The first Audi A3 was launched in 1996 and blew everyone away. Since then, the A3 has come to characterise the small luxury car class with its subtle lines, unparalleled build quality and a variety of engines, trims, and body styles.
A secondhand compact car doesn't get much more robust than this.
The second-generation A3 arrived in 2003 and was face-lifted in 2008. An Audi this age makes a great used buy. The two most popular engines are the 150 2.0-litre FSI petrol engine and 140 2.0 TDI diesel.
These offer the kind of performance you'd expect from the German car maker, with lots of pull, as well as economy.
Ride and handling
The Audi A3 is an exceptional car with a driving experience to match. It offers a stress-free and sporty ride, with the 2.0-litre TDI diesel offering a particularly good blend of both.
It corners smoothly and the steering is quick to respond. The only downside is the suspension. It’s on the firm side and you can feel it when you hit a pothole.
Space in the back of standard Audi A3 hatchback can be a bit tight. The seats are higher compared with those in the front, resulting in a lack of passenger headroom. Legroom isn’t too bad in the back, and it’s more than reasonable in the front.
The boot features a respectable size of 350 litres, and it’s certainly big enough to fit a baby buggy in. In comparison, the five-door A3 Sportback is even better.
Clever re-organising of the car's inner dimensions means that it can seat four adults more comfortably than its three-door sibling.
What to know before you buy
It’s a real tribute to the quality of the German made car that there’s little to report with regard to significant problems. Reliability of the second generation A3 is excellent.
When viewing the car, simply check for main Audi dealer service stamps, and ensure there’s no obvious accident damage. It would also be sensible to examine the alloy wheels for major kerbing scuffs, and make certain the locking wheel nuts are with the car.
It’s not a deal breaker if they’re not there, but it’ll be a real hassle to get the wheels changed without them.
The closely related Volkswagen Golf is the nearest you can get – that’s if you don’t mind a VW badge instead of Audi’s prestigious four rings.
Even though it’s based on a Volkswagen Golf platform, the second generation Audi A3 is as well-liked as ever. This is due in part to image, but also because of the A3’s discerning interior, brought together with outstanding engineering.
Even though that reputation comes at a price, the A3 is a really good used car which can last for a long time. The Audi holds its value well, so it’s not cheap by any means. You will get a lesser, much newer car, for the amount of cash you’ll fork out for a secondhand A3.