NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- One of the latest automotive trends is for the luxury automakers to reach down to hug the $30,000 price point with entry-level sedans. Audi's entry into the ring is the all-new 2015 Audi A3 sedan, which reaches U.S. dealerships starting this week.
This all-new 2015 Audi A3 has a strong advantage in design, inside and out. The exterior may be Audi's best yet, with flawless proportions and restrained elegance that will stand the test of time. In this A3, Audi has mastered walking the fine line between cutting out all the excess fat, but without cutting into the bone -- almost, anyway.
The dashboard is one of the very best of all time. No, it is not as good as the Tesla (TSLA) -- nothing is -- but the A3 is both beautiful and practical at the same time. The switchgear look and feel expensive, at least as good as both BMW and Mercedes.
The steering wheel is top-notch, as many other VW/Audi Group products are, for their respective classes. The driver's seat is only slightly better than average, with the seat cushion not being long enough. You also can't adjust the seat down enough for a tall guy, but it's close. Overall, the seating position is above average, but not as good as in the BMW i3, which has both better seats and a better-telescoping steering wheel.
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The infotainment system is one of the best in the business, which doesn't say much given how bad almost all of them are. I find the Tesla to be the only one in the industry that I can use without first taking a class -- and which I then forget all about as soon as I stop using that particular car.
Rear seat room is the only place where the A3 falls short, although that also goes for the its main competitors. Foot and knee room are barely passable but headroom is terrible, and you would have to be way under 5'9" to be anywhere near okay there. Trunk space is average for this class of car.
The A3 base version is front wheel drive with a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine and has a base price of approximately $30,000. Add $3,000 and you get a 2-liter version and four-wheel drive. I spent a day driving two different versions of that latter car: One had a keyless start button, whereas the other one had the old-fashioned key hole. One wonders why even a base model car these days has a key hole on the steering column anymore, when wireless has become such a basic technology.
I drove the car on twisty scenic roads at high speeds, and the car performed flawlessly. The handling is top-notch. Obviously this isn't a powerful electric car such as a Tesla, BMW i3 or General Motors' (GM - Get Report) Chevrolet Volt, so the drivetrain feels a bit ancient when compared to an electric, but it is competitive for being a gasoline car.