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Audi A3 Review

Find out more about the Audi A3 in the latest Motors.co.uk Review

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8
Out of 10
Average Price £14,751
Value for money

Though it’s accompanied by a quite a high purchase price, the A3 does come with a relatively good amount of equipment. It’s not as well-specified as less-premium rivals, but for the most part there’s plenty on board to keep most people satisfied.

Even the most recent body style A3s are beginning to appear on the used market, with SE cars popular as these feature a high level of equipment. You’ll find a multifunction steering wheel fitted, as well as adaptive headlights and Bluetooth connectivity.

Go to the previous generation, and there’s a good chance you’ll find a high-spec car for a similar price as a nearly new example. S-Line cars remain a smart choice for those looking to stand out, as they feature sports suspension and dynamic styling touches. You’ll find larger alloy wheels fitted as standard, too.

Looks and image

Sitting below the larger A4 saloon and above the A1 city car, the A3 toes the line between a compact footprint and practicality. Current-generation cars also have a sleek exterior design, while the relation to older incarnations is still visible thanks to trademark touches such as a large front grille.

You don’t have to be restricted to just a hatch version of the A3, either. Now expanded, there’s a saloon version, as well as a convertible too. This means that if you’re looking for something slightly different to the standard car, but with similar dimensions, then there’s something for you. There’s also a five-door ‘Sportback’ version of the hatch that offers easier access to the rear of the car as well as better storage levels.

The A3 remains a good car to drive, offering dependable, progressive steering with very little drama. Being front-wheel-drive, the A3 isn’t a difficult car to drive and, with the addition of Quattro all-wheel-drive, becomes very easy to pilot around.

Space and practicality

One of the original elements that the very first A3 traded upon was its ability to be practical. Thankfully, that still remains with new cars able to offer a huge amount of storage space, which is impressive considering its relatively diminutive size.

Boot space for the standard three-door hatch sits at 365 litres which, though decent, isn’t as large as that found in rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf. Fold the rear seats down, and you’ll get 1,100 litres of space – and those seats fold completely flat, which makes it easier to load larger items.

Pick the Sportback variant, and boot space increases to 365 litres with the seats folded up, rising to 1,220 litres with them down. In short, if you’re looking for room then this is the version you’ll want. Saloon models get a larger standard boot at 425 litres, though this can only been extended in capacity to 880 litres.

Engines

The A3 comes with a fine range of petrol and diesel engines, meaning that there’s sure to be a powerplant to suit anyone. Quattro all-wheel-drive can also be specified, giving better levels of traction in tricky conditions that tend to appear when driving in the UK.

Petrol engines start with a 1.4-litre turbocharged unit, which pairs good levels of economy with strong performance. Though small in size, it’s actually quite powerful. There’s a larger 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol too, as well as two economical diesels if you’re looking to keep running costs down.

A 2.0-litre diesel sits at the heart of the range, producing 147bhp. It’s a smart choice if you’re looking to combine performance for economy.

The range also includes a hybrid in the form of the A3 e-tron. This is powered by a 1.4-litre turbocharged engine linked with an electric motor. This means that the e-tron returns exceptional economy figures, with a claimed 166.2mpg claimed by Audi. It’ll also emit just 38g/km C02, making it cheap to run.

Sitting at the top of the range is the high-powered S3. Utlising a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol, it produces 305bhp and is capable of reaching 60mph in just over five seconds. Opt for the S Tronic automatic gearbox, and it’ll hit 60mph in 4.3 seconds, making it no slouch. This is the ideal choice if you’re looking for a true hot hatch.

Running costs

If you’re wanting to keep running costs to a minimum, then the smaller-capcity petrol engine is a smart choice. With petrol prices currently lower than diesel, the 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol unit makes sense in the A3. It’ll return 60.1mpg, and emits 109g/km of CO2. It sits in group 21 for insurance, which means it’ll still command a premium with providers.

However, if you’re planning on making numerous longer journeys, then a diesel is your best bet. The 2.0-litre version will return up to 65.7mpg combined while emitting 109g/km CO2 in 6-speed manual layout. However, if it’s the best economy that you’re after, then the 1.6-litre diesel is the one to go for. This will return over 70mpg and emit just 107g/km CO2 when coupled with a 6-speed manual gearbox. Specify Quattro all-wheel-drive and you will, of course, see diminished levels of economy and emissions.

