Effective fun in a small package

2022 Audi A3 40 TFSI Quattro vs. BMW 230i Coupe 2022: Two little pieces of fun.

this week: Audi A3

price: $44,440 as tested. Premium Plus Package added security features and LED lights for $3,300; 18-inch wheels $800; Gray paint, $595. More noticeable throughout.

Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver likes the “modern interior, fun handling, and great fuel economy,” but not because “not as powerful as the previous generation, the S3 drives better, and the shift lever is idiot.”

Marketed stadium: “More than a sedan.”

Indeed: Burst and a half – while saving fuel.

what’s new: Every once in a while something wakes me up from my driver’s seat “Ho-hum, a brand new car I can never drive”. (It’s a hard life.)

The A3 got a restyling for 2022, with a new engine and hybrid system, larger proportions throughout, and plenty of interior upgrades that bring the joy back into driving.

up to speed: Hey! What a fun unit. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine produces 201 horsepower and reaches 60 mph in just 6.3 seconds. (The front-wheel-drive model takes a 6.6.) Not all times from 0 to 60 are created equal, and the A3 does all its moves with the dynamism that only a small sedan can bring.

shrewd: Shift arms are great in 2015, but good replacements seem hard to come by. The dial from the Jeep and Ford seems too easy to twist in the wrong direction. The buttons from Honda are unattractive. Being an old man, I’m drawn to joystick versions that mimic the old gear lever.

Now Audi comes with a seven-speed transmission that feels like a giant paddle shifter, and I think we’ve got a winner. Flip it forward to backward, and pull it back for driving or sports. Simple, intuitive and attractive.

Drivers can change gears from the paddles if they wish. The shift works well, although it’s abrupt enough to remind you that you’re not in a Lexus.

On the road: So much fun that the lovely lady passenger seat could hardly hold on to it. The curves are nice, corners can be taken at speeds well above those recommended, and the highways and normal driving are still fun too. Of course, this is with the all-wheel drive version of the A3, but why would you have any other shape? (Okay, maybe spring for S3.)

People. Ugh: So you’re spending way too much time enjoying life to the fullest when someone comes along to pop that bubble. Enter Sturgis Son-in-Law 1.0.

“This looks just like a Jetta.”

Guess who wasn’t invited to the beach this summer?

Driver’s seat: Fortunately, Mr. Driver’s bench can transcend superficial standards of beauty; looks inside.

Inside, the A3 does not disappoint. The seats are very comfortable for Audis, although for a sudden turn of events, it was the Passenger Seat who complained that it was too stiff. I found them supportive and comfortable, but, no, I wouldn’t call them soft.

The interior package added birch inlays and stylish interior lights for $550.

Friends and things: Tall Sturgis Kid 4.0 didn’t complain about legroom in the butt, which surprised me, but said headroom was cramped.

I found the same thing. It’s uncomfortable, and Audi was able to make the center seat not too high without making the seat feel flat in the ’70s.

Trunk space is 10.9 cubic feet, but you can fold the seats for extra storage space.

Play some tunes: On the bright side, the Bang & Olufsen sound system has great reproduction. (It’s part of the $2,250 tech package.) The songs probably sound better than they did on recording day in the studio, A+. This came without any modifications on my part.

On the downside, I have to buy a new wire. Only the new USB-C ports are available on many European models, and the A3 was one of them.

USB-C became a goal because getting Bluetooth turned on was a real challenge. My phone often took a long time to load, then dropped more than once.

The volume control is a slight clockwise and counterclockwise movement above the small radio control button on the console. Otherwise, it’s a touch city of operations. The Audi tactile touchscreen gives the touchscreen a sense of movement when you reach your target, and that makes the experience even better.

The infotainment part is still fun. The 10.1-inch touchscreen is large, the menus are easy to read and follow, and Audi’s MMI Navigation Plus system (also part of the tech package) uses Google Earth, making navigation even more beautiful.

Keep warm and cold: Switch across the bottom of the dashboard to simply control all changes.

fuel economy: The simple screen made it easy to see that the A3 averaged about 30 mpg before I wore the gloves. I landed sharply while driving around the house, but slipped back into the 30 after a highway ride.

Where to build it: Ingolstadt, Germany

How it was built: Consumer Reports predicts the reliability of the A3 will be 3 out of 5.

next week: BMW 230i Coupe

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