Audi A3 Review
The Audi A3 is an upmarket hatchback with space for the family, plenty of high-tech options and a good range of punchy, efficient engines
Strengths & weaknesses
The Audi A3 shares much of its technology, including its engines, with the VW Golf, Seat Leon and Skoda Octavia, as these brands are all part of the same company. However, the A3 is the poshest of all these models, and offers a more glitzy interior to help it stand out.
Thanks to its sharp exterior styling, plush interior and its upmarket, solid feel, the A3 feels like a more luxurious car than the Golf, Leon and Octavia, though it does typically cost more than these equivalents, too.
Inside, the styling is even more striking than the sharply creased exterior. The A3 has a really sporty feel to it, but although it’s definitely at its best in high-specification form - gaining large digital screens and plush materials - it’s still not quite as posh-feeling as the Mercedes A-Class or BMW 1 Series, despite most versions having higher cash prices.
That said, the A3 is head and shoulders above mainstream competition such as the Ford Focus and even the VW Golf in terms of the feel-good factor it offers, and it benefits from a broad range of fuel-efficient and punchy engines, with petrol, diesel, plug-in hybrid and mild hybrid options to choose from, plus the high-performance S3 model.
Should I get an Audi A3?
✔ Excellent driving position with a sporty feel
✔ Powerful and efficient range of engines
✔ Physical climate control buttons (which the VW Golf lacks)
✘ Touchscreen media system fiddly to use on the move
✘ The level of space in the rear isn’t brilliant
✘ Can get quite expensive, particularly top-spec trim levels
If a premium feel is important for you in a medium family hatchback, then the A3 is an excellent choice, especially if you can afford the higher-spec trims and engines. You’ll also get a car that offers a sporty feel and plenty of driving fun, no matter which engine you choose, plus good fuel economy and low running costs for most engines. The more affordable models come with a manual gearbox only, though other models get the option of a slick 'S tronic' automatic.
On the downside, the BMW 1 Series feels marginally better built than the A3, and the Ford Focus is more fun to drive, while saving you a fair bit of cash into the bargain. However, if you like sharp looks and an upmarket, sporty-feeling interior then the A3 Sportback is definitely worth a good look.
- Models explained
- Trim levels
- Plug-in hybrid
- Best A3 for...
- Boot space
- Should I buy used?
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Audi A3 Sportback
A five-door hatchback or a four-door saloon (see below) are your only body style choices with this version of the A3. Previously there have been convertible versions and a three-door hatchback as well, but these are no longer available.
Even entry-level models get good levels of standard equipment, including air-conditioning, automatic lights and wipers, alloy wheels and parking sensors. All models also get a touchscreen media system and digital instrument display, though more sophisticated versions of these are fitted to more expensive trim levels.
Unlike the VW Golf, the A3 also has physical buttons to operate the air-conditioning or climate controls, which is a real bonus as you don’t have to poke through touchscreen submenus to adjust the temperature or fan speed - which can be highly distracting when driving.
The entry-level engine is the 1.0-litre 110hp petrol model, badged the '30 TFSI'. It’s spritely enough, but the 150hp 1.5-litre '40 TFSI' engine is both more powerful and smoother. For drivers who do lots of motorway miles and want something more economical, there’s always the 115hp 2.0-litre '30 TDI' or 150hp 2.0-litre '35 TDI' diesels.
Plug-in hybrid tech is also available with the A3 Sportback. You can choose from two models: the 204hp '40 TFSI e' and the 245hp '45 TFSI e'. Both are capable of around 40 miles on purely electric power when fully charged and are likely to appeal to company car buyers due to their low tax bands.
Audi A3 Saloon
The A3 offers four passenger doors - just like the Sportback above - but rather than having a large hatchback opening, instead it has a smaller metal boot lid. This means that the Saloon has a sleeker shape than the hatchback, though access to the boot is tighter, making it difficult to load particularly bulky items.
However, in terms of pure luggage capacity, the A3 Saloon can actually swallow more stuff than the shorter Sportback hatch - at least with the Sportback's luggage cover in place. The A3 Saloon can carry 425 litres of luggage, compared with 380 litres for the Sportback. Other than this, though, the saloon version of the A3 is very similar to the Sportback. It gets the same engines and trim levels, just different bodywork from the rear doors backwards.
Audi S3 Sportback
Aside from some striking exterior colours, the transformation from the regular A3 to the high-performance S3 is visually quite subtle. Most notable on the exterior are the four exhaust pipes, bespoke sports seats and the digital dials behind the steering wheel that gain Audi Sport graphics.
Under the skin, though, it’s quite a different beast. There’s four-wheel drive, for a start. This does reduce boot space a little, but also provides a tremendous amount of traction when accelerating - which is useful given that the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine produces a substantial 310hp and is capable of slinging the S3 from 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds.
The four-wheel-drive system can also send 100% of the engine's power to the rear wheels and has clever 'torque vectoring' that can brake individual wheels when needed. Both of these bits of technology help make the S3 feel more agile than its predecessor.
|Limited stock: The first tier of the A3 range includes automatic emergency braking, rear parking sensors, alloy wheels, air-conditioning, cruise control and a touchscreen media system with built-in sat-nav, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration.
|From £11,000: Next up is the Sport model. This has a mixture of leather and faux-leather upholstery, larger alloy wheels and dual-zone climate control.
|From £11,500: If you can stretch to an S line car you’ll get bigger wheels still, sports suspension, a sporty styling kit with aggressive-looking bumpers and rear spoiler, full leather sports seats, LED rear lights and LED ambient interior lighting.
|S line Competition
|S line Competition trim essentially builds on S line, but with an even more sporty focus. It gets black highlights on the grille, door mirrors and side sills, plus red brake callipers - though it’s worth noting that this trim level is only available with the 45 TFSI e plug-in hybrid engine.
|Limited stock: If you want all the bells and whistles on your A3 Sportback, then the Vorsprung is the one to go for. It gets standard adaptive cruise control, a head-up display, dual-zone climate control and leather sports seats.
Despite the availability of fuel-sipping diesels and high-tech plug-in hybrids, the best engine in the Audi A3 range is the straightforward 1.5-litre petrol one found in the 35 TFSI models, as even this is pretty good at the fuel pumps, offering claimed fuel consumption of nearly 50mpg.
Meanwhile, it’s not significantly more expensive than the entry-level petrol engine, it delivers strong performance from low engine speeds, and it spins away smoothly and quietly at motorway speeds. With the 'S tronic' automatic, it can accelerate from 0-62mph in a reasonably quick 8.4 seconds and can hit a top speed of 139mph - which makes for relaxed motorway performance.
There are two plug-in hybrid options with the A3 - the 204hp 40 TFSI e and the 245hp 45 TFSI e. Of the two, it’s actually the lower-powered one that’s the better car. As these cars are front-wheel-drive, the 245hp model can feel overwhelmed by the extra power from its electric motor, while the 204hp 40 TFSI e is still brisk enough, but feels more controlled in its power delivery.
It can manage a 40-mile electric range from a full charge and its super-low CO2 emission figure also puts it into the lowest tax bracket for company car users. Do be aware, though, that the top-spec Vorsprung models and their large alloy wheels push the TFSI e up a tax bracket for company car users (as the heavy alloy wheels lead to worse fuel economy and higher emissions).
Whether your priorities are high fuel economy or top-notch performance, or you’re after the low CO2 emissions provided by plug-in hybrid power, there should be an Audi A3 Sportback model to suit you.
None of the trim levels or engine options are particularly cheap, but good levels of equipment and strong resale values thanks to the car’s premium image - which also contributes to low PCP finance monthly payments (as monthly payments are shaped by the car's initial price and what it's expected to be worth at the end of the contract) - should mean running costs aren’t horrendous.
|Audi A3 30 TFSI Sport: The entry-level Technik model is anything but basic motoring, with air-conditioning, cruise control and a touchscreen media system with built-in sat-nav, but the Sport builds on that with dual-zone climate control and leather seats, both very worthwhile upgrades.
|Audi A3 40 TFSI Sport: Sport trim has enough gadgets to keep the whole family happy, and the 150hp 40 TFSI engine has enough muscle to whisk a family of four and luggage along without breaking a sweat. And there’s no boot-shrinking battery pack as with plug-in hybrid models.
|Audi S3 Sportback: Relentless acceleration from the muscular 310hp turbocharged petrol engine, and astonishing grip and impressive handling thanks to four-wheel drive makes the S3 an extremely fast and capable performance hatchback
|Audi A3 30 TDI: With just 115hp, the lower-powered version of the two available diesel models is a little breathless on the motorway or when overtaking. Better to stick to the 150hp version if your heart is set on a diesel.
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The main rivals for the Audi A3 are other compact hatchbacks from premium car manufacturers. Primarily this means the BMW 1 Series and the Mercedes A-Class, but if you’re in the market for a smallish car with a premium badge on the bonnet and you like the idea of a high-riding car, you could try looking at the Volvo XC40, Mercedes GLA, BMW X1 or even Audi’s own Q2.
Meanwhile, if you’re not so fussed about the upmarket badge, then the VW Golf is worth a look, as it still feels very well built but is more affordable. Alternatively, you could take a look at much more mainstream cars such as the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra.
Audi A3 Sportback dimensions
The Audi A3 shares a very similar physical footprint to most other comparable hatchbacks. It’s just over 4.3 metres long, just over 1.8 metres wide and just under 1.5 metres tall. This makes it reasonably practical for narrow city streets without compromising interior space for a family of four. If anything, it’s slightly narrower than rival cars like the BMW 1 Series, but the difference is tiny in real-world terms.
Even the most basic models offer rear parking sensors, but higher-level trims add a 360-degree parking camera to the mix to make difficult parking spaces less of an issue. This means that whichever A3 you get, you should have a helping hand when it comes to parking.
At 380 litres measured to the load cover, the Audi A3’s boot space is bang on what you'd expect from this sort of car - it's a useful size, but not enormous. In fact, it’s identical to the BMW 1 Series boot and 10 litres more accommodating than the 370 litres offered by the Mercedes A-Class.
The A3 Saloon has a little more boot space at 425 litres, but it has a narrower boot opening and lacks the flexibility of the Sportback's boot, which can be loaded to the roof when you remove the luggage cover.
It’s also worth mentioning that the battery packs for the plug-in hybrid models take up around 100 litres of boot space compared with the standard models, so if you want maximum practicality it's best to avoid these.
Perhaps a little disappointingly, Audi rarely posts stellar results in reliability or owner satisfaction surveys. In fact, the previous version of the A3 (sold up until 2020) came 55th out of 75 models in a recent Driver Power owner satisfaction survey. It scored below average for both reliability and build quality.
That said, you should find that no A3 suffers from major issues, being based largely on tried and tested technology shared with the other members of the Volkswagen Group of brands, which includes VW, Audi, Seat and Skoda.
You get a standard warranty for three years or 60,000 miles with the Audi A3 Sportback, plus a three-year roadside assistance deal. That’s pretty much what you’d expect from most manufacturers, though it’s not as good as the seven-year, 100,000-mile cover offered by Kia or the five-year warranty provided by Toyota.
On the other hand, you can upgrade for a relatively small fee to an extended warranty, which will cover you for five years and 90,000 miles.
AVERAGE REPAIR COST PAID BY WARRANTYWISE: £643
The key thing to bear in mind when considering an Audi A3, is that used models may be a little more pricey than rivals, but the robustness of the car - particularly the high-quality cabin - means that it feels like an upmarket machine and should still feel just as good when you're done with it. So, if you're after a solid, plush-feeling hatchback then it could be perfect. If you're after a bargain, however, the A3 may not be the best choice for you.
There is plenty of choice when looking for a used Audi A3, but it’s important to pick the right engine and spec to narrow down your search. Diesel models and hybrids may often cost more per month on PCP finance, though they could be a good option if you cover high mileages (in the case of diesel models, which should cost you less on fuel) or do lots of town driving (in which case the plug-in hybrid versions could make sense, as you should be able to do most of your journeys on electric power alone, provided you charge regularly).
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The A3 Sportback 35 TFSI Sport is a real sweet spot in the A3 range, balancing good equipment levels with a sensible yet powerful engine. Unfortunately, when looking at cash prices it’s rather more expensive than the VW Golf TSI 150 Style, which is the VW equivalent and uses exactly the same engine and much of the same tech. The A3 is undeniably a more premium-feeling product, but you do have to be prepared to pay for it.
At the performance end of things, the Audi S3 Saloon is a smart choice. It offers stylish looks that are something a bit different from a normal high-performance hatchback, plus a little bit of extra boot space.
If you’re after an Audi A3 that offers some electric range, then the petrol-electric 40 TFSIe can take you almost 40 miles on a full battery, and it's much more affordable than electric cars such as the Tesla Model 3. You'll just need to remember to charge regularly to maximise the amount of time you spend running on electricity and minimise the amount of petrol you burn.
*Representative PCP finance - 2018 Ford Fiesta 1.0 ST-Line Hatchback:
|PCP representative example
|APR rates available
|Cash price £12,000
|Value of loan
|Fixed monthly payment £218.12
|Annual mileage of 8,000pa
|Total cost of credit £2,755.55
|Term 48 months
|Optional final payment £4,285.79
|Loan value £12,000
|Total amount payable £14,755.55
BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.
Upmarket family hatchbacks don't come much smoother, solid, or as tech-laden as the Audi A3
The compact Audi A3 Saloon makes a strong case for itself compared with the larger Audi A4
Four seats, open-top driving thrills and an upmarket badge all at a reasonable price make the Audi A3 Cabriolet a tempting package