Things to look out for 

For the most part, the Audi A3 has, throughout its generations, experienced relatively few large problems. However, as a premium item, when parts need to be replaced they usually cost considerably more than with other cheaper cars.

Some early cars suffered from issues with the front seat belt height adjuster, though this was addressed with a recall – just make sure that any car you’re considering has had this done.

Some early 2000 cars suffered an issue with the anti-lock braking system, which could malfunction and lead to the system malfunctioning. Again, this was fixed with a recall.

Cars produced in 2005 were also subject to recall after it was found that bolts holding the fuel pump had the potential to break. It is paramount that you ensure that any car of this age has had this work done.

As always, it is best to check through the car’s history and ensure that all major work has taken place. Modern Audi A3 models have good levels of reliability, though that is not to say that some issues could arise further down the line.

Rivals

The Audi A3 first entered production in 1996, offering buyers a premium yet compact mode car. It’s now in its third generation.

The A3 sits in the C-segment, going up against accomplished rivals like the Volkswagen Golf, Mercedes A-Class and BMW 1 Series. All three are immensely popular, which is why choosing a car in this segment can be tricky.

The Audi A3 certainly sits at the top end of the segment in terms of price. It has high levels of demand, even when used, and this helps to uphold the price throughout the years. Rivals in this sector have similar reputations, but the Audi comes out well given its excellent build quality and design that seems to stand the test of time.

Depreciation warning

Here’s where buying an Audi A3 makes sense. In terms of depreciation, you really can’t find many better cars. Thanks to classic styling, the changes between each generation are minimal. This gives all cars a modern impression, and links them together.

Add that to a strong demand – especially with younger drivers – and you have a car that holds on to its value extremely well. Even first-generation cars still command a premium over their similarly aged rivals, with sports models moving into modern classic status.

Which A3 to Pick

Trims Explained

On the latest generation A3, there are five trims to choose from.

SE Technik

Up next is SE Technik. As well as all the standard features that accompany SE trim, you get 15-spoke alloy wheels that certainly brighten up the exterior. However, the biggest change comes inside the car with satellite navigation now added, along with rear parking sensors that make manoeuvring the car a lot easier. This specification can only be had with a diesel engine.

The base price of £21,885 remains competitive.

Sport

Moving up the range brings us to Sport specification. Building on SE, this adds 17-inch alloy wheels and redesigned front air intakes, which help give the A3 a more dynamic appearance. You’ll still find satellite navigation fitted as standard, but alongside this you’ll now find dual-zone climate control. Sports seats are also included, giving better levels of support and comfort, especially on longer journeys. The interior is further changed with aluminium inlays, and a 3-spoke leather multifunction steering wheel. Interior lighting also gives the Sport specification added drama.

Of course, with this added equipment comes greater cost, but at £22,940 without extras it isn’t as bad as you’d think.

S Line

A popular choice comes next, in the form of S Line trim. The sportiest in the range, it brings with it 18-inch alloy wheels, and a full S Line bodykit. LED headlights are also included, along with dynamic rear indicators which don’t ‘flash’ conventionally, but instead ‘strobe’ across the length of the light. You’ll also find a flat-bottomed sports steering wheel fitted inside, as well as part-leather sports seats. A neat touch are the door sills, which come fitted with illuminated S logos. Sports suspension is one of the largest changes to the S Line, and this gives the A3 a really purposeful look on the road.

These cars start at £25,090, without extras.

Black Edition

Sitting at the top of the specifications is Black Edition. This too features 18-inch alloy wheels, but have an intricate 10-spoke design. It also benefits from a black styling pack, which adds gloss black touches to the exterior of the car and when coupled with the standard privacy glass, gives the A3 an understated look. You still get the sports suspension found on S Line cars, too.

What to look out for

  1. Key options selected such as satellite navigation
  2. Ensure cars have had relevant recall work done
  3. Diesel engines are best suited for longer runs
  4. High-powered S3 is ideal for performance enthusiasts
  5. Higher-specification cars do better in the used market
  6. Smaller-capacity engines are still incredibly efficient
  7. Sportback variant gives the best luggage space
  8. Saloon version still has good levels of storage
  9. Even base-spec cars get decent amounts of standard equipment
  10. Rivals do offer better levels of practicality

Review Rating

"The third-generation Audi A3 Sportback may not look different from the old model but it offers more space, better fuel economy, lower emissions and more equipment.... Read More"