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In-depth reviews

Audi A3 Sportback review – the original premium hatchback

"The striking Audi A3 Sportback now has the technology it needs to compete with rivals"

Carbuyer Rating

4.2 out of 5

Owners Rating

2.0 out of 5

Read owner reviews
Price
£28,920 - £53,000

Pros

  • Exciting new design
  • Vastly improved technology
  • Higher quality materials

Cons

  • Some rivals are more fun
  • Expensive options
  • Average warranty

Verdict – is the Audi A3 Sportback a good car?

The latest Audi A3 Sportback still offers the upmarket experience its predecessors became known for, and this generation sports its most drastic styling shift since it was first introduced. The A3 is more practical than its predecessor, and there’s also a four-door saloon version for those after a sleek, executive look. In-car tech is vastly improved over older models and Audi is one of a decreasing number of carmakers still offering a diesel engine in its hatchback lineup. The A3 can get expensive if you get too carried away with the options, though, and Audi’s warranty isn’t as competitive as that of many rivals, so it’s still worth shopping around.

Audi A3 Sportback specs, models and alternatives

The Audi A3 has been a success for the German brand, because despite being a premium hatchback, it’s currently one of the best-selling cars of 2024 so far, outselling most mainstream hatchbacks. Audi hasn’t rested on its laurels, though, and has injected some new life into the latest model by way of a facelift for the 2024 model year.

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It’s not a particularly radical overhaul, though Audi’s redesigns have always erred on the evolutionary, rather than revolutionary side – the Audi A3’s exterior now gets a slightly smoother, more streamlined exterior. The lights have been tweaked too, while the its interior and trim have also been refreshed. Even under the skin, the latest A3 has remained very similar on the face of it, but there have been revisions to the engine tuning and software.

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The Audi A3 has long set the template for affordable, premium hatchbacks. Nowadays there are plenty of rivals in on the action, such as the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class – even the Volkswagen Golf is more upmarket than it was over two decades ago, so can be considered a more affordable alternative. Less obvious rivals of the A3 include the DS 4 and Lexus UX.

The Audi A3 is available in five-door Sportback guise and a four-door variant, offering a slightly more executive look. The facelift launches with a four-cylinder petrol or diesel engine option, and Audi S3 hot hatch. Later in 2024 the lineup will expand further with a cheaper three-cylinder petrol option, a petrol plug-in hybrid badged TFSI e and some higher-powered four-cylinder engines. An even hotter RS3 replacement may also join the range.

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The Audi A3 is front-wheel drive, and its handling is assured and secure. Quattro four-wheel drive is no longer available for the standard A3, but even when offered it was unnecessary for most drivers.

The current generation Audi A3 got an increase in width and length over the preceding model, meaning passengers should find there's a little more room to stretch out, but boot space is exactly the same at 380 litres, matching most competitors.

What about buying a used or nearly new Audi A3?

The Audi A3 is easy to recommend as a new car, so a used model is perhaps even more appealing, thanks to the reduced price. Although the A3 costs more to buy than some of its rivals, it’s an efficient, high-quality car with lots of tech and it’s really easy to drive. There are plenty of models available on the second-hand market and the engines are all good, so you can’t go wrong with any version.

What’s its history?

Audi A3 generations

The A3 first came out in 1996, and while you don’t see many around any more, this version set the template for all the models that were to come. It was a smart family car based on tech from the VW Golf and featured a pleasant interior and lots of great engines.

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The Mk2 model arrived in 2003, then was updated in 2008, and it was more of the same – yet it’s still a great option as a used car to this day, if you have a smaller budget. The Mk3 model arrived in 2012, was updated with more modern engines in 2016, and then went off sale in 2020.

The current car arrived that year, and it’s as sharp-looking as ever but has the best technology of any A3 you can get and, as with previous versions, the engine range caters to all kinds of buyers.

Used Audi A3 (Mk3 2012-2020)

Used Audi A3 (Mk3 2012-2020)

The second-generation Audi A3 is the best used buy at the moment, because it’s new enough to feel like a modern, upmarket and dependable car but old enough to be affordable to buy. It came with loads of great engines, including the excellent 1.0- and 1.5-litre petrol motors, plus the interior is superb and comes with plenty of tech.

Used Audi A3 (Mk2 2004-2012)

Used Audi A3 (Mk2)

The 2004 Mk2 A3 is available really cheaply these days, and you can find versions that have been well looked-after at very reasonable prices. They won’t feel like a modern car these days and will need slightly more careful maintenance, but an older A3 can cost about the same as a VW Golf of the same era while offering more luxury, so they’re a pretty appealing buy.

Older Audi A3 models

Audi A3 (Mk1)

The first-generation Audi A3 isn’t all that common any more, but there are still plenty for sale for less than £2,000 on the used market. The 1.8-litre engine in this model was very popular and it’s the one we’d go for, although the 2.0-litre diesel is quite fun to use while also being economical. Since many of these Mk1 A3s are now more than 20 years old, they may need more maintenance work than a newer model.

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Which Is Best?

Cheapest

  • Name
    30 TFSI Sport 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £28,920

Most Economical

  • Name
    40 TFSI e Sport 5dr S Tronic
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £36,400

Fastest

  • Name
    S3 TFSI Black Edition Quattro 5dr S Tronic
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £46,925

Charlie writes and edits news, review and advice articles for Carbuyer, as well as publishing content to its social media platforms. He has also been a regular contributor to its sister titles Auto Express, DrivingElectric and evo. As well as being consumed by everything automotive, Charlie is a speaker of five languages and once lived in Chile, Siberia and the Czech Republic, returning to the UK to write about his life-long passion: cars.

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