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#4

in 2011 Upscale Small Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $18,062 - $21,480
Original MSRP: $27,270 - $30,850
MPG: 21 City / 30 Hwy
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2011 Audi A3 Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

With ample engine power and precise cornering and braking, the A3's fun-to-drive personality is its chief asset. Fuel economy is also a plus, especially if you choose the diesel engine.

  • "As with many Audis, the A3's suspension tuning is on the firm side to enhance performance, yet there's still enough compliance to soak up most road imperfections. Whether commuting in heavy traffic or cruising down the highway, the A3's cabin remains pleasantly refined and quiet." -- Edmunds
  • "All are stable at highway speeds." -- Consumer Guide

Acceleration and Power

The 2011 Audi A3 offers two engine options: a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine and a 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel engine. The gasoline engine produces 200 horsepower and 207 pound feet of torque. Reviewers say the base engine offers more than enough power. With 140 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque, the TDI engine isn’t as fast as its gasoline counterpart, but reviewers are in love with its high fuel economy ratings, and extra torque.

According to the EPA, the base engine averages 22/28 mpg city/highway when it’s paired with an automatic transmission, and 21/30 mpg when it’s paired with a manual transmission. The TDI engine has outstanding ratings of 30/42 mpg. All-wheel drive is available, but only with the base engine. Fuel economy ratings with this powertrain are pretty good. The EPA says owners should expect to average 21/28 mpg.

The A3’s transmissions are also well-reviewed. Many report smooth shifting from both the six-speed manual and optional S tronic automatic.

  • "The 2.0T engine lags in low-speed power delivery, then supplies it with a rush. The manual transmission is super smooth. The automated manual's shifts are rewardingly smooth and prompt when changing gears manually via the floor shifter or steering-wheel paddles. In some test A3s, slurred automatic-mode shifts introduced some driveline jerkiness." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The 2011 Audi A3's 2.0-liter gasoline engine provides ample power and is well-matched to either transmission choice. The A3 TDI feels quite energetic around town thanks to its ample torque, but it runs out of steam when charging up a highway on-ramp because of its lack of horsepower. The trade-off is exceptional fuel economy, however, which seems worth it for us." -- Edmunds

Handling and Braking

Tight handling and responsive braking are key characteristics of the A3's driving experience. Reviewers say that handling gets sloppy and the car becomes a bit unstable with front-wheel drive. The optional Sport Package includes a firmer sport suspension and sport seats with more lateral support. The industry likes this package, and says that with it, there’s significantly less noseplow compared with the base model.

The press also says the electronic stability control system provides the perfect balance of safety and a fun driving experience. The system only intervenes when it needs to, and it doesn’t overpower.

  • "The standard electronic stability control intervenes only as much as needed to keep you out of trouble without sapping all the fun out of brisk driving. When the ESC does take effect, it does so seamlessly, with the only real indicator being the flashing lamp in the instrument cluster." -- Autoblog
  • "Any A3 is agile, but base-suspension versions suffer from a bit of noseplow in tight, fast turns. A3s with the sport suspension have sharper responses and little noseplow. Steering feel on all models is accurate and linear, though some testers want firmer feel. Rapid takeoffs induce minor torque-steer in front-drive models. Braking is strong." -- Consumer Guide