What’s the Difference Between an Audi A3 Saloon and an Audi A4 Saloon?

Calendula Yellow.

2013 Audi A3 saloon: measurably different.
2013 Audi A3 saloon: measurably different.


Recently I noticed a nice looking Audi saloon outside a super-market near where I live. That A4 looks pleasing, I thought. Except it was no A4 at all but the A3 saloon, on sale since early last year. In what way does the A3 differ from its bigger sibling? The A3 saloon’s price list begins at £23,295 and for that you get a neatly styled boot holding 425 litres of air along with a rather handsome exterior.

For an extra £1390 you can get the “entry-level” A4 and 480 litres of space in the equally nicely shaped trunk. That’s £25.77 per extra litre of luggage carrying capacity which is a lot less per litre than Mercedes asks for when you choose a C-class saloon over a CLA, by the way.

2015 Audi A4 interior colours
2015 Audi A4 interior colours

Another difference is the greater range of interior colours the A4 can claim over its younger stablemate. The A3 has seven shades of grey and black and, if you opt for the S-line version, you can get brown and grey leather, as shown. The A4 has some far more interesting possibilities including Calendula Yellow plus a range of wood inserts that are downright attractive.

2015 Audi A3 saloon S-line interior.
2015 Audi A3 saloon S-line interior.
2008 Audi A4: a bit bigger
2008 Audi A4: a bit bigger


The A3 is 4445 mm long, 1516 mm high and 1706 mm wide (not including the mirrors). The A4 has 4701 mm between its ends, reaches 1427 mm to the sky, and you´ll need a 1826 mm long tape to get from side to side (not including those mirrors). Rear passengers of the A3 get 924 mm of headroom while those who get carted about in the back of an A4 will enjoy another 30 mm of air space so they can wear a flat cap and just about avoid touching the masterpiece of a headliner this car probably has. Width matters, as they say. The interior span of the A3 is 1453 mm while the A4 has 1463 mm. That’s not so much of a difference, is it?


Both cars have a TFSI engine to propel them but the A3’s is a 1.4 and the A4 is a 1.8 litre device. Since it’s a bit smaller, the A3 gets to 139 mph while the ageing (as motoring writers simply have to say) A4 manages a top speed of 129 mph. Both cars will get you to Stuttgart from Madrid in about the same time, I would guess. However, how much fuel do they hold? Often it’s not speed that counts on long distances but fuelling intervals. The smaller car can claim a 50 litre tank and the A4’s is a 63 litre tank.

Ceteris paribus, the A3 might get to Swabia a bit sooner if the driver can moderate the fuel consumption, but the A4 tank volume might just obviate the need for a stop at an Aral Station at the Bad Bellingen Rasthof. Audi claims the combined cycle of the A3 means 60 mpg, which gives a 660 mile range. The A4 has a fuel consumption of 43 mpg thus implying a 602 mile range. So, no, the A3 will not need so many stops and will probably get to the hotel in time.

2015 Audi A4 interior (not the base model). This is the kind of warm interior Rover and Lancia used to specialise in.
2015 Audi A4 interior (not the base model). This is the kind of warm interior Rover and Lancia used to specialise in.


It would seem that you get quite a lot of what the A4 does for a respectable sum less if you opt for an A3 saloon. Why would one go for an A4? The decider would not interior room and not especially in luggage volume either. No, the real reason to stump up the extra cash is if you want a much nicer set of colours and materials. On that score the A4 is a more desirable machine. Since most people don’t care very much about that, it would seem the A3 is probably nibbling away sales from the A4 as we speak.

The other point is related to the oft-cited hatred the UK buyer has for  “small saloons.” There is so little between the two cars in their visual bulk (I’d say you’d need to see them side by side) that there is no rational reason to accept the A4 but to consider the A3 a frumpy small saloon. It seems even small saloons are now large enough to avoid having odd proportions.

Car magazine made the point that the A3 is good enough to overcome those anti-saloon prejudices. Auto Express considered it an excellent looking and handling alternative to the CLA for which you need to pay £24,775. That’s another £1480 of your Earth money. You do get 470 litres of room in the boot though. Is that worth it?

The A4 is on its way out; it dates from 2008. Obviously the next generation car is going to be bigger. If it’s a 10% increase the A4 will be nearly five metres long. A 5% increase will add about 250 mm to the car, roughly. The risk is that the next car will not be quite big enough to put a clear difference between the A3 or perhaps it could get too big for some customers. What will Audi do? Can cars keep getting bigger?

Or will they keep the dimensions similar and add another five colours to the A4’s palette and hope this will woo customers considering the cheaper and, in many ways, nicer A3 saloon?

[Audi A3 specs are here and Audi A4 specs are here.]


Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

26 thoughts on “What’s the Difference Between an Audi A3 Saloon and an Audi A4 Saloon?”

