Even the base Sport model comes comprehensively equipped, with dual-zone climate control, a digital instrument display and a 10.1in central infotainment touchscreen with smartphone interface. Thankfully, Audi still separates actual climate buttons from the touchscreen, although annoyingly the lane-keeping assistance control is buried in there and defaults to on.
The upshot of putting Audi’s Multi Media Interface (MMI) on a touchscreen, though, is that it removes a degree of interior clutter. Ditto replacing a big gear selector with a wee stalk on the central tunnel. I still think some kind of rotary controller is more useful, and I’m not sure that saving all that button space is worth it if all you’re going to do is place a piece of shiny trim that reflects bright sunlight into your eyes instead, but still. It’s an interesting interior, nonetheless – more angular than A3s of old and apparently inspired by the Lamborghini Huracán’s.
Ergonomics and roominess are good for driver and front passenger (both are apparently improved slightly over the old A3 Saloon), but tall rear occupants will find head room limited. But then if you want more practicality, go for the Sportback.
To drive, the A3 Saloon is the modern Audi distilled to a professional blandness: there’s nothing outstanding but nothing to complain about.
The 18in alloys of this car are clothed in 225/40-profile tyres (the range starts with 17in rims, S Line models get 18ins and higher-spec cars get 19ins), and the ride is good enough, whichever button you push to harden or soften the adaptive dampers.
Stability is strong on a motorway, agility is adequate on back roads and the steering wheel… turns the front wheels. Only when the lane-keeping assistance kicks in does the steering alter from its anodyne but perfectly accurate and responsive line.
Otherwise dynamically, the A3 Saloon is the automotive equivalent of a media-trained public figure giving an interview. It’s all entirely reasonable, professional, slick and totally expected. You can’t complain about it, but you’re not really learning anything new.
The drivetrain is good. It’s not briskly responsive, but it is smooth. The integrated starter-generator (ISG) allows brilliantly seamless restarts when the engine has stopped, which it will even do when you lift off the throttle at high speeds.
That the ISG is absorbing power and can torque fill too means it never feels like you’re ‘coasting’ in the old-fashioned, clutch-down, not-in-control sense. Early reports said there was some wooden brake feel as a result, but it didn’t bother me. Not much did.