Audi A3 Sportback review (2003-2012)
The A3 scores highly thanks to its top quality and classy appearance
The Audi is a relaxed cruiser, with a good ride, well-controlled damping and plenty of suspension travel. Only really nasty surfaces send shocks into the cabin. Body control and front-end grip are good too, although the handling does lack ultimate dynamic appeal, with slower steering and more body movement than racier competitors. However, it’s easy to drive, composed and well mannered. Engines are generally good too, with an effective, if noisy, range of TDI diesels. The 1.6-litre FSI was replaced in early 2008 with an impressive 1.4 TFSI, and the small turbocharged unit punches well above its weight, as do larger 1.8-litre TFSI and 2.0-litre TFSI powerplants. There is also a 3.2-litre V6.
It’s the baby of the Audi range, but the A3 runs the A4 close as the firm's best selling model. It comes as a three-door and a five-door Sportback, which we’ve tested separately. The three-door is a handsome and well-conceived car. The overall sense of solidity is a trait of the brand, and is apparent on even the entry-level A3. Many variants can be coupled with quattro four-wheel-drive running gear, while the effective DSG dual-clutch gearbox is also available on several versions. Competitors include the BMW 1-Series, Mercedes-Benz A-Class, Alfa Romeo 147 and the car Audi based the A3 on, Volkswagen’s Golf.
The A3’s quality ambience continues inside, and there’s little to fault in the cabin. The finish and detailing are as good as in other Audis, and despite the simplicity of the dash design, there’s a real premium feel to the car. The tactile rotary air vents and metal handles all add an extra edge, while the driving position is spot-on – both seat and steering wheel have a wide range of adjustment. It’s generally quite spacious, too, with ample legroom in the rear and a 350-litre boot boasting a long load length. Only tight access past the comfortable front chairs gives cause for complaint. There are no concerns with fuel economy, either; diesels are excellent and petrol models are good on fuel, too. But the A3’s financial trump card is its retained values. On many models, they’re close to 50 per cent, which really is an exceptional result for the company.