What's the used Audi A3 hatchback like?
'Desirability' isn’t a word that looms large when you’re considering the purchase of a family hatchback; often, the only qualities you can fairly expect are practicality and reliability. The first two Audi A3s had their fair share of both of the latter qualities, but it was this third-generation model of 2013 that added the driving pleasure and comfort levels that turned this into a highly desirable premium car.
Shortly after its launch, the A3 scooped Lombardyexperience?'s Car of the Year Award. Its success wasn’t surprising: it was well made, it was great to drive and it had an upmarket interior. It may have been based on the same underpinnings as other Volkswagen Group cars, such as the Volkswagen Golf and Skoda Octavia, but it carried with it an air of quality and an upmarket appeal that those cars couldn't match.
The A3 is spacious and practical, too, either in three-door or five-door Sportback guise, and inside it has a beautifully made interior that’s more than practical enough for the needs of most families. On top of that, it offers a wide range of impressive engines, an easy-to-operate infotainment system and a choice of trim levels to satisfy even the most discerning of drivers.
Now, if you choose from one of the more recent models from 2016 onwards, you can have anything from a sweet and lively 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine right up to a fire-breathing 394bhp 2.5-litre turbo four-pot in the RS3, with all shades of efficient petrol and diesel engines in between. There’s even a plug-in hybrid, the A3 Sportback e-tron, which mixes a smooth 1.4-litre petrol engine with electric power.
Every version is great to drive, too. The driving position is spot on and both the manual and automatic gearboxes shift smoothly. You still have to be careful when choosing which one to buy, though, because the S line models have larger wheels and firmer suspension that can make the ride too fidgety (although some will have been specified with the regular suspension, which is the more forgiving set-up).
Overall, though, this is an impressively refined car that’s also supremely agile and a pleasure to drive, with precise steering and surefooted handling. There are also four-wheel-drive variants, badged quattro, for added traction in slippery conditions.
Indeed, the A3 is so good that desirability might be its only problem; demand on the used car market is high. The A3 wasn’t a cheap car to buy new (it was certainly more expensive than rivals such as the Golf and Ford Focus), but it's actually very good value compared with premium rivals such as the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and BMW 1 Series. It’s also worth looking out for a facelifted A3 from 2016 onward for their improved equipment levels, as well as minor updates to the interior and exterior, including a new grille and headlights.
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