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What Car? says

4 out of 5 stars

For Drives as well as a VW Golf, but dearer

Against Can be expensive to buy and own

Verdict Looks classy and has a drive to match

Go for… 1.6 FSI SE

Avoid… 1.6 Sport three-door

Audi A3 Hatchback
  • 1. Some owners report that the DSG transmission is too jerky
  • 2. Boot is well shaped and fairly generous
  • 3. Suspension on Sport models leads to an over-firm ride, so these models are best avoided
  • 4. The steering isn't as sharp as a BMW's, so it will disappoint keen drivers
  • 5. Seats on Sport models are said by some to be too hard, so make sure you can live with them
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Audi A3 Hatchback full review with expert trade views

The cabin is a great place to sit, superbly finished and classy. 'Every-which-way' seat and wheel adjustment can be tailored to pretty much everyone. Space in the back is better than in the previous A3, but still not great unless you pick the Sportback (five-door) version. However, the boot is well shaped and fairly generous.

The A3 drives and responds competently but the steering isn't as sharp as a BMW's. It's comfortable and hushed at speed, although the suspension on Sport models gives an over-firm ride.

Safety-wise, in Euro-NCAP tests, the A3 scored four stars out of five for protecting its occupants and three stars for keeping children safe. However, it gained just one star out of four for its ability to protect pedestrians.

It's as well made as other, more expensive Audis but it's also expensive for what you get. It loses value only relatively slowly, so good three-year-old examples are still worth two-thirds of what they originally cost.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Diesels most wanted, but petrols do okay too, 1.9TDi 130 Sport most in demand

James Ruppert
Used car guru

There are five petrol engines and two diesels to pick from, and four trim levels. The base 100bhp 1.6 is slow, the 1.6 FSI does better with 113bhp, while the 2.0 FSI is strong. Next, there's a punchy turbocharged 197bhp 2.0 and a seriously rapid 236bhp 3.2 V6, but we reckon the 1.6 FSI is the best all-rounder.

Turning to the turbodiesels, the 138bhp 2.0 is leaps ahead of the 103bhp 1.9, which sounds rattly and feels sluggish.

The 2.0 diesel and the 2.0 turbo petrol can be linked to the quattro four-wheel drive system, while it's standard with the 3.2.

All A3s have alloy wheels, but entry-level models miss out on air-conditioning and a CD player, but SE and Sport models have climate control. S-line gives the full-fat performance treatment and most wear an (optional) body kit that includes aggressive bumpers and a rear spoiler. For us, the best blend comes with SE trim.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Average reliability, with a higher than average repair bill - watch out for electrical faults

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

The A3 is no bargain, particularly against the mechanically similar and almost-as-classy VW Golf. You'll pay much more for the Audi name, but what you get isn't necessarily much better – your extra cash buys a posh image and small gains in quality, with the hope of a good trade-in price.

Insurance comes in at group 11 for most models – dear for the car's size and power, but the same as its closest rival, the BMW 1 Series. The A3 2.0 petrol turbo sits loftily in group 15 while the 3.2 V6 is higher still, in group 18.

Services intervals depend on how, when and where you drive – the car works them out. Take it steady and you can stretch them to 15,000 miles, maybe more. Prices are steep if you use main dealers, but there are highly regarded specialists in most regions that do good work and save you plenty.

Diesels manage over 40mpg, while 1.6 FSI petrols achieve around 35mpg. Anything bigger boosts your bills – the 3.2 routinely dips below 20mpg on short urban hops.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Diesels most wanted, but petrols do okay too, 1.9TDi 130 Sport most in demand

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The quality build promises a fuss-free life, provided that the car's properly serviced. Some, however, have suffered sudden wiper mechanism failure, so check that all is well before you buy. Audi also recalled diesels built during 2004 to check and replace leaky fuel pumps.

Some owners report that the optional semi-automatic DSG transmission is too jerky and that their dealers can't improve matters. Others say the seats on Sport models are too hard for comfort, so we'd advise a lengthy test-drive to check this before buying.

Finally, the 3.2 quattro Sport is a thief-magnet, so most insurers specify a satellite tracking device as a requirement for cover. It follows that most used ones will have this fitted, but you should check, all the same.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Average reliability, with a higher than average repair bill - watch out for electrical faults

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct
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