Audi A3 (2012-present)

Upmarket family hatchbacks don't come much smoother, solid, or as tech-laden as the Audi A3

Strengths & Weaknesses

Strengths 

High-quality interior
Quiet at speed
Smooth

Weaknesses 

Expensive purchase price
Three-door is cramped in the back
Not as well-equipped as rivals
Audi A1 prices from £8,999   Finance from £141 per month

Mechanically speaking, the Audi A3 is virtually identical to the Volkswagen Golf. However, the A3 gets a posh reputation because it’s more luxurious, with higher quality interior materials than the already none-too-shabby Volkswagen.

The step up became bigger in 2016 when revised versions of the A3 went on sale, which feel even better-made. A number of useful and practical tweaks were made in this update, including a new smartphone interface, an improved dashboard screen, embedded SIM card for online connectivity, new headlights, changes to the trim structure, and a new 1.0-litre TFSI engine option.

Standard equipment includes Bluetooth to connect your phone wirelessly to the car, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which replicate your phone's display on the A3's 7in dashboard screen.

The exterior design is sharp and well resolved, making the A3 a highly appealing car to be seen in. The interior, meanwhile is a particular highlight, with high-quality tactile, plastics and a solid-feeling fit and finish. The driving position has plenty of adjustment and all the controls are easy to use, with the (optional) Audi virtual cockpit feature – which turns the instrument binnacle behind the steering wheel into a widescreen display that can show details like the sat nav map – a practical and useful innovation.

The A3 is also more expensive than the Seat Leon and Skoda Octavia, which it shares mechanical parts with - just like the Volkswagen Golf. Premium rivals such as the BMW 1 Series, Mercedes-Benz A-Class, and Lexus CT cost roughly the same, however.

Although the A3 is better equipped than the Seat or the Skoda, they typically don't cost that much more on finance. They start from £141 per month on BuyaCar.

Audi offers two bodystyles with the A3 hatchback: the three door, which comes with two side doors and a hatchback boot, as well as a five-door, which Audi calls the Sportback. As well having two more doors, it’s also a bit longer than the three-door, boosting legroom for rear-seat passengers. It's not cramped, but other family cars offer more space: adults will be more comfortable in the back of a Volkswagen Golf or Seat Leon, and considerably happier in a Volvo V40 or Vauxhall Astra.

Whether you choose a petrol or diesel engine, there are smooth and efficient options that help keep the car's running costs down. If your commute is short then the plug-in hybrid Audi A3 e-tron, which uses an electric motor and petrol engine, could cut your fuel costs to virtually zero. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the S3 and RS3 glug more petrol in exchange for more performance.

The A3 handles better than previous generations, with a more involving nature – although it still doesn't quite feel as exciting or agile as the BMW 1 Series when changing direction. However, it does feel composed and settled cars on the road, remaining steady, rather than bouncing over bumps in the road or leaning in corners, but watch out for the harder suspension set-up and larger wheels of S line models that can feel uncomfortable on poorly-maintained roads.

Euro NCAP, the independent safety body, gave the A3 its maximum five-star crash-test rating, with extremely good protection for adult and children occupants.

The equipment level, quality and Audi badge all add to the cost of the A3, which is around £3,000 more than an equivalent Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra. If you're buying outright, you're likely to get much of the cost back when you come to sell it because the A3 holds its value well. In fact, the three-door hatchback with a manual gearbox is expected to be worth 60% of its official new price after three years - more than most other cars sold in Britain. If you're financing an A3, this will help keep monthly costs down.

Last Updated 

Monday, August 20, 2018 - 15:30

Key facts 

Warranty: 
Three years/60,000 miles
Boot size: 
3dr: 365 litres, 5dr Sportback: 380-litres
Width: 
3dr: 1,777mm, 5dr Sportback: 1,785mm
Length: 
3dr: 4,241mm, 5dr Sportback: 4,313mm
Height: 
1,461mm
Tax (min to max): 
From A (Free) to G (£185 per year)

Best Audi A3 for... 

Audi A3 Sportback e-tron
With a big battery that can power the car's motor for 30 miles, you could run constantly on cheap electric power if your commute's short enough and you've got somewhere to plug the car in. A petrol engine propels the car on longer journeys.
Audi A3 Sportback 1.0 TFSI 115 SE
The 1-litre petrol engine might be the smallest engine, but it has plenty of power for the motorway. It's efficient and £2,000 cheaper than a diesel A3, making it cheap to run. SE has all the basic equipment you need but no built-in sat-nav.
Audi RS3 Sportback
Powered by Audi’s five-cylinder 2.5-litre engine, the hot hatch RS3 can hit 62mph form a standing start in just 4.1 seconds, before heading on to a top speed of 155mph.
Audi A3 2.0 TFSI S line
It's expensive, with poor fuel economy compared with the rest of the range, and it's not that fast either. You'd do better with a more economical 1.4-litre car or the high performance S3. Hard suspension makes S line models more uncomfortable but you can swap it for softer suspension free of charge.

