Audi A3 (2012 – 2020) Review

Audi A3 (2012 – 2020) At A Glance

4/5
Honest John Overall Rating
The third-generation Audi A3 combines the premium cabin and technology you’d expect from a much bigger and more expensive car with the low running costs of a family hatchback.

+Comfortable and high quality premium hatchback, low emissions diesel engines including economical 1.6 TDI, very refined at speed yet handles well in corners.

-Top models are close to £30k new.

Insurance Groups are between 15–32
On average it achieves 76% of the official MPG figure

The A3 has been one of Audi's most successful models but this replacement for the 2008 version was a long time coming. It’s a superb alternative to the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and BMW 1 Series, although its strong image means second-hand models are holding onto their values very well. If you need more space, consider the five-door Audi A3 Sportback, while the saloon offers an executive image and a bigger boot. There’s a convertible, too - while hot S3 and RS3 models offer performance car thrills in the body of a family hatchback.

With the popularity of the BMW 1 Series there were big expectations for the A3 which faced more competition than ever before. The good news is that it didn’t disappoint.

The styling is familiar. Audi was not especially daring with the design but it echoes other Audi models and is a neat and unfussy design. Elsewhere, on a new Volkswagen Group platform, this A3 is very different from the model it replaces.

It's similar in length but a longer wheelbase means better interior space and a larger boot. The interior design is impressive too. This is no scaled up version of the A1, instead the A3 got its own unique interior with some nice design touches and a real touch of finesse.

The engine line up majored on efficiency - for both petrols and diesels. There's a 1.4 TFSI which was later joined by an impressive 1.0 TFSI - an engine also used in the A1. It may seem too small for the A3 but it's surprisingly good, especially if you're spending most of your time away from motorways.

Volkswagen Group’s 1.5-litre petrol was added to the range in 2017, with a choice of 130 or 150PS.

The 2.0 TDI was popular among long distance drivers and it made the A3 a great long distance car thanks to plenty of low down torque. It was also available with quattro four-wheel drive for added traction and more security in slippery conditions.

For outright economy the 1.6 TDI is best and according to the official NEDC figures returned more than 70mpg. In the real-world, it’s good for around 53mpg.

Proof of how good this A3 is comes from driving it. It feels better than the older model in every way from the steering, to the front end grip to refinement at high speeds. It’s not as fun to drive as the BMW 1 Series, but it does a very good job of taking the bind out of day-to-day driving.

It's a great all round car and it's often easy to think you are driving a larger car such is it's poise and composure. As a second-hand purchase, the A3 leads the way when it comes to premium hatchbacks thanks to its generous levels of standard equipment and high quality finish.

Ask Honest John

When should I replace the cam belt on my Audi A3?
"My Audi A3 1.4 TFSi is now five years old and has covered 50,000 miles. I took it in for its cam belt change today and my local dealer has now advised me that the technical guidance has now changed and the cam belt is good for another 75,000 miles or 10 years. I’m assuming the new guidance is based on reviews of belts and their condition on an ongoing basis. But I was a little concerned when the dealer said some customers had still proceeded with the cam belt change, despite the new guidance. I think the idea of leaving it for another 75K miles seems extreme but would be grateful for your view about its replacement. I usually take an Audi annual warranty out and presume if the technical guidance has changed this would still cover me if it failed? "
Most cam belt failures we hear about happened after 60,000 miles or five years (which is why we recommend this as a replacement interval). Your Audi dealer may recommend a belt change at 125,000 miles or ten years, but who will be responsible for paying for the wrecked engine if the belt, tensioner or pulley fails before then? If the dealer is so confident about their new technical guidance then ask them to provide a written guarantee that confirms they will cover all repair costs if the belt fails before then (they'll refuse, which means you'll be required to pick up the considerable cost if the worst happens). It's possible the extended warranty may cover a cam belt failure, but cover levels tend to vary from policy to policy. I would urge you to check this with the warranty company before taking out the policy.
Answered by Dan Powell
Do any carmakers offer dash cameras as standard?
"I'm looking to install a dash camera in our Audi A3 and this got me thinking that all manufacturers should fit them as standard or at least offer them as an option. Are there any manufacturers that do install them as standard? Should also be a lower insurance cost, too."
I believe Citroen is the only car manufacturer to offer them as standard currently. It's odd that it's not more common. Our New Cars Editor, Andrew, ran a C3 for six months and much preferred its hidden ConnectedCam to an aftermarket unit. It likely comes down to cost, but I'm sure we'll see more built-in dashcams in the future. As for insurers offering dash cam discounts, some actually do. Nextbase, a UK dash cam manufacturer, also offers its own insurance. The firm says that a third of customers will pay less than £250 for fully comprehensive cover, while more than half can save 30% or more on their policy. You can read about it here: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/news/owning-1/2021-05/nextbase-insurance-launches-with-big-discounts-for-dash-cam-users
Answered by Georgia Petrie
I'm looking for a medium-sized hatchback. What's the best model to buy?
"I've got up to £25k to spend. I'm looking at the Volkswagen Golf Mk8 (either the Style or the R). It's a Golf-size car I want, with a diesel engine and automatic gearbox. Is the Golf a better option than a Focus, Astra etc?"
The latest Golf is an excellent car and is unlikely to disappoint – but it's no longer the class leader it once was. If practicality is a concern, look at the Skoda Octavia, while the Ford Focus is a good alternative that's a little more enjoyable to drive. Alternatively, premium contenders like the BMW 1 Series, Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz A-Class will all feel a bit more special but won't cost a great deal more to run.
Answered by Andrew Brady
I want to treat myself to a flashy, economical car for 10k. What do you suggest?
"I’m turning 50 this year and I figured I finally deserve a treat. I’ve decided to trade in (or scrap) my beloved, well-aged and slightly banged up 1.0-litre Nissan note. Please don’t judge me but now I just want a flashy car to cause some car envy. But it’s got to be gentle on the pocket. I don’t know much about cars other than driving it. I didn’t drive for many years (save the planet and cycle, that was me) but work needs must. I do enjoy driving and I’ve never had an accident, but I have a lack of confidence when it comes to parking, nighttime driving or in bad weather. I use the car for city commuting and some long-distance travel. I have in mind a budget of £10,000 for a used car. I’m hoping to get some suggestions on a car that might suit me. Preferably with low mileage and not over 10 years old."
No judgement here! The challenge will be finding a flashy car that won't cost a lot to run. An Audi A3 could be a good choice. It shares its mechanicals with a Volkswagen Golf, so shouldn't cost the earth, and it looks very classy. As a left-field alternative, consider a Mazda CX-3. It's a stylish crossover SUV that'll be easy to drive in the city. Stick a private plate on it and it's sure to impress the neighbours, too. As an aside, consider some driver training to boost your confidence. The Institute of Advanced Motorists provides courses that aren't expensive and very worthwhile.
Answered by Andrew Brady
More Questions

What does a Audi A3 (2012 – 2020) cost?