2019 Audi A3, S3, and RS3: A Luxury Car For a Modest Price

Given the choice and opportunity, most of us would go for a luxury car over any mass-market one. But reality often bites when it comes to our budgets. Luxury cars cost quite a lot of money, so buyers on a tight budget who desperately want one often decide to go look for something in the “gently used” department. There is another way though, and that’s to consider something a bit smaller.

An Audi A3 is a great way of getting a genuine new luxury brand car for a very reasonable amount of money, and there are also the S3 and RS3 performance variants too. Few manufacturers offer such quality and luxury for such a reasonable price, so here’s what you might be missing out on if you haven’t checked out the 2019 Audi A3, S3 or RS3 lately.

Exterior Styling

Like many of its bigger siblings, the exterior styling of the 2019 Audi A3 isn’t exactly revolutionary. The good news is it’s not the slightest bit polarizing either. In its entry-level forms the A3 can look a little anonymous, but dress it up a little (or go for an S3 or RS3 variant) and the diminutive Audi is actually very stylish and quite sporty. Even better, there’s also a convertible version of the A3, which is quite classy.

Even though this current version of the A3 is getting towards the end of its run, it looks every bit as modern and stylish as it did when it was launched. Being close to a runout model means some good deals are likely to be available. Plus, Audi is so conservative with its styling, the eventual replacement for this generation is unlikely to date the current models too badly.

If we perhaps discount the all-new 2019 Audi A7, a case could be made for the A3 being the most attractive model in the current lineup.

Models and Trim Levels

Regular A3 models come in three different trim levels of Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige, while the sportier S3 is only available in Premium Plus and Prestige grades. When it comes to the wonderful RS3 there’s just one trim level, but it can be upgraded with a number of available packages such as a Technology package or a Dynamics package. The A3 is also available in front-wheel and all-wheel-drive quattro versions, and as a convertible.

Powertrains

Even though there are three different versions of the A3, or four if you include the convertible as a separate model, the powertrain lineup is reasonably straightforward. Apart from the performance-focused RS3, all versions of the little Audi have a 2.0-liter turbo-four under the hood, but it is tuned in three different ways.

In the base A3, the 2.0-liter turbo four develops 184 horsepower and 221 lb.-ft. of torque, in the A3 all-wheel-drive (quattro) version it’s tuned to produce 225 hp and 258 lb.-ft., and in the S3 it has been tuned to put out 288 hp and 280 lb.-ft. of torque.

The S3 is the most powerful performance take on the A3, and this time it gets a larger 2.5-liter turbo four under the hood. This sensational powerplant produces 394 hp and 354 lb.-ft. of torque, which is a lot for a car of this size and weight. Every model comes standard with a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission, and every model is all-wheel-drive apart from the base A3 and the convertible. The convertible is available with the same two engines as the A3 and A3 quattro.

Interior

This is where the real trade-off between size and quality comes to the fore. The interior of the A3 is of the very highest quality, but there might not be enough room for extra passengers or cargo for a number of potential buyers. Sometimes you set your mind on a certain model, but actually ignore the practical realities of life. Then you buy it anyway.

When Land Rover originally unveiled the Range Rover Sport back in 2005, it wasn’t uncommon to see buyers who could have done with a seven-seat LR3, ignoring the practical facts of life and going for a RR Sport anyway. That’s unlikely to happen with the A3, as it’s already well established. It’s never been a “must-have” fashion accessory like the RR Sport and even the Audi Q7 were when they were first launched.

The A3 may be a close relative of the Volkswagen Golf, but it’s not exactly obvious. While the Golf has a very nice and very high-quality interior, the A3 is in a different league. Soft-touch materials are everywhere you look and feel, and there’s an almost bomb-proof feel to the way it’s all put together.

Front seat passengers are reasonably well catered for with comfortable seats and a reasonable amount of room, but the rear seats are a little cramped. The sedan has just 12.3 cu.-ft. of cargo volume with the rear seats in the up position, which is only really enough for a couple of small suitcases.

Fuel Economy

With the A3 being a compact car, as well as costing less than a larger luxury model, it’s going to be pretty good on gas. Base front-drive versions are rated by the EPA at 26 mpg in the city, 35 mpg on the highway, and 29 mpg combined. The A3 quattro is rated at 24/31/27 mpg, and the convertible can get you as good as 22/30/25 mpg. The S3 (run on premium gasoline) is rated at 22/29/25 mpg.

Features and Equipment

An entry-level A3 comes standard with dual-zone climate control, xenon headlights, a panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, 12-way power adjustable front seats, Bluetooth connectivity, and automatic emergency braking. If you want Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility it will cost you extra as part of an upgrade package that also includes keyless ignition.

The Good

  • Virtual Cockpit is sensational
  • Base models generously equipped
  • Excellent powertrains
  • Convertible option

The Not-So-Good

  • A little cramped in the back
  • Options bump up prices significantly
  • Small size might not be for everyone

The Last Word

The 2019 Audi A3 has a starting MSRP of $33,300, the A3 Convertible starts from $38,900, the S3 starts from $44,500, and the RS3 starts at $56,200. That’s a wide range of prices, and those are just the starting MSRP’s for each model as you can spend considerably more on any one of them if you want all the bells and whistles.

If you’re looking at the higher trim levels, all sorts of other models from Audi and its rivals start to also come into play. At the lower trim levels, however, the A3 looks like a lot of car for the money. The A3 Convertible looks like a particularly good value, especially if you can find a bit of a deal on one. There aren’t too many other luxury convertibles that offer so much for the same money.

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