Audi A3 History 

  • September 2012 All-new A3 (three-door) and A3 Sportback (five-door) on sale in UK
  • February 2013 Revised 1.2-litre TFSI petrol engine & S3 hot hatch added
  • August 2013 Upgraded 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine added
  • July 2014 A3 Sportback e-tron plug-in hybrid joins range
  • May 2015 Extra-efficient ‘Ultra’ version of 1.6-litre TDI diesel joins range
  • June 2016 Audi A3 range updated with redesigned headlights, new technology and a 1-litre petrol engine
  • November 2016 Black Edition models are added to the A3 rangeNovember 2016: Black Edition models are added to the A3 range
  • August 2017 Revised RS3 goes on sale in UK
  • November 2017 1.4 TFSI replaced by 1.5 TFSI in engine line-up

Understanding Audi A3 car names 

  • A3
  • Engine
    2.0 TDI 150
  • Driven wheels
    quattro
  • Trim
    S line
  • Gearbox
    S tronic
  • Body style
    Sportback
  • Engine
    Audi’s turbocharged petrol engines are called ‘TFSI’, while the diesels are called ‘TDI’. Their size is given in litres (2-litres in this example). You may also see the engine's power quoted in horsepower.
  • Driven wheels
    Audi calls its four-wheel-drive system quattro.
  • Trim
    The A3 comes in five basic trim levels which start at SE, then go up through SE Technik, Sport and S line to Black Edition. The higher the trim level, the more equipment you'll get as standard - and the more you'll pay.
  • Gearbox
    A3s are available with either six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic (called S tronic) gearboxes.
  • Body style
    Five-door Audi A3s are known as Sportbacks. There are four doors for passengers and the fifth is the hatchback boot, which opens up most of the rear of the car. There is also a three-door A3 (two passenger doors and a hatchback) as well as a saloon, which has four passenger doors and a self-contained boot with a smaller opening, and a two-door Cabriolet, which has a boot with a narrow aperture.

Audi A3 Engines 

1.0 TFSI, 1.5 TFSI, 2.0 TFSI 190, 2.0 TFSI 310, 2.5 TFSI 400 Diesel: 1.6 TDI, 2.0 TDI 150, 2.0 TDI 184 Hybrid: 1.4 TFSI e-tron

There's a good argument for not even looking beyond the cheapest 1.0-litre petrol-engined version of the Audi A3. The official price starts at less than £20,000 before any Audi A3 deals are taken into account, and the engine provides steady, smooth acceleration all the way up to motorway speeds. There's enough power to accelerate rapidly between 50-70mph: a good test of its ability to overtake lorries on a faster road.

Official fuel consumption for the 1.0-litre engine, as tested in a laboratory, is 62.8mpg. In real world driving, you're likely to get closer to 50mpg (or even less). The same applies to the 1.5-litre TFSI engine, which has a fuel economy figure of 56.5mpg. This is thanks to technology called Cylinder on Demand (you may see it written as CoD). When you're driving along at a steady speed, which requires little power, half of the engine shuts down to save fuel. And best of all you can't really feel it happening from inside the car. The 1.5-litre feels a little faster than the 1.0-litre engine, but there's not a dramatic difference.

The 190 horsepower 2.0-litre petrol engine brings faster acceleration and fuel economy of 49.6mpg to 50.4mpg. It's also available with quattro four-wheel drive. The tuned 2.0-litre 310hp engine in the Audi S3 (which comes with quattro as standard) feels quick, accelerating from 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds, but the 2.5-litre TFSI in the RS3 is the real deal, with a 4.1-second 0-62mph.

Much like the petrol range, the pick of the diesels is also the cheapest version. The 1.6-litre TDI is smooth and economical, with an official mpg figure of 70.6mpg, when combined with the automatic gearbox, which is likely to drop to less than 60mpg in normal driving. For more power, you can buy a 2.0-litre diesel A3 with either 150hp or 184hp. These are still reasonably efficient, but focused more on providing effortless, flexible power and acceleration for swift motorway driving, overtaking and towing.

The e-tron plug-in hybrid version of the A3 also uses the 1.4-litre petrol engine, paired with an electric motor. Once its batteries have been fully charged, it can travel up to 30 miles before the petrol engine has to kick in, so if you use that capability to its fullest, you could see very impressive fuel economy figures indeed.

