Audi A3 vs A4: Is The A4 Worth The Extra Cost?

Audi sedans are a staple in the luxury car market. Smart and conservative designs complement their precision German engineering and their infotainment and driver assists are currently considered the best among German automakers. 

Although America’s obsession with SUVs means the Q3 and Q5 are Audi’s best selling vehicles, the A3 and A4 are not far behind in sales. The Audi A3 is the least expensive Audi car, and often an entry point for new Audi drivers. Naturally, the A4 draws comparisons with the A3, being the next step up in the regular Audi line. 

So how exactly do the A3 and A4 differ?

The Audi A3 is a subcompact luxury car, whereas the Audi A4 is a compact luxury car. That means the Audi A4 has bigger dimensions and more interior room. Size differences are accompanied by subtle design differences outside and inside, and the A4 has more standard features. 

That’s the gist of it, but let’s take a closer look at what exactly separates the two models. 

Audi A3 vs A4: Price

The cheapest A3 ‘Titanium’ trim starts at $33,300, while the same trim on the A4 costs $39,200. The price difference is therefore around $6k, and relatively more costly options on the A4 can further widen that gap. 

The A4 does however come with more standard features, even at the base trim. Most notable is the ‘Convenience Package’ which features keyless engine start/stop and entry, Audi side assist, aluminium window surrounds and LED interior lighting. This option costs $1,150 on the A3. 

The back of the Audi A3

Audi A3 vs A4: Design

The trademark Audi singleframe front-grille is present on both Audis, but sharper and slimmer headlights makes it possible to distinguish the two cars from the front. 

There are also differences at the rear. The tail lights also sport a wider, more aggressive look on the back of the A4. Meanwhile, the A4 gets two wide tailpipes on either side, whereas the A3 goes for more standard dual tailpipes on one side. 

However, the most obvious difference is the shape of the cars themselves. The A4 is longer and appears more streamlined, whereas the A3 is more compact and boxy by comparison. This difference becomes even clearer when seeing them in person, as opposed to from photos. 

The back of the Audi A4

Audi A3 vs A4: Space

Since we’re comparing a compact to a subcompact car, the A4 is obviously the bigger car. But by how much? 

Passengers in the front and back get an additional 2.4 inches and 1.3 inches of additional head room respectively. While the longer wheelbase surprisingly doesn’t translate into any additional legroom for passengers, passengers get over an inch of additional shoulder room. 

Although both have a seating capacity of 5, the middle seat of the A4 is much better at accommodating a 5th passenger. With the A3, larger passengers will struggle to squeeze in to fill up the back row. 

Both sedans feature 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats

Comparing practicality, the A4 also has 13 cubic-feet of cargo volume, while the A3 has a cargo volume of 10 cubic-feet. Both sedans can have their rear seats folded down, giving further flexibility for carrying cargo.

Audi A3 vs A4: Interior And Technology

Audi interiors have been the subject of much praise thanks to their more recent overhauls. They are modern, uncluttered, free from cheap materials and supported by one of the best infotainment systems around. 

The differences in interior will be fairly obvious to the driver. Whereas the A3 goes with small, circular air conditioning vents, the A4 has air conditioning vents that lines the entire dashboard. You also get grey oak natural wood inlays that are a touch classier than the micrometallic silver inlays featured in the A3. 

With either sedan you’ll get a 7-inch display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility and cruise control as standard. Audi offer a host of in-car tech upgrades like a high definition Bang & Olufsen sound system, automatic climate control, 12.3-inch virtual cockpit with MMI Navigation and more. 

Audi A3 interior
Audi A4 interior

Audi A3 vs A4: Powertrain 

Under the hood, there isn’t really any difference between the A3 and A4. The base A3 and A4 are both powered by a 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder engine named ‘40 TFSI’. Different tuning means the specs aren’t exactly the same—184 hp and 224 lb-ft of torque on the A3 compared to 186 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque on the A4. However, that difference doesn’t really amount to any difference in performance, and the smaller A3 is in fact faster going from 0-60 mph (6.6s vs 7.1s). 

Both sedans are also offered with the higher spec ‘45 TFSI’ engine which delivers more horsepower and torque. Going for this model also gives you a better seven-speed DSG transmission and adds Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system, which is especially beneficial for those who will find themselves driving in harsh weather conditions. 

