Used test: Audi A3 vs Honda Civic vs Volkswagen Golf

These used family hatchbacks all have frugal three-cylinder petrol engines and cost a fraction of what they did new, but which is the best buy?...

New Volkswagen Golf and Honda Civic vs Audi A3 Sportback

What will they cost?

The Civic was predicted to have the worst resale values of its peers when new, and that prediction has come to pass; you can find a 2017 example today with a full service history and an average number of miles for £12,500. Both the Golf and A3 are more expensive to buy outright, at £13,000 and £13,500 respectively. 

However, if you’re planning on purchasing using a PCP scheme, you can actually find a number of lower APR deals if you’re buying either the A3 or Golf from a franchised dealer, so you can end up with similar monthly repayment costs over the same 36-month plan as the cheaper Civic. From the examples we found, the Golf would be the least expensive at £187 a month and £1994 down, followed by the A3 at £198 each month and £2025 for a deposit, and then the Civic with a marginally more expensive bill of £201 per month and £1874 as a deposit.

New Volkswagen Golf and Honda Civic vs Audi A3 Sportback

You’ll also pay more to fuel the Civic, according to the official figures. It has a combined economy figure of 55.4mpg – plus it has the smallest tank of the three, giving it the least range. The Golf is marginally better at 58.9mpg, while the A3 sips the least petrol at 60.1mpg. Road tax cost is the same for each of the three, at £150 a year.

All three cars come with alloy wheels, automatic headlights and wipers and cruise control. However, while the cruise system in the A3 simply keeps the car going at a chosen speed without you needing to touch the accelerator pedal, the Civic and Golf use clever radar sensors to maintain a set distance from the car in front and brake automatically when there’s traffic ahead.

The A3 is also the only one of our trio not to have standard front and rear parking sensors and power-folding door mirrors, whereas the Golf is alone in missing out on front foglights and dual-zone climate control, having  manual air conditioning in place of the latter. Meanwhile, Honda has been most generous with creature comforts; the Civic is the only car here with a reversing camera and privacy glass.

New Volkswagen Golf and Honda Civic vs Audi A3 Sportback

It’s the same story when it comes to safety equipment. The Civic comes with automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane-keeping assistance, and traffic sign recognition, which displays the speed limit of the road you’re driving along on the dashboard. Out of this list, the Golf gets only AEB, and the fact that you have to pay extra for all of the items above on the A3 is disappointing.

What’s also disappointing is that the Civic turns out to be the worst of this test group for reliability, according to the 2019 What Car? Reliability survey. Honda does better as a brand overall, and historically has a well-deserved reputation for dependability, so we put the Civic's unimpressive result down to early teething troubles because it was an all-new model for 2017. The Golf and A3 were both launched back in 2013.

Also consider