Fuel

Fuel economy

Power

Acceleration

Top speed

1.0 TFSI

Petrol

62.8mpg

115hp

0-62mph: 9.9sec

123mph

1.5 TFSI

Petrol

54.3mpg - 56.5mpg 

150hp

0-62mph: 8.2sec

137mph

2.0 TFSI 190

Petrol

49.6mpg - 50.4mpg

190hp

0-62mph: 6.8sec

136mph

2.0 TFSI 310

Petrol

40.4mpg - 44.1mpg

310hp

0-62mph: 4.6sec

138mph

1.4 TFSI e-tron

Hybrid

tbc

150hp

0-62mph: tbc

141mph

1.6 TDI

Diesel

74.3mpg

110hp

0-62mph: 10.7sec

124mph

2.0 TDI 150

Diesel

64.2mpg - 70.6mpg

150bhp

0-62mph: 8.3sec

133 - 145mph

2.0 TDI 184

Diesel

58.9mpg

184hp

0-62mph: 6.9sec

143 - 145mph

 

Audi A3 Trims 

SE, SE Technik, Sport, S line, Back Edition

The higher the trim level you choose, the more standard equipment will be fitted to your Audi A3. Most of the features are available as individual options too, so if you want the cheapest car fitted with top-of-the-range leather seats, you can pay for them.

Entry-level SE cars come with a 7in screen that you can easily control with voice commands or a dial next to your seat. There's Bluetooth for wirelessly connecting your phone and two USB ports. Also included are bright xenon headlights, cruise control, 16in alloy wheels, air conditioning and three sets of Isofix mounts for child seats: one in the front passenger seat (along with the ability to disable the airbag) and two in the rear seats.

There's no sat-nav as standard, but you do have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto software that replicates your smartphone screen on the display. You can then use your phone's map app to navigate: this will eat into your mobile data allowance.

SE Technik trim is only available with diesel engines and adds around £500 to the price. It includes a built-in sat-nav, better voice recognition software and rear parking sensors. 

Costing around £1,000 more than SE Technik cars, Audi A3 Sport models have sat-nav but not the parking sensors. Alloy wheels are bigger, at 17in. Inside, there are fabric sports seats and dual-zone climate control, which allows the front passengers to set an individual temperature for their half of the car. You've also got the full choice of the Audi A3 engine range.

It might be top of the standard range, but the Audi A3 S line is missing equipment such as keyless entry, which means that you never have to take the keyfob out of your pocket, parking sensors, electrically folding door mirrors and heated front seats, You'll have to pay extra for all of these features.

You do get lowered sport suspension, which is harder and more uncomfortable over bumps. You can replace it with the standard, softer, suspension free-of-charge. Outside, 18in alloy wheels are fitted, along with chunkier bumpers and a small spoiler that juts out over the rear screen. The seats are part leather and cloth, and the interior is illuminated with extra LED lights.

Audi sells equipment packs with a number of options that drivers might want. The Comfort and Sound Pack adds rear parking sensors, heated front seats and an upgraded Bang & Olufsen stereo to your A3. The Technology Pack Advanced includes the so-called virtual cockpit screen behind the steering wheel and a better sat-nav with a 3D map and a touchpad with handwriting recognition, so you can enter an address by tracing the letters with your finger.

The range-topping Black Edition cars come with styling enhancements such as black finishes to the likes of the grille and air inlets, while there are also 18-inch or 19-inch alloy exclusive to this trim, plus an uprated audio system.

Audi sells equipment packs with a number of options that drivers might want. The Comfort and Sound Pack adds rear parking sensors, heated front seats and an upgraded Bang & Olufsen stereo to your A3. The Technology Pack Advanced includes the so-called virtual cockpit screen behind the steering wheel and a better sat-nav with a 3D map and a touchpad with handwriting recognition, so you can enter an address by tracing the letters with your finger.

The Driver Assistance Pack includes the technology that allows the car to accelerate, brake and steer itself on well-marked roads and in traffic jams. You'll still need to keep your hands on the wheel, though.

Audi A3 Reliability and warranty 

The A3 did reasonably well in the 2018 Driver Power survey, placed in 46th place (out of 75) in the list of best cars to own.

The A3 is backed by Audi’s standard three-year/60,000-mile warranty, which is comparable with its premium German rivals, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Elsewhere on the market there are warranties with longer cover (Kia offers seven years, Hyundai offers five), but carmakers at the premium end of the market don’t feel that they need to offer something competitive at the moment.

Used Audi A3 

Audis are sought-after, so the brand’s cars tend to have fairly robust used values.

There are currently 1202 Audi A3s available on BuyaCar, with prices ranging from £8,999 to £42,950.

Because of high levels of demand and high residual levels, Audi A3s tend to be affordable on monthly finance too. They start from £141 per month.

Some are less sought after than others though. The highly efficient 1.6-litre TDI Ultra diesel version of the A3, which was sold between 2015 and 2016, lost almost a fifth of its value after a year. This makes it a cheaper used buy, especially as it offers economical driving. They start from £12,000.

In terms of the petrol A3s, the now-discontinued 1.2-litre car is smooth and economical, but it's not cheap. Your best bet for a low-cost A3 is the (also discontinued) 1.4-litre petrol model. These start from £9,499.

1 year old2 years old3 years old

Best for performance Audi RS3

PriceN/A£33,450£32,332

Best for families Audi A3 Sportback 1.0 TFSI

Price£15,000£12,000£7,000

Best for economy Audi A3 Sportback e-tron

PriceN/AN/A£16,499