A history lesson…
Audi’s first real introduction to the hatchback market came with the A3. Its likable looks, Audi-premium feel and punchy engines were a hit, and despite the relatively high list price and a few design flaws, the A3 continues to sell well.
Models like the RS3 and S3 appealed to the younger generations, making the A3 something of a dream car for the PlayStation generation. As the years past, new models were introduced, along with a couple of facelifts, but since 2003, little has changed.
Audi has been famous for unrivalled build quality and customer service, which is one of the main appeals of the A3. It’s very expensive compared to its rivals, but it can get away with it because it’s just so classy.
A real quality hatchback with plenty of sex-appeal.
Bang for your buck
Compared to an equivalent Fiesta or Golf, the A3 looks like a very expensive car. Audi charges handsomely for the privilege of ownership due mostly to the build-quality and premium feel, but sometimes you can wonder why. For example, there’s quite a legendary design flaw with some A3s, in which you have to lift the arm-rest to put the handbrake on. It’s very odd.
Aside from that, a basic A3 is probably a bit too Spartan for any driver. The more expensive and higher-spec A3s make much more sense as you get loads of lovely technology and usable gadgets that work. But the problem with that is that the price just continues to rise and rise.
The RS3 costs so much you’d probably have to re-mortgage.
What you’ll pay
Prices for an A3 start at £5,725 foran 03 plated 1.6-litre model, while the sporty 2.0-litre FSI petrol engine variant starts at £6,025. If you fancy a 3.2.-litre V6, that’ll be £7,100.
What to check
Some A3s will be well over ten years old now, so checking that it has got a full service history is key. Likewise, check the condition of the paint – to ensure no rust has set in – and just do a basic overhaul of the entire car.
Audi’s parts department don’t charge the world, so expect to find a replacement headlamp unit at around £165 and a starter motor at £150. An alternator costs about £145, and front brake pads should cost £50.
How it drives
The sportier models come with quite a harsh ride, so if you’re not a fan of visiting the doctors on a daily basis it’s probably best to avoid those. If you like being stabbed at parties and going to sleep on concrete, then then S3 and RS3 variants are ideal. They come with a ride so hard your granite-filled spine will struggle to cope with the bump, and also come with unbelievably powerful engines with Audi’s brilliant Quattro system.
For the lower-spec models, it’s a mixed bag really. Driving the diesels can be fun but slightly noisy, while the smaller engined petrols can be very thirsty and a bit wet. It really depends what A3 you get. The newer ones are much more refined, economical and fun, while the earlier examples may drive you round the bend a little.
A good car, just make sure you choose the right A3.