Used Audi A3 (13-present) long term test review
The Audi A3 is our Used Family Car Of The Year award winner, but does it still make for a great second-hand purchase with its revised 1.5-litre engine? We have six months to find out...
The car 2018 Audi A3 Sportback 1.5 150 TFSI Sport
- Run by Max Adams, used cars reporter
- Why it’s here To find out if our 2019 used family car of the year still represents a stonking used purchase
- Needs to Prove that it’s worth the premium over lesser family cars, and whether this latest 1.5 TFSI engine is as good as the old 1.4 engine
Price when new £30,695 (including £5560 worth of options) Value on arrival £19,629 (trade, no options) Value now £17,636 (trade in) Miles on arrival 4037 Mileage now 7793 Official economy 55.4mpg Test economy 48.2mpg
02 May 2019 - A clean getaway
It’s true what they say, you don’t truly appreciate what you have until it is gone. My time with our used Audi is over and that's a real shame because I was beginning to really rather enjoy this smart little A3: I even took pride in keeping the it clean. I'm surprised that it has managed to get under my skin because it arrived just after I'd spent six months in the excellent Seat Leon, a car that I thought was pretty much the perfect family car. Now the Audi has gone and I’ve come to realise that almost everything I’ve driven since isn’t quite as good.
I started this test wondering how on Earth an Audi A3 could beat our previous used car of the year winner. I mean, how can a more expensive version of what is ostensibly the same car possibly be a better purchase? As an outside observer, it’s easy to come to that conclusion, and I have to say that my concerns were only heightened when I got behind the wheel.
The issue I found was with the engine. The newer 1.5 TFSI simply wasn’t as impressive as the older 1.4-litre engine that powered my previous Leon. Response at low revs wasn’t a patch on the old unit and has led to many experiencing the ‘kangaroo petrol’ phenomenon. It’s not solely encountered in the A3, either; this 1.5-litre engine is used in countless VW Group cars, from the little Seat Arona to the large Volkswagen Tiguan, including the seven-seat Allspace version.
However, while it is an issue for now, a fix has been promised to restore some of the impressive driveability we’ve come to expect of this engine. That's great news, because the reason for this newer engine existing is honourable; it's equipped to emit a minimum of fine particulate matter by employing a gasoline particulate filter (GPF). Much like the diesel particulate filter (DPF) found on all new diesel cars, the GPF traps particles of soot produced during the combustion process and burns them off before they can add to localised air pollution, which is to be celebrated by the young and those who suffer from asthma.
Aside from my misgivings over the engine, there wasn’t anything I could really complain about. True, there could be a bit more rear leg room in the A3 when compared with the vast chasm you can find inside the current Ford Focus, but I don’t have passengers in the car very often, so I never found it to be a deal-breaker. To begin with, I would have liked to have had adjustable lumbar support, although the seats have never given me backache, so again, this wasn’t much of a problem for me.
I did really appreciate the adaptive dampers, mind. Sticking the suspension in comfort mode gave this family hatchback a ride that felt better than many luxury cars, and, because it isn’t some ridiculous SUV with a high centre of gravity, its softness never gave rise to a horrible floating motion at higher speeds. This feature would be something I’d definitely look out for if I was in the market for an A3.
And I really would consider buying an A3. Personally, I’d go for a pre-April 2017 example with the older 1.4 TFSI engine, because it will be nicer to drive, still achieve high 40s fuel economy and benefit from much lower road tax costs. I wouldn’t mind going without the optional Audi Virtual Cockpit; it is quite rare to find an A3 so-equipped anyway, particularly in mid-range Sport guise. I would try and go for a post-facelift car because it has sharper styling and comes with additional kit, such as better xenon headlights and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
Problem is, the used desk has been running a number of premium cars of late, so it's about time we tried something from the more affordable end of the scale...
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here
Buy a new car with What Car?
Before you buy, visit What Car?’s new car deals section.
We have discounted deals on most new cars on sale, so you're never far away from finding a new car deal in your area.
It's all based on Target Price, which is the price we think you should pay based on research by our team of mystery shoppers, and the best discounts they can achieve.
If you’re still not sure, our deals team can help; call them on 03302 216207 – lines are open from 8am until 10pm seven days a week.