  1. That A3 saloon is very good looking indeed but the limited choice of interior colours grates a bit. I take it one can’t specify a two-tone dashboard either? Also I’m guessing the choice of body colours is equally on the dull side, which is properly depressing.

  2. Odd, I would have expected the Audi to have a more youthful demographic in mind for the A3, hence a more exciting range of colours. Possible answers are that the young are getting even more conservative. Or that the A4 is an older model and Audi are taking to heart the fleet markets (see earlier posts) and junking more controversial colour schemes.

    A pity since, in my endless quest to convince myself that I actually want to buy a modern vehicle, I often look into cars as I walk past them. Apart from attracting the attention of the police, I find them almost uniformly dour. Where is the yellow Alcantara shown here? Not wanted in the conservative UK at least.

    Incidentally, as a cutting edge DTW correspondent, I am ashamed to admit that, until now, I have managed to ignore the existence of an A3 saloon entirely. I must get out more.

    1. You needn’t get out more, Sean. The A3 saloon is mainly aimed at the US market, hence its air of conservatism. Small saloons are generally finding it difficult to garner much of a following in Western Europe – however, in the east (including, up to a point, Eastern Germany), a car is only considered a proper car with a separate boot, so I could imagine this A3 gaining a bit of a following with well-off Polish costumers. It is these markets that have also traditionally shown a penchant for relative oddities, such as the booted compact Peugeots or larger Korean saloons.

      The only A3 saloons I have come across in Germany were rental cars, incidentally.

    2. I actually quite like the proportions of these small saloons, though I’m not sure I’d want one myself. I saw a Citroen C4 Saloon in Germany earlier this month – but I didn’t look at the registration. I don’t think they’re actually marketed in Europe.

    3. Seems to be the case in Spain too, for some strange reason.

      Here my car cost at least 25% less second-hand for not being a hatchback. That said, it’s unlikely I’ll get another saloon however much I like them. It’s simply not practical enough in some circumstances compared to a hatch or estate.

  3. You can´t be blamed for missing the A3 saloon. It´s been on sale a year and I am very sure the one I saw last week was the first I´d noticed. Perhaps if I lived in Germany I´d see more of them. This does undermine my point about the A3 stealing sales from the A4 though.
    Quite right, Sam, you´d imagine there was at least one funky colour to brighten things. The BMW 2 series can be had in some interesting special-order colours, as it happens.

  4. The other point worth expanding is how the cars are eventually going to be positioned relative to one another. Is there a point where the A8 will grow so big that it won´t be feasible and when the A6 then steps in to take its place? The A3 saloon is certainly, without actually researching this, about the same size as the last 80 or first A4.

  5. Burnt orange, metallic red, electric blue, primary yellow at the very least should form part of the basic colour offering, along with a few shades of green and brown for good measure. If I remember correctly Audi have a special palette for cars like the A5; yet as car makers (like politicians incidentally) claim that choice is what people want and what they are given them, that choice is standardized in the extreme.

  6. I walk down two streets to buy my Sunday paper. There is an E34 BMW 5 Series I pass, which stands out because it is red. Otherwise my impression is of a monochromatic blur of recent models, both inside and out. Up until a few years ago, I admit to having a preference for silver cars myself. Partly that was because they are anonymous, which is still an asset under certain circumstances, but aesthetically speaking I regret that attitude.

    1. Nothing wrong with ‘metallic grey’, it works for most cars, especially larger ones. Small cars however can safely sport brighter hues, but even that seems too daring for most people nowadays. Strange isn’t it?

  7. The Irish like small saloons too. I´ve seen the current and previous Astra in saloon formats. Why not put in another way and say that most of the world likes small saloons except parts of Western Europe?

    1. Fair point. When I was working in Dublin 15 years ago the sales guys didn’t like the VW Boras they were given, but that’s because they were all hoping to get 406 instead – or a 3-series for the most ambitious.

  8. I used to think that saloons made no sense. Why not have a hatchback or estate for more practicality. But then, first, I bought a big 70s coupe that seemed completely impractical (on a B&Q level), yet I still managed to squeeze things in, then I drove a rental Vento which gobbled up all a Golf would take, then some more. And that C4 saloon looked far better than the very drab C4 hatchback.

  9. The third-generation Audi A3 uses the Volkswagen Group MQB platform which for the 4 door vers has commonality in its sisters of: Škoda Octavia and Volkswagen Passat. Your writers and fans are correct it is an Audi A3 with 4 doors for the USA market, and Audi want to pitch this A3 four-door saloon to directly rival the Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class. I drove an A3 saloon for a week in Ireland in October from Europcar, they said the A3 4 door was a hot number for the growing US tourist numbers. By the way, the CLA-Class is the most affordable Mercedes-Benz vehicle offered for sale in the US, with a base MSRP of $29,900. This undercuts the C-Class Sedan, which starts at $35,350. Suppose the C-Class Sedan is equivalent to the Audi A4 which is not on the MQB platform. Me thinks too, the A4 will change. Like all cars, they get bigger every 10 years by lots. Can one remember the Mini, the original Golf, the Toyota Auris? Now look at their footprint. All in, the A3 as a 5 door Sportback or the 4 door is an impressive car. The 1.6 tdi in both has some poke, from 2k to 3k revs in 2nd gear. As impressive poke as the Saab 900 turbo, which I was a passenger in some 30 years ago.

