A lot of Audi for

the money

NOBODY can argue that when it comes to overall product quality, those whizz kids at Audi make it a pretty hard act for others to match.

From the entry-level three-door A1 right through to the £130,000 R8 V10 wondercar, the quality is there for all to see as well as to touch.

First introduced in 1996, the original A3 marked Audi's return to producing smaller family cars and it proved an instant success.

The Mk2 model hit our streets in 2003 and it carried on the mantle from the original, proving a great favourite for those seekng a small hatch which oozed style and quality.

Audi kept the A3 fresh over the years, making numerous revisions to the car. However, in 2008 major changes took place, which included a revised nose with modified grille, new daytime running lights and new styling at the rear.

Two-litre common rail TDI engines and seven-speed S tronic dual clutch transmissions were also introduced as were optional magnetic ride adaptive shock absorbers while the car's overall length was slightly extended.

No fewer than eight engine choices became available for the A3, but back then I was surprised just how well the 1.4-litre TFSI turbocharged petrol unit performed.

This four-cylinder, double-overhead cam, direct injection engine delivers a more-than-respectable 124bhp while pulling 200Nm between 1,500 and 4,000 revs.

This means the little A3 can accelerate from standing to 62mph in just 9.4 seconds while its top speed is 126mph.

But the real beauty of the 1,390cc power unit back then was that it was the cleanest petrol engine in Audi's range, with emissions at 137g/km when coupled to the seven-speed S tronic automatic gearbox and 143g/km when matched with the more common six-speed manual gearbox.

The three-door A3 offers lashings of space for both driver and front passenger, while up to three adults can also travel in comfort in the rear.

With 350 litres of space available with the split/folding rear bench seat in place, or 1,080 litres with the seat backs floded, the A3 has decent luggage capacity.

Those unfamiliar with the Audi marque will instantly be taken by the car's stiff but not uncomfortable ride. Around town the A3 proves a well-behaved hatchback, while with little wind or tyre noise, those long-distance trips are a pure joy.

However, it's on the more demanding B roads where the A3 comes into its own. Masses of grip are offered through the front-wheel-drive system which is coupled with a host of electronic gadgets which come as standard.

Audi's don't come cheap and residuals are up there with the best, but you get a heck of a lot of car for your money. Look out for high-end SE models which offer alloy wheels, four-spoke leather multi-function steering wheels, driver's information system, manual air conditioning, electric front windows, CD sound system, Isofix mountings and heated door mirrors.

Safety features include Audi's electronic stability programme which includes anti-lock brakes and electronic brake-force distribution, driver, passenger and side airbags, central locking, alarm and immobiliser.

A 2008 1.4 TFSI manual on an 08-plate will cost between £5,815 and £8,635 depending on condition and mileage. 

Move on a year and prices will range from £6,645 to £9,640, while a 2010 example on a 10-plate with the added bonus of stop/start technology, will come in at between £7,680 and £10,505.

For those looking for an S tronic auto model, expect to pay an added premium of anything from £200 to £500.



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