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Audi A3 (2012-2020) Review

Audi A3
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Audi A3
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Audi A3

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Audi A3

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Audi A3

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Audi A3

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heycar review

      Launch year
      2012
      Body type
      Family hatch
      Fuel type
      Petrol, Diesel
heycar editorial team

Written by

heycar editorial team

00/10
heycar rating
Premium car for sensible money

Best bits

  • Interior is up to the quality of a bigger, more expensive premium car
  • Petrol and diesel engines provide excellent mix of performance and economy
  • You’d be hard pressed to recognise this as an older Audi model

Not so great

  • Expensive to buy compared to rivals because of Audi’s strong used values
  • Reliability issues, particularly with the automatic gearboxes, could make the A3 expensive to own outside of warranty
  • Not as practical as the five-door A3 Sportback

Read by

Audi A3 Exterior Front

Overall verdict

Audi A3 Interior

On the inside

Audi A3 Driving

Driving

Audi A3 Centre Console

How much does it cost to run

Audi A3 Boot

Prices, versions and specification

Overall verdict on the Audi A3 (2012-2020)

"If you’re after a sensible family hatch that feels special without breaking the bank, the Audi A3 should be top of your list. This generation of the A3 combines low running costs with good practicality and a simply unbeatable interior."

Audi A3 Exterior Front

Introduced in 2012, this Audi A3 may not have groundbreaking looks - in fact it’s pretty ordinary, but that means the looks have arguably aged better than others like the BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Production lasted until 2020, meaning there are plenty of used models around.


One downside of the A3’s reputation is the strong money it fetches second-hand. It was more expensive than the likes of the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf when it was new, and that oh-so-desirable Audi badge means buyers are happy to pay more for a used A3. Don’t expect to find too many bargains around.


That said, you get a lot for your money. Even entry-level SE and SE Technik models have everything you’ll need - from reversing sensors to a clever media display that pops up from the dash top.


When the A3 was new, Audi gave designers free rein to create an interior as upmarket as the much bigger (and pricier) A8, but scaled down to fit in the A3. Was it successful? Well it’s certainly classy and feels like it will last.


As a three-door hatchback, the standard A3 isn’t as roomy as the five-door Sportback. But there’s more space than before, thanks to a longer wheelbase plus the boot holds a reasonable 365 litres.


Used A3s are split roughly half and half between petrol and diesel models. While the diesels suit the car well and will be tempting due to their excellent fuel economy, petrol models make more sense for a lot of buyers.


Avoid the 1.8-litre or 2.0-litre models unless you really need the performance. The 1.0-litre TFSI is surprisingly peppy, but we’d go for the 1.4 TFSI or 1.5 TFSI petrols which are the best combination of economy and performance.


No matter which engine you opt for, the A3 is good to drive with tidy handling and a comfortable ride. There’s plenty of technology, too - including a parking camera, adaptive cruise control and a blind-spot system.


The Audi A3 is certainly one of the best cars in its class, but then it’s also more expensive than many other hatches, certainly on the used market. You do get what you pay for. And it won’t necessarily be any more expensive than a Ford Focus to run, making it a very easy (but totally premium) car to justify.


If you're looking for the newer version, you need our Audi A3 (2020-) review.


Ready to get your top quality Audi A3?

  • All cars come with a warranty
  • Selected dealers only
  • All quality checked

Audi A3

1.5 TFSI Sport 5dr

  • 2017
  • 10,000 miles
  • Esplanade Volkswagen Cowes
  • Hampshire, PO318BF
Price:£15,995
PCP: £248.80/mo

Representative example: Contract Length: 36 months, 35 Monthly Payments: £248.80, Customer Deposit: £2,399.00, Total Deposit: £2,399.25, Optional Final Payment: £7,641.10, Total Charge For Credit: £2,753.35, Total Amount Payable: £18,748.35, Representative APR: 8.9%, Interest Rate (Fixed): 8.88%, Excess Mileage Charge: 8.38ppm, Mileage Per Annum: 10,000

Is the Audi A3 (2012-2020) right for you?

If you’re looking for a hatchback that’s a bit posh, has a top-quality interior and gets oodles of standard equipment, the A3 could be the car for you. Yet it’s still cheap to run, with a good range of petrol and diesel engines, so you can have economy, performance or a bit of both.


It may be bigger than its predecessor, but the three-door body layout means it’s not exactly practical - for that you want the five-door A3 Sportback. However, if you rarely need the back seats and want something that’s refined and with an upmarket image, we reckon this will suit you perfectly.


What’s the best Audi A3 (2012-2020) model/engine to choose

The Audi A3’s diesel engines suit it well, with the 2.0-litre being a particularly good combination of performance and economy. It’s extremely refined (you’d struggle to tell it’s a diesel at speed), and its low-down torque means it’s easy to drive. 


But if you don’t cover many miles, you’d be best looking for a petrol - the 1.4-litre remains one of our favourite Volkswagen Group petrol engines, despite being replaced by the 1.5-litre in 2017.


In terms of trim levels, all are comprehensively equipped, with mid-range Sport models providing a few nice-to-have features without breaking the bank. These include 17-inch alloy wheels and Audi’s sports suspension, lowered by 15mm. Of course if you need more practicality (and doors) look at the Audi A3 Sportback.


What other cars are similar to the Audi A3 (2012-2020)?

The Audi A3’s main competitor is the BMW 1 Series - a car that’s arguably more rewarding to drive than the A3, but has a dated interior compared to the Audi (and less generous standard equipment levels). 


Then there’s the Mercedes-Benz A-Class which never really hit the spot but sold in large numbers thanks to its premium badge. Leftfield alternatives include the Volvo V40 and Lexus CT - the latter used a hybrid engine set-up, but it lacks the performance of the A3. We’d also add in things like the Volkswagen Golf and Honda Civic at a push.


Learn more

Audi A3 Interior

On the inside

Audi A3 Driving

Driving

Audi A3 Centre Console

How much does it cost to run

Audi A3 Boot

Prices, versions and specification