  10. That´s interesting about the American visitors. Usually they are served up a Nissan Micra with an autobox. No wonder they go back to the US with the impression all European cars are tiny. I suppose they consider the A3 tiny as well.

  11. Sorry, I am late to this post and discussion. I have seen a few A3 Saloons, and I guy I work with has one. It’s a very sharp, tight and cohesive design and I prefer it to the current A4. I like this kind of thing a lot and it’s definitely a prospect for me. I mentioned elsewhere the Mazda3 “Fastback” (it’s a 4 door saloon) which is also a nice piece of design to my eyes, and the top of the range car (a 150 bhp, 2.2 diesel) with Nav and a lot of kit costs less than the entry point you quote for the A3 saloon. There are deficiencies in perceived quality in the cabin compared to the A3, but this has to make the Mazda a very rational alternative. And … you can get it in a lovely deep metalic (mica?) red, or an interesting bronzy colour called “Titanium Flash Mica”. Worth a look.

  12. Do you mean Titanium Flash Metallic? Personally, I liked the 2003-2008 edition. It had a low and dead horizontal waistline and a nice straight wing line. It looked great from the rear three quarters. This new one seems compromised by the rising waistline which forces the boot upwards. I see they called it a Fastback – No saloons here, sir!
    The colour´s nice. There´s no green or bright blue though.

  13. As an aside, I have it on good authority that the A3 saloon currently outsells its hatchback sibling by a huge margin here in the Republic of Ireland. Customers tend to be downsizing A4 owners. In saloon form, the A3 has much to commend it, although if you look closely, you can see where the money has been saved. Coincidentally, the number of Mercedes CLA’s on the roads here can be counted on the fingers of one hand. The holy mortifying shame of being seen in such a thing – you’d never live it down…

  14. If one applies the true automotive sizing formula
    (which measures also the roof surface area, as opposed
    to pure L x W x H), the A3 Sedan, in hindsight, is actually
    a rather compact car for what it is.
    Another telling aspect is the size of its windscreen (it’s the most telling aspect of a car’s real cross-sectional and aero-relevant voluminous width/sizing).

    Having seen its potential for racing in the past 2-3 years,
    in the TCR-series, where the S3 Sedan shines for its aerodynamic qualities and an overall very sleek profile,
    coupled with a noticably rigid shell (read: small glass
    openings etc.), I am inclined to think that, underneath,
    the A3 sedan is probably built as a narrow-door
    version of the MQB platform, with a Skoda
    Rapid-derived upper-body architecture
    (roof & windscreen).

    It is a very pleasant car to drive, and gathers speed palpably quicker than an A4 of a comparable same drivetrain.
    Its aero-benefits are not only due to the huge,
    12cm (!) smaller width, but also due to
    a noticably more compact upper-
    body architecture.

    I was once blessed with a rental lottery of a Rapid 1,2 TSI sedan (the lesser, 86 HP version), and in spite of the meaty power delivery that I expected from a 2-valve-per-cyl. Turbo engine (nowadays, sadly, almost a non-existant engine breed, btw.!), I still couldn’t believe the high-speed accelerativeness
    and high-speed stability this car had.
    The aero-advantage was huge, whereas the relatively narrow doors meant that space was still relatively generous.
    It was so brisk that, for a while, I was convinced that they’d made a mistake and gave me a 122 HP version, but no,
    it was a bare-bones basic 86 HP version.

    Somewhat later, last year I had the chance to drive
    a 1,6 TDI A3 sedan, on a medium-to-longer trip.
    Its effortless, almost sportscar-like (or 2.0 TDI 170HP like,
    if you will) 70-100 Mph run, convinced me even more that these cars, size-wise, are practically nothing else but
    “a Fabia with a trunk”. Yes, the A3 is that ‘slippery’.

    Besides, it’s enough to just park it right next to almost any other contemporary city car, and directly see for yourself
    how small is its cross-section (windshield,
    roof-surface etc.).

    As long as there are enough wise and dimension-aware drivers out there, I am convinced that there’ll be a good argument for such a car being made by Audi.

    I have a huge appreciation for the A3 Sedan, as long as it doesn’t become too watered down in the so called
    integral quality department.

    It’s a truly impressive package: offering small-car economy and narrow streets ‘squeezability’, with most of the comforts
    expected from a true compact-size sedan.

    The ‘nominal’ compact-size sedans, meanwhile, as said above, have become utter barges, stressful to drive
    in urban/rural areas, and surely fuel-guzzling
    and nowhere near as effortlessly brisk
    on long fast hauls.

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