The entry-level vehicles from luxury brands are often the black sheep, offering a lot less for a far lower price tag but allowing those with a bit less in the bank to park a name brand in their garage. With the Audi A3, though, VW's premium nameplate has managed to keep its essence intact by offering a solid little compact luxury car at a reasonable price.

For a week, Gizmag drove the 2016 Audi A3 Sedan in its 2.0T quattro S tronic configuration. At about US$40,500 delivered, with most of the available trimmings, this was a well-heeled little car. Audi, known for its sporty offerings with simplicity of design and peppy performance, is well-represented in the little A3.

The exterior of the 2016 A3 is right in line with Audi's sedan lineup, holding a seemingly simple, but dynamic Teutonic appeal. Strong body lines just below the belt and across the bottom of the doors create a dynamic presence for the car. The rounded roofline and somewhat long hood finish the look to give the car a decidedly European aloofness without becoming smug.

Inside, the compact Audi A3 is as roomy as a car this size can be without skimping on any of the luxurious accoutrements luxury buyers will expect. Turbine-resembling (and highly adjustable) air vents, well-trimmed leather, and quality materials adorn the cabin. Lower-cost does not translate to cheap in the A3 and driver and front passenger comfort are paramount.

The technology screen in the A3 is Audi's MMI system, which at its base level comes with some good options. Upgrading to the Technology Package, as our test model had, added navigation, a better control interface via the command knob, and a brilliant touchpad on top of the control knob. That touchpad allows the user to draw letters or numbers when entering navigation information, which is far better than hunting and pecking through an on-screen keyboard.

Powering the 2016 Audi A3 are a choice of three engines paired with a six-speed automated manual transmission. The "manual" part refers to the driver-selectable gear option as the transmission is otherwise the same as any other automatic. The engine choices are a 1.8-liter or 2.0-liter gasoline and a 2.0-liter diesel.

The standard engine is the 1.8L turbocharged four-cylinder, which outputs 170 horsepower (127 kW) and 200 pound-feet (271 Nm) of torque. Our 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder upgrades that to 220 hp (164 kW) and 258 lb-ft (350 Nm), while the diesel is rated at 150 hp (112 kW) and 236 lb-ft (320 Nm). No matter the engine choice, the Audi A3 offers the excellent drive dynamics and precise steering Audi buyers would expect. The A3, because of its small size, is very nimble and as refined as any Audi in the fleet.

Adding all-wheel drive ("quattro") to the mix only enhances the Audi A3's good nature on the road. The low-end torque curve thanks to those turbos means that the little car jumps quickly into action and pulls ahead easily when pressed. The ride is quiet and comfortable, which is also unusual for this class of car.

In every way, the 2016 Audi A3 is a true luxury car with a fun-driving, livable nature that belies its relatively low price point. Audi has hit the mark with this little compact.

Product Page: Audi A3

View gallery - 19 images