Lucky for me, I stayed close to home during my time in the A3, so any squishing was of a short duration. However, the Los Angeles area was hit with torrential rains, flooding and mudslides that week, but the A3 took it all it in stride. This front-wheel-drive hatchback made it through running water, over mud and around rocks without so much as a hiccup, and I was thoroughly impressed. I was also impressed by its price: The A3's MSRP starts at $29,950; my A3 TDI test car cost $31,275.
Piling wet people, coats and umbrellas into the A3 was less fun. On the one dry day I had in the A3 TDI, I found its responsive handling wasn't only great at keeping me on wet, nasty roads, but fun to play with on dry ones. There's none of that old, embarrassing diesel lag in the A3 TDI. Though it doesn't leap off the starting line, the engine builds power quickly so steep hills or freeway merges are no problem. The ride is firm but not so hard as to be uncomfortable.
The A3 TDI is definitely a cutie. Everywhere I went people commented on it, and I couldn't stop showing it off. Part of its cuteness is its small size. It crouches low to the ground and hugs the road with a hint of sport that's endearing rather than impressive. The profile is sleek and not at all boxy, as you might expect from a hatchback.
The TDI's 140-horsepower, 2.0-liter inline-four-cylinder diesel engine delivers plenty of power and a surprisingly quiet drive. Its EPA-estimated mileage of 30/42 mpg city/highway is some tasty icing on the cake. Of course, the TDI takes only diesel fuel.
My sons had no problems getting in and out of this hatchback. The doors opened nice and wide and there's a flat step-in area for little feet. My boys were able to open and close the doors without any problems or whining. The cargo door opens high enough to walk under without banging my head, but it isn't out of reach. A grab handle lets you shut the door without getting dirty fingers.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Great
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Groove-On
Inside the A3, its small size is less adorable. While I fit in the driver's seat just fine, my husband felt claustrophobic every time he got in the car. This was caused by more than seat size; the interior of my test A3 was entirely black, with only a bit of metal to catch the light. It's very clean and modern, but doesn't exactly convey a feeling of space.
There is space for all your stuff, though. There's a cubby at the bottom of the center stack for cell phones or loose items, and the center console has two levels, with a small upper bin as well as a lower bit containing a 12-volt outlet and MP3 jack. The center stack is pretty self-explanatory, with just enough buttons and dials to get the job done. I had no difficulty switching between the stereo system's XM Satellite Radio and CD player. The gauges are white on black, with red needles. That red is echoed in the display screens for the audio system and climate control.
In the backseat, space is also limited, but there's just enough legroom for adults. My boys and I liked the fold-down armrest with cupholders that pop out of it and a covered storage bin for small items. We enjoyed it less when getting buckled up because it had to be folded away so my guys could see where to buckle.
The cargo area comes with a removable hard cover that lifts when you open the cargo door. It's a nice touch because it not only gives some privacy to whatever you're hauling around, but also keeps the sun off the groceries.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
The 2010 A3 has been named the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Top Safety Pick. To earn this safety award, a car must score the top rating of Good in front, side-impact, rear and rollover crash tests as well as have a standard electronic stability system.
Audi has some of MotherProof.com's favorite Latch anchors. They sit under removable plastic covers and are easy to use. Rear-facing infant-safety seat and convertible seats will do well in the A3. However, my son's booster seat didn't fare as well. Our booster seat slid over the seat belt receptor, so my little guy struggled with getting buckled every time we got in the car.
The A3's standard safety features include antilock brakes with brake assist, traction control and six airbags, including side curtains for both rows. Rear side-impact airbags are available for $350.
Get more safety information about the 2010 A3 TDI here.