Last Chance To Buy: Audi A3

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Indy Lifestyle Online

When is it going?

Well, the three-door A3 isn't going; it makes Audi far too much money. What it is doing is giving the car a great big corporate snout. Oh, and Audi has also tweaked the suspension and steering and software for the electronic stability control, and there are some new alloy wheel designs. So we're looking at an older but prettier A3.

What's good about it?

It's a small quality hatchback that you would be proud to own, with a great range of engines for the three-door Sportback. Some say the smaller petrol 1.6 is not that sporty, but it's fine for most buyers who just want a posh hatch. There is a 2.0 turbo, of course, and the 3.2 V6 is sensationally quick.

If you often take more than one passenger, buy the five-door; otherwise, the three door is great. There's a lot of room in the boot and the rear seat-backs can be pushed forward. The A3 is OK to drive, without ever approaching the fun of a BMW 3-series. Probably the best reason to buy an A3 is that it is so well built and finished; the quality of the materials and the solid feel are very reassuring. Of course, you will pay extra for that.

What's bad about it?

The cost. In magazine group tests that bring together all the related VW models - such as the Golf, Seat Leon and Skoda Octavia - the Audi doesn't win. That's because you pay more than you would for a Skoda, but give or take a mix-and-match approach to the spec and engines, the conclusion is that you would be mad to buy an Audi. The spec on the entry level models does not even include air conditioning. But those four classy rings are exactly what people will pay for. Apparently, they're also happy to put up with a rock-hard ride that gets even rockier in the Sport version.

How much?

You have to be careful shopping for a three-door A3 now, because many sellers are not too sure whether they have a 2005 or 2006 model, not least because they look so similar. There are some low-mile examples at Audi dealers; Martins Audi (01256 867 020) had a 2.0 Fsi Sport Automatic with 2,000 miles for £19,995 that would be more than £24,000 new. Through Autobytel, a dealer would supply a 2.0T Fsi direct for £17,783, down from £19,070.

Any snags?

Reliability has been average, really, as all Volkswagen Group products have been affected by ignition faults, electrical glitches and problems with the engine management systems. Otherwise, accident damage and high mileages without proper servicing so that suspensions need overhaul.

Fact file

Launched: 1996

Engine: 1.6, 1.8, 2.0, 3.2, 1.9 TDi, 2.0 TDi

Performance: Top speed 132mph, 0-60mph 9.1 seconds (2.0)

Economy: 38.2mpg

NCAP: Four stars

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