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Used Audi A3 review: 1997-2000

1998 Audi A3


The Audi A3 brought more choice in prestige small cars when it arrived here in 1997. BMW's 3-Series Compact was on the market, and the A3 added another choice.

At first there was only a three-door hatch on offer but that was replaced by a five-door hatch in 1999, which certainly added to the appeal of the small Audi.

Audi offered a choice of three engines in the front-wheel drive A3 hatch. The entry engine was a 1.6-litre, 12-valve single overhead camshaft fuel-injected four-cylinder unit that put out 74kW at 5600 revs and 145Nm at 3800 revs for brisk performance.

There was a fuel-injected 16-valve double overhead camshaft 1.8-litre engine, which delivered 92kW at 6000 revs and 173Nm at 4100 revs and boosted performance to be the pick of the bunch. For zip, Audi offered a turbocharged 1.8-litre engine that pumped out 110kW at 5700 revs and 210Nm at 4600 revs.

A3 buyers had the choice of a four-speed auto transmission or a sporty five-speed manual. All that rode on a nimble front-wheel drive chassis with power steering, four-wheel anti-skid disc brakes and alloy wheels. As would be expected given its prestige tag, the A3