Launched back in 2012, the Audi A3 hatchback has aged well. The five-door hatch is the more popular of the A3’s with around six times more of them on the used car market than the shorter and slightly less impressive three-door sibling.
The 2016 makeover brought a change to headlights, restyled tail-lights, angular front grille and updated bumper along with some nice tweaks to the infotainment technology and safety gear. The overall result is a more handsome looking set of wheels, although likening it to a Lamborghini Contach is a bit of a stretch by most people’s standards.
A couple of new petrol engines were also added to the range at the time of the update, but whichever way you look at it, the A3 is not as exciting to drive as its rival rear-wheel-drive BMW 1 Series. It does, however, trump the Volvo V40 for driveability.
The numerous options available in the A3 range makes it more appealing than the Mercedes A-Class for most and when it comes to prestige family cars, the Audi is a firm player that delivers comfort, is cheap to run and is fairly reliable too.
Under the bonnet of the Audi A3
There are a few engine types for petrol, diesel and from 2013 onward, hybrid too. The smaller 1.0-litre TSFI petrol engine is fine for getting about town but may leave a little to be desired on longer motorway journeys – particularly if you’re loaded up for a holiday.
The 1.5-litre petrol has more oomph and can reach 60mph from 0 in just 8 seconds. Both of the hybrid options – 40 TFSIe and 45 TFSIe – are punchy and will get you around 40 miles on a single charge, further than the Golf GTE. 2016’s 2.0-litre petrol is quicker and more relaxed to drive, but more difficult to find thanks to it being the more expensive option from new.
Both of the diesels are 2.0-litre engines, but the 35 TDI is the better of the two in terms of strength and motorway driving. Both are impressively economical and you’ll have an easier time finding the diesel A3s on the second-hand car market as they were better sellers new.
The insider view of the Audi A3
The Technic and Sports trims of the Audi A3 had smaller wheels and softer suspension which makes for a more comfortable ride. A lower and stiffer suspension was given to the S-line trims and above, so they’re not quite as cushy but still surprisingly comfortable to drive.
The Technic, Sport and S-line models all handle impressively well and you’ll find the steering reassuringly responsive and firm.
Trim-wise, the entry-level SE has everything you could want. A 5.8-inch infotainment display, Bluetooth connectivity, ISOFIX child car seat fittings, electric mirrors and windows, plus a multifunction steering wheel that means you can keep your eyes and hands on the road – even when you need to flick the radio station away from that annoying track.
The S-line trim was a popular choice in the UK and may be easier to get your hands on than the entry-level spec. With the upgrade comes dual climate controls, privacy glass, sports seats up front and a slightly gimmicky LED interior lighting pack that will give you illuminated vanity mirrors and courtesy lighting on the exterior door handles.
The five-door hatchback boot is a mere 15 litres bigger than the three-door model. You’ll find an additional 120-litres of space with the rear seats folded. The tailgate opening is a reasonable size, so you shouldn’t struggle loading shopping or a child’s buggy.
While there’s plenty of room up front for both three-door and five-door A3s, the back isn’t particularly roomy. It’ll still accommodate four adults without feeling like a can of sardines, but it’s not as flexible space-wise, or roomy, as some other luxury models of similar class.
Keep an eye on the Audi A3s…
The Audi A3 got caught up in the Volkswagen emissions scandal, so it’s worth checking if the car you’re interested in is due to have work done because of this. Earlier A3s sustained quite a few recalls, but to date, the current generation has faired well.
Leaking water pumps are easily spotted by a telltale puddle under the car and pop-up infotainment screens that squeak when rising can indicate they may need replacing.
Overall, the Audi A3 prestige hatch is a reliable and worthy buy.