2022 Audi A3 First Drive Review: Model Citizen
Blinding snow and sub-freezing temperatures are common occurrences in the mountains west of Denver, Colorado, even in October. But as we took the scenic route from the Mile High City, up and over roads at 9,500 feet, to the small town of Lyons, the 2022 Audi A3 took everything in stride.
We expect this all-weather ability from an Audi. But what made the experience stand out was how natural the A3 felt just being a car. It’s almost entirely free of histrionics, serving up a comfortable cabin, a quiet ride, a refined driving experience, and in-demand tech without succumbing to content bloat. It’s a fine distillation of the German luxury sedan experience with few of its traditional drawbacks, including an exorbitant price tag.
|Quick Stats||2022 Audi A3 Quattro Premium Plus|
|Engine:||Turbocharged 2.0-liter I4 w/ISG|
|Output:||201 Horsepower / 221 Pound-Feet|
|Base Price:||$33,900 + $1,045 Destination|
Hard Angles, Soft Edges
Don’t feel bad for confusing the redesigned 2022 A3 with the 2020 model. While this is the first entry in a new generation, Audi opted for restraint in an exterior redesign that sits on the latest version of the MQB architecture. It somehow looks both more and less like a jellybean, with a wider, more attractive hood. Where last year’s bonnet was only as wide as the A-pillars, the 2022 car has more of a clamshell-like design that eats into the fenders.
Combined with a subtle front overhang and a more noticeable hood bulge, wider headlights, and angular lower intakes that flank a more prominent grille, the 2022 A3’s face is immediately more attractive, premium, and noticeable. Out back, wider taillights that bleed around into the rear fenders and a revised lower bumper with hidden exhausts give the A3 a more substantial appearance – last generation’s cute booty is dead and gone. Between the front and the back, though, the A3 is broadly similar, with balanced proportions and admirable restraint when it comes to character lines.
Sit down in the A3’s cabin and you’ll start to wonder if Audi’s interior designers even work in the same city, let alone the building floor, as its exterior designers. Where the second-generation A3 drew inspiration from the TT, complete with circular climate vents and a minimalist aesthetic that was all dash and not much else, the 2022 A3 goes in a totally different direction, starting with its foundation.
The thick strip of silver-painted plastic manages to set a premium tone for the overall design, a theme the new 10.1-inch touchscreen and horizontal climate vents only reinforce. Most striking is the depth of this dash – the way the plastic element juts out into the cabin and the vents sit deep behind it is unusually aggressive for one of Audi’s more mainstream products.
Equally eye catching is the available 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster (a 10.3-inch unit is standard on all but the top-end model), flanked as it is by two more large horizontally slatted vents. Even the center console gets in on the fun, with its own silver-painted surround.
While we enjoy the A3’s new interior design immensely, the abundance of plastic is disappointing. The dominant element, that silvery bit, feels cheap and flimsy to the touch. Agate Gray wood is a $550 option on our Premium Plus tester, and while it doesn’t completely supplant the plastic, we’d consider it a worthwhile upgrade.
As per usual for a German automaker, the drive experience in the A3 is excellent.
There are also a few odd moves, like a strip of cross-stitching that runs from the instrument panel to the passenger’s side door but stops short of either – it’s styling for styling’s sake, which has never been an Audi thing. We’re also not crazy about the Porsche-style gear selector. It has a substantial, almost mechanical action but looks even stubbier and easier to miss here than in a 911.
As per usual for a German automaker, the drive experience in the A3 is excellent. The wide-opening front doors and low seating position allow drivers and passengers alike to plop into the front chairs. There’s adequate second-row headroom and legroom, but it’s little surprise that the Q3 makes a better people mover. The front chairs, though, are ace, with excellent support despite the minimal amount of bolstering. The four-spoke steering wheel is large for such a small car, but we adjusted quickly and you will too. Sightlines, meanwhile, are excellent in every direction.