Those wanting something a little faster might want to look into the S3 and S4 in the high performance Audi S range. The Audi A3 also has an RS counterpart, the RS3, which delivers the best performance of all. 

Audi A3 vs A4: Fuel Economy

According to EPA estimates, the Audi A3 40 TFSI  gets 26/35 mpg (city/highway) and a combined gas mileage of 29 mpg. The more powerful A3 45 achieves 22/30 mpg (city/highway) and 25 mpg combined.

The Audi A4 40 TFSI gets 27/34 mpg (city/highway) and a combined gas mileage of 30 mpg. By comparison, the A4 45 TFSI is slightly more gas hungry with 23/34 mpg (city/highway) for a combined rating of 27 mpg. 

With Audi set to introduce a hybrid version of the A4 in 2020, those who want the best fuel efficiency might want to hold back a little longer on their purchase.

Audi A3 vs A4: Drive Experience

The A3’s smaller nature and lower ground clearance gives it a slightly sportier and more agile driving characteristics than the A4. This is also reflected in its slightly tighter turning diameter of 36.1 feet versus the A4’s 38.1 feet.

However, Audi’s niche is not the sporty, thrusing and aggressive balance found in BMWs or Jaguars, but rather its comfortable and refined driving dynamics. And in this respect, the A4 is superior to the A3. The cabin is quieter and the suspension feels softer. Overall, you get a more distinctive Audi driving experience in the A4. 

Audi A3 vs A4: Safety

The A3 and A4 were both given 5-star overall safety ratings by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and are ‘Top Safety Picks’ according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). 

However, closer inspection reveals that the A3 fared slightly better in frontal crash testing, specifically for the front passenger side, where it obtained a 5-star rating as opposed to the A4’s 4-star rating. 

Moving on to safety features, Automated emergency braking and forward-collision warning come as standard on both models, but things like lane-keep assist, blind spot monitoring and high beam assist will cost extra. 

Verdict

When we compare different car models from the same manufacturer we normally conclude that the car to buy ultimately comes down to different driver needs.

But in this case, we’re going to go ahead and say the A4 is simply the better choice

The A3’s interior feels a notch less luxurious than the one found in the A4, and the stubby exterior appearance doesn’t look anywhere near as good as the more streamlined A4. It’s tiny trunk makes it far less practical and the drive doesn’t feel as refined as the A4. 

Overall the A3 doesn’t do enough to represent what people want and expect from an Audi. It’s cheaper, but unless you’re simply desperate to become an Audi owner, price sensitive consumers are better off looking elsewhere. The A4, on the other hand, is a truly luxury sedan that delivers on all fronts. 


Full Comparison Table

Premium 40 TFSI FWD ($33,300)
Premium 40 TFSI ($37,400)
Engine and Transmission
Engine
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
Horsepower
184 hp @ 4300 rpm
188 hp @ 4200 rpm
Torque
221 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm
236 lb-ft @ 1450 rpm
Transmission
7-Speed Automatic
7-Speed Automatic
Drivetrain
Front-Wheel Drive
Front-Wheel Drive
Steering
Steering Type
Rack-Pinion
Rack-Pinion
Turning Diameter
36.1 ft
38.1 ft
Wheels
Front Wheel Size
18" x 8"
17" x 7.5"
Rear Wheel Size
18" x 8"
17" x 7.5"
Suspension
Front Suspension
Strut
Multi-Link
Rear Suspension
Multi-Link
Multi-Link
Tires
Front Tire
P225/40HR18
P225/50HR17
Rear Tire
P225/40HR18
P225/50HR17
Spare Tire
Compact
Compact
Fuel Economy
Combined
30 MPG
30 MPG
City
27 MPG
27 MPG
Highway
36 MPG
35 MPG
Emissions
CO2 Emissions @ 15K mi/year
5.8 Tons/yr
6.0 Tons/yr
Fuel Tank
Fuel Tank Capacity
13.2 gallons
15.3 gallons
Cruising Range City
356.4 miles
413.1 miles
Cruising Range Highway
475.2 miles
535.5 miles
Exterior Dimensions
Length
175.5 in
186.1 in
Height
55.7 in
56.2 in
Max Width
70.7 in
72.5 in
Front Width
61.2 in
61.9 in
Rear Width
60.1 in
61.2 in
Wheelbase
103.8 in
111 in
Interior Space
Seating Capacity
5 seater
5 seater
Front Seat Leg Room
41.2 in
41.3 in
Front Seat Headroom
36.5 in
38.9 in
Front Seat Shoulder Room
54.8 in
55.9 in
Rear Seat Leg Room
35.1 in
35.7 in
Rear Seat Headroom
36.1 in
37.4 in
Rear Seat Shoulder Room
53 in
54.5 in
Weight and Towing
Curb Weight
3,197 lbs
3,450 lbs
Cargo Space
Trunk Volume
10 ft³
13 ft³
Infotainment
HD Radio
Standard
Standard
Bluetooth Connection
Standard
Standard
Hard Disk Drive Media Storage
Not Available
Not Available
Premium Sound System
Not Available
Not Available
Satellite Radio
Standard
Standard
Smart Device Integration
Standard
Standard
WiFi Hotspot
Not Available
Not Available
Auxiliary Audio Input
Standard
Standard
Entertainment System
Not Available
Not Available
MP3 Player
Standard
Standard
Interior Trim
Bucket Seats
Standard
Standard
Cloth Seats
Standard
Standard
Leather Seats
Standard
Standard
Leather Steering Wheel
Standard
Standard
Premium Synthetic Seats
Standard
Standard
Vinyl Seats
Standard
Standard
Woodgrain Interior Trim
Not Available
Standard
Sun/Moonroof
Standard
Standard
Comfort
Head-Up Display
Not Available
Not Available
Navigation System
Not Available
Not Available
Steering Wheel Audio Controls
Standard
Standard
Power Liftgate
Not Available
Not Available
Power Mirror(s)
Standard
Standard
A/C
Standard
Standard
Adaptive Cruise Control
Not Available
Not Available
Automatic Parking
Not Available
Not Available
Climate Control
Standard
Standard
Cooled Front Seat(s)
Not Available
Not Available
Cooled Rear Seat(s)
Not Available
Not Available
Cruise Control
Standard
Standard
Hands-Free Liftgate
Not Available
Standard
Heated Front Seat(s)
Standard
Standard
Heated Rear Seat(s)
Not Available
Not Available
Heated Steering Wheel
Not Available
Not Available
Keyless Entry
Standard
Standard
Multi-Zone A/C
Standard
Standard
Power Driver Seat
Standard
Standard
Power Passenger Seat
Optional
Standard
Remote Engine Start
Not Available
Not Available
Remote Trunk Release
Not Available
Standard
Seat Memory
Not Available
Standard
Universal Garage Door Opener
Not Available
Standard
Seat-Massage
Not Available
Not Available
Rear A/C
Not Available
Standard
Keyless Start
Standard
Standard
Navigation from Telematics
Not Available
Not Available
Telematics
Not Available
Standard
Safety Features
Back-Up Camera
Standard
Standard
Cross-Traffic Alert
Optional
Not Available
Rear Parking Aid
Optional
Not Available
Blind Spot Monitor
Optional
Standard
Lane Departure Warning
Not Available
Not Available
Lane Keeping Assist
Not Available
Not Available
ABS
Standard
Standard
Night Vision
Not Available
Not Available
Tire Pressure Monitor
Standard
Standard
Brake Assist
Standard
Standard
Stability Control
Standard
Standard
Traction Control
Standard
Standard
US NHTSA crash test result
Airbags
Driver Air Bag
Standard
Standard
Front Head Air Bag
Standard
Standard
Front Side Air Bag
Standard
Standard
Knee Air Bag
Standard
Standard
Passenger Air Bag
Standard
Standard
Rear Head Air Bag
Standard
Standard
Rear Side Air Bag
Optional
Standard
Seatbelt Air Bag
Not Available
Not Available
Warranty Summary
Basic
4 Years / 50,000 Miles
4 Years / 50,000 Miles
Corrosion
12 Years / Unlimited Miles
12 Years / Unlimited Miles
Drivetrain
4 Years / 50,000 Miles
4 Years / 50,000 Miles
Maintenance
1 Years / 10,000 Miles
1 Years / 10,000 Miles
Roadside Assistance
4 Years / Unlimited Miles
4 Years / Unlimited Miles