Originally launched in 2014, the Audi A3 is the smallest and least expensive car you can buy from the German premium carmaker in India. We all loved the simple proportions, the well-balanced handling, great build quality, and there was enough of that to impress our jury too - making the A3 a surprise winner and first premium brand car to bag the NDTV Car Of The Year award in 2015. But with the likes of the Mercedes-Benz CLA to go up against, the Audi A3 desperately needed an update and a mid-life facelift, which was launched in India today. We have already driven the facelifted A3 a few months ago in Germany, and now it has arrived on our shores!
Watch the Audi A3 Facelift Review
The rear end also has a slight update with a new bumper and a new tail lamp cluster, which now features a refreshed LED lighting pattern. The A3 still gets the dual tip exhaust though. A more obvious change are the new wheels. The A3 now only gets a set of 16-inch wheels instead of the 16-inch and optional 17-inch wheels that came on the previous version. Although the 17-inch wheels do look a lot cooler, the advantage these smaller ones have is a better ride quality as the tyres get a larger sidewall. As a secondary advantage, you also get a more usable car with these new Bridgestone tyres since the low profile Pirellis on the previous car were very delicate for average Indian road conditions.
As far as interior updates go, the Audi A3 facelift is pretty much similar to the older car. The dashboard design is still the same with the screen that pops up from the centre and the jet turbine inspired AC vents too remain unchanged. Audi has added a wireless charging cubbyhole in the central console but has sacrificed features like a start stop button that is an absolute must-have in any new car today!
Now one of the disappointing bits about the A3 facelift in India is that unlike its European counterpart, the India facelift doesn't get the virtual cockpit. Now honestly that is quite surprising, because that's the major differentiator for Audi in most segments. Some other missing features include the start-stop button as mentioned earlier, and surprisingly no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. However, you do get navigation and a reverse camera. The seats and interior space remain the same but the A3 now gets an all black interior trim as compared to the black and beige that the older car got. Although there is a large chunk of the Indian population that still prefers a beige interior, the black fits the A3's sportier characteristics well.
Mechanically the A3 still has the same 2.0 litre 4-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine that makes 139 bhp of maximum power and 320 Nm of peak torque. The A3 is still only available with a front wheel drive setup and a 6-speed DSG gearbox for the diesel engine. Now, the diesel powered A3 isn't exactly a car that will scorch tarmac but it is more powerful and quicker than its rivals. NVH levels seem to have improved in the newer car slightly and the A3 still feels like a really well sorted and solid package.
But what is more interesting is the new petrol powered A3 with a new engine. The older A3 had the 1.8 litre engine from the likes of the Skoda Octavia but the new one gets the smaller 1.4 litre TFSI that also comes in the new A4. Power is down from about 180 bhp to 145 bhp and you can tell. But, it isn't a slow coach. The newer A3 feels a little nimbler with its smaller and lighter engine and definitely feels buzzy too! It still is a fun little car. But, what this engine really needed to go along with the 7-speed DSG are paddle shifters - that are also sadly missing from the facelift too - and that's indeed odd as the older car did have them! Of course, smaller engines means better fuel economy and Audi claims 19.20 kmpl on the A3 petrol.
As we mentioned earlier, the Bridgestone tyres with more sidewall are definitely more comfortable and far less noisy than the older and larger Pirelli tyres were. The smaller wheels do mean noticeably better ride comfort and a bit of a sacrifice on the handling front but this front wheel drive chassis is still one of the best in the segment. There is just a slight bit more body role as compared to the older car though but it is something that is barely noticeable in general driving conditions.
As an entry into the luxury car space, the Audi A3 isn't the first car that comes to ones mind for most people and that is quite unfortunate as it is a very very capable car and even has a distinct sportiness to it. Of course, this year, this segment will see a lot more action with the BMW 1 Series sedan expected to join in. Audi might have given some new features like the LED headlamps and taken a few away like the start stop button but the A3 still remains one of the most potent cars in its segment. And the new smaller engine makes it a fun and fuel-efficient package.