Audi hatch with wide

appeal

Audi A3 hatchback, front
Audi A3 hatchback, action
Audi A3 hatchback, rear
Audi A3 hatchback, boot
Audi A3 hatchback, interior

FIRST introduced to the UK back in 1996, the compact Audi A3 hatchback became something of an instant success, thanks to its sleek styling, impeccable build quality and great value for money.

Over the intervening years, the expanded range, which has seen three and five-door hatchbacks, open-top cabriolets, a saloon and a pair of lightning-fast S3 and RS3 models, has pulled in buyers by the bucket load.

Autumn 2012 saw the arrival of the third generation line-up starting with three-door models, which with their high level of specification, coupled with Audi's leading high-tech innovations, took the premium compact leader of the pack to even greater heights.

Initially the line-up consisted of just two petrol and one diesel model available in the choice of SE, Sport and S line trim levels.

For most buyers, the number one choice was the two-litre, 147bhp, six-speed manual diesel which could reach 62mph in 8.6 seconds, had a top speed of 134mph and offered fuel economy of 68.9mpg with a CO2 emission rating of 106g/km.

Over the years, Audi had built their reputation on the quality of their interiors and the third generation A3 certainly didn't disappoint.

Although retaining the usual simple, uncluttered layout, the cabin was completely redesigned with a new wraparound dashboard, new circular air vents, a slick fold-away sat nav and display screen and the addition of an electric handbrake.

To the outside, the A3 retained much of the crisp styling seen in previous models, but changes to the front grille and bonnet coupled with the addition of a rear spoiler and new-look lights helped give it an even sharper look.

Under its skin however, the A3 saw more aluminium and high tensile steel body parts used to help reduced the car's overall weight, making it more composed out on the road.

It also sat on an all-new platform which is now shared with the other marques within the VAG group.

It offered plenty room at the front, although the rear seat legroom for tall and long-legged passengers did become somewhat restricted, but as a classy transporter for the average family, there was nothing that could come close to matching it.

To its credit, the A3 boastsed a superb firmish suspension set up, which instilled driver confidence in its road holding abilities, while new electro-mechanical power steering, which doesn't draw power from the engine when in a straight line, also helped reduce fuel consumption.

Stabilisation control, along with an electronic limited differential system was also included as standard, along with an array of safety and security features that Audi are noted for.

Since its launch, the latest range became a mega hit with business users, mainly due to its pricing, its low road tax and its benefit in kind rating of just 15 per cent. However, it also proved a big hit within the retail sector.

As a used car, I would try and opt for the SE with its standard suspension, for it offered a much smoother ride with less road noise than its Sport or S Line siblings, thanks to its smaller wheels.

Standard equipment on all models was also pretty comprehensive, and included air conditioning, xenon lights, Bluetooth, electric windows and mirrors, central locking, cruise control, immobiliser, automatic lighting and rain sensors.

Buying used, any model sporting the four rings will not come cheap and a 2012 A3 two-litre diesel with manual gearbox in SE trim on a 12-plate will have a price tag somewhere between the region of £11,985 and £14,960, depending on condition and mileage.

Move up a year and prices will range from £13,410 to £16,375 for a similar model.

However, opt for the six-speed S Tronic version with its fully automatic or paddle shifting manual override and prices will rise by just £800 to £1,000, well worth the extra money in my humble opinion.

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