re a consumer. Audi though, has no such qualms and has always confidently pitched this car, the A3 Sportback, as the priciest but also the most desirable of all the compact family hatches that the Volkswagen Group sells.

There’s a reason for this, just as there’s a reason why Audi brand loyalty saw a huge proportion of buyers for this car being customers who were satisfied with its predecessor. Explain to these people that the same technology could be theirs for several thousand less in a Skoda Octavia and you’ll be met with looks of puzzlement wondering why such a fact could be relevant.

Though there was a five-door version of the original first generation Audi A3, a body style introduced to the range in 1996, this part of the line-up only gained the ‘Sportback’ tag in second generation form in 2004 when five-door A3 motoring was repositioned for a slightly more mature, slightly more up-market audience. This third generation ‘Type 8V’-series A3 range continued that trend from its launch in 2012, Audi’s argument that this Sportback version was more than just a three-door A3 with a couple of extra doors supported by this five-door model’s use of a longer wheelbase.

Of more importance though, is the question of whether this is more of a desirable premium compact hatch than five-door versions of its two arch-rivals in this segment, BMW’s 1 Series and the Mercedes A-Class. By 2015, with far-reaching recent changes having enhanced the appeal of both these rivals, Audi knew it was imperative to keep the appeal of this A3 fresh and up to the minute. Hence a package of revisions announced in the Summer of 2016 that created the much improved third generation A3 Sportback model we’re going to look at here as a potential used buy.

The volume 1.4 TFSI petrol engine was replaced by a 1.5 TFSI unit in 2017, the same year that Audi launched an updated version of the top RS 3 hot hatch variant, with power uprated to 400PS. This A3 range in this updated MK3 form sold until the end of 2019, when it was replaced by an all-new fourth generation design.

* What You Get

As was Audi’s intention, this five-door A3 Sportback looks a little more mature and grown-up than its three-door counterpart. The post-2016-era changes made to this revised ‘Type 8V’ model are primarily focused on the front end, where the familiar Singleframe grille was made wider and more sharply contoured.

Take a seat inside and the cabin quality you’ll find there really sets this car apart at its price point amongst models from this era, with a really premium feeling of quality and class. The greatest change made as part of the 2016 package of update improvements was the addition of the optional ‘Audi Virtual Cockpit’ digital instrument binnacle screen – a real cabin talking point.

If you’re going to be regularly using the rear compartment in your A3, you really need to have opted for this Sportback bodystyle, not only because of its two extra doors but also because this variant sits on a wheelbase that’s 35mm longer than the three-door. As for the boot, well it’s 380-litres if you go for this slightly lengthier Sportback variant (as opposed to 365-litres with a three-door A3).

* What To Look For

Most owners in our survey seemed happy. The most reported faults related to problems with the alarm system and the central locking. And issues with rattly interior trim and non-engine electricals. Many A3s will have been company or lease cars and, as a result, you should check the condition of the bodywork carefully. The high-quality fit and finish of an A3 also makes it an ideal candidate for clocking, so ensure the history is absolutely verified. There were two manufacturer recalls on the A3 in this period, one (for cars made in August 2017) for a problem with the rear hub carrier and the other (for cars made between May to September 2018) for poor welds attaching the rear head restraint to the rear backrest.

* On The Road

Audi significantly improved the TFSI petrol engine line-up with this revised post-2016 version of the third generation A3 model, adding in a 115PS three cylinder 1.0-litre unit at the foot of the range and a much improved 2.0-litre 190PS powerplant at the top of it. In between these two options, the clever 1.4-litre ‘Cylinder on Demand’ derivative that can work with ether two or four cylinders depending on throttle load was carried over from before, but had its output boosted by 10PS to 150PS. This was quickly replaced by a 1.5 TFSI unit with the same output. It’s also worth mentioning that with this updated Type 8V A3, all these petrol engines were able to work with a freshly developed 7-speed S tronic auto gearbox that was available as an option. Further up the petrol range, the hot hatch S3 variant also used the new 2.0-litre TFSI engine, but in uprated 310PS form, mating it to a revised quattro 4WD system that was quicker-reacting and delivered a more enthusiast-orientated rear-driven bias.

Most A3 buyers though, continued to want a diesel, possibly the 110PS 1.6-litre unit but more probably the 150PS 2.0-litre TDI powerplant most selected. These engines were upgraded to Euro6 status as part of the 2016-era updates but otherwise were carried over from the original model line-up. With the 2.0-litre TDI unit, there was the option of quattro 4WD, something you have to have if you opt for this powerplant in its top 184PS state of tune.

* Overall

Like the three-door A3 variant, this Sportback model is light in bulk, heavy in technology and as at home in Belgravia as it is in Brixton. And, as with that model, the interior is where this design really strides apart. You could be in a luxury car. You certainly wouldn’t think you were in a run-of-the-mill Focus-sized family hatchback. For not a huge amount more than you’d pay for one of those, this car brought a touch of class to the compact segment. Which of course is why so many people continue to want one.