Ringing endorsement for used Audi A3 Sportback

Audi's A3 Sportback is a sharp looker and rides well.

Audi's A3 Sportback is a sharp looker and rides well. - Credit: Audi

Audi's A3 Sportback is a stylish, compact hatchback that's big on premium feel, well-built and pleasant to drive.


Engines – As is often the case, the more recent the car the more engine options available for it. The good news is that there isn't a duff motor in the A3 line-up, and you need only to decide between petrol and diesel – the latter if you do lots of miles, the former if you don't and want a quieter driving experience. The high-power diesels make for excellent motorway cruisers if that's your thing.

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Exterior – Overall it's hard to mistake the A3 for anything else and, unsurprisingly, the car slots well visually with the rest of Audi's range. As its name suggests, the A3 Sportback is not a regular five-door hatchback and presents you with a more athletic profile than, say, a more spacious Ford Focus.

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Interior – No expense has been spared in the cabin. That's a fair observation given the car's premium price tag, but anyone switching from an A4 or using the A3 as a second car will never feel short-changed when driving the smaller model. Although spacious up front, rear-seat passengers will feel the pinch – this A3 is not meant to be a regular family car, more of a grown-up MINI rival and BMW 1 Series alternative.

Driving – A solid performer, the regular engine options for the A3 are willing and, in many cases, surprisingly frugal. While not the sharpest of steers – you'll want a 1 Series for that – it's a willing and able car in the hands of the average driver. The ride can be on the firm side, so if you want a smoother experience opt for cars on the smaller standard wheels and avoid the Sport trim.

Ownership – The A3 Sportback stands out from the crowd because it's a sharp looker, rides well and can be had in a multitude of different engine and equipment combinations. It's not the most spacious car around, but for a city dwelling couple or singleton it's a great choice. The boot is plenty big enough, its footprint small enough to make parking simple and it's affordable to run.

What to look for – Many of these cars will be used as city runabouts, so look for the usual urban battle scars of kerbed wheels and parking dents. Exhausts should run clean and engines run without rattles, and the car's brakes and clutch should feel responsive and noise-free – not soggy. A comprehensive history is a must, and any gaps should prompt questions.

Model history – 2004, Audi launched five-door version of its then new A3 model, called Sportback. Equipment and engine options in line with the existing three-door car. Both petrol and diesel units available plus a four-wheel drive and petrol V6 powered performance version. Modest levels of standard kit should see plenty of used examples with a healthy list of optional kit.

Reasons to buy – Stylish, compact, well built, wide choice of engines.

Reasons to beware – Not ideal for a family, low-power diesels could be more refined, basic specification is modest.

Pick of the range – A3 1.6 SE.

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