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2003 - 2013 Audi A3 Review

Nearing the end of its lifecycle the Audi A3 still cuts it as a fine, upmarket alternative to the mainstream hatchback norm. It’s no better than a VW Golf, but badge status lifts it to a higher level. It is more practical than its obvious BMW 1 Series rival, even if it’s not as fun to drive.

Review

INTRODUCTION:

Audi’s A3 might be little more than a posh VW Golf, but that badge, allied with a classy interior and good looks, means it’s as desirable as ever. That’s despite it having been around for a while, this current A3 originally launched in 2003. Three- and five-door ‘Sportback’ models are the most common, though there’s a Cabriolet version too - introduced in 2008. Sporting S3 and RS 3 models top the extensive range. 
 

MODEL RANGE:

Introduced in 2003 the current Audi A3 has seen a number of styling changes throughout its long lifecycle. The first was the addition of the five-door ‘Sportback’ in 2004, while a facelifted model was introduced in 2008, bringing sharper looks and some additional standard equipment. A Cabriolet was also introduced in 2008, featuring a fabric folding roof for those wanting a compact, open-topped Audi. The engine line-up is extensive, with everything from a 1.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder to early 3.2-litre V6 petrol units - with everything in between, to a choice of several diesel engines. The range-topping RS 3 uses the same turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine as the TT RS, though limited build numbers and prohibitive pricing when new mean it’s unlikely you’ll find many used in Ireland. It’s only available in five-door Sportback form. The RS 3’s slightly less intense relative, the S3, with its 265hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine, should be quick enough for most. Transmissions range from five- and six-speed manuals to an automatic that Audi calls S tronic. The A3 is offered in conventional front- or quattro four-wheel drive versions. 

BEST BUY:

As tempting as those fast flagship models are the running costs will be punitive for all but the deepest pockets. Smaller diesels make the most sense, the 1.6 TDI a good all-rounder with respectable, if not fire-cracking, performance. Where it wins is at the pumps, with the most recent 1.6-litre TDI engines managing a very impressive 4.7 litres/100km, and emitting just 118g/km. Earlier cars won’t be able to manage quite that, but they’ll still provide frugal running. SE or S Line specs are best, too.

THE NUMBERS:

1.6-litre TDI A3 three-door

Engines: 1,598cc four-cylinder turbodiesel
Power: 105hp
Maximum speed: 195km/h
0-100km/h: 11.4 seconds
Fuel economy: 4.7 litres/100km
CO2: 118g/km

Euro NCAP:  4 star 

GOOD POINTS:
• Neat, premium styling
• Fine interior
• Excellent economy from diesel engines

BAD POINTS:
• No better than the VW Golf
• Three-door rear seat access limited
• About to be superseded

SUMMARY:

Nearing the end of its lifecycle the Audi A3 still cuts it as a fine, upmarket alternative to the mainstream hatchback norm. It’s no better than a VW Golf, but badge status lifts it to a higher level. It is more practical than its obvious BMW 1 Series rival, even if it’s not as fun to drive.