What's the used Audi A3 hatchback like?
'Desirability' isn’t a word that looms large when you’re considering the purchase of a family hatchback; often the only qualities you can fairly expect are practicality and reliability. The original Audi A3s had their fair share of both of the latter qualities, but it was this 2013 third-generation model that added the driving pleasure and comfort levels that turned this version into a highly desirable premium car.
Shortly after its launch, this A3 scooped What Car?'s Car of the Year Award. Its success wasn’t surprising: it was well made and great to drive, and it had an upmarket interior. It may have been based, like the models before it, on the same underpinnings as other Volkswagen Group cars such as the VW Golf and the Skoda Octavia, but it carried with it an air of quality and an upmarket appeal that those cars couldn't match.
The A3 was spacious and practical, too, either in sporty three-door or five-door Sportback guise, and inside was a beautifully made interior that’s more than practical enough for the needs of most families. On top of that, it was available with a large range of impressive engines, an easy-to-operate infotainment system and a choice of trim levels to satisfy those who like a lot of kit.
Now, if you choose from one of the more recent models, you can have anything from a sweet and lively 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine right up to a fire-breathing 362bhp RS3version, with all shades of efficient petrol and diesel engines in between. There’s even a plug-in hybrid model, the A3 Sportback e-tron, which mixes electric power with a smooth 1.4-litre petrol engine.
Unlike the original cars, all of these third-gen A3s are great to drive, too. The driving position is spot on and both the manual and automatic models shift gears smoothly. You still have to be careful when choosing which one to buy, though, because the S line models have larger wheels and firmer suspension that can make the ride too fidgety (although some will have been specified with the regular suspension, which is the more forgiving option).
Overall, though, this is an impressively refined car that’s also supremely agile and a pleasure to drive, with precise steering and surefooted handling. There are also ‘quattro’ four-wheel-drive variants, for added traction in slippery conditions.
Indeed, it’s so good that desirability might be its only problem; demand on the used car market is high. The A3 isn’t a cheap car to buy new; add to that its strong residual values and excellent safety and security records and the chances of finding one for a similar price to rivals such as the Golf and Ford Focus, or even the Mercedes-Benz A-Class or BMW 1 Series, could prove tricky. It’s worth persevering, though; a facelift in 2016, concentrating mostly on improved equipment levels, as well as minor updates to the car’s interior and exterior, including a new front grille and headlights, only added to this suave car’s appeal.