Desirable premium family car offers badge kudos – and it needn’t break the bank, either
The popularity of the previous-generation Audi A3 (2003-2013) as a new car means there’s now an abundance of choice on the used market. As a result, you can take your time choosing the perfect second-hand example of this desirable family hatchback. Here’s how to ensure you end up with the best possible model for your needs.
Over the decade it was produced, the A3 came in both three and five-door bodystyles, with a wide range of engine and kit levels. That means there’s a car for every budget. We’d suggest that, unless you’re a really high-mileage driver, you should go the petrol route – the later 1.4 TFSI is a better bet than its 1.4 TSI predecessor – and stick with a five-door for ultimate practicality. The cabins are all top-notch, by the way. The sporty, blinged-up S line variant is a little too firmly suspended, and didn’t do much to boost the A3’s already so-so dynamics against some of its better rivals.
At the bottom end of the market, just over £1000 will buy you an A3, but you’re looking at twice that for a good one. Pre-2009 facelift petrol five-doors are now dipping towards £2500, and you should add a £500 premium for a diesel. Post-2009 models cost from around £6000. The blisteringly fast S3 starts at £10k, with good low-milers over double that.
Maintenance costs of all models except the S3 are reasonable, although anything with quattro four-wheel drive costs more to run than cars without. On your test drive, look out for jerky automatic boxes or balky synchromesh in a manual, as both signal big rectification bills. Air-con repairs can be costly, too.
Check whether any potential buy has been affected by a recall, and ensure relevant work has been carried out if so. If you’re looking at an A3 2.0 TDI, beware that 1) it may have been affected by the VW Group emissions scandal, and 2) that it isn’t immune to more everyday issues such as a failed dual-mass flywheel. Expensive to fix…
Ultimately, to ensure you get the best second-hand Audi A3 possible, shop carefully, take the time to do all the usual used-car checks and buy wisely. You’ll end up with a great all-rounder that deserves its popularity as much now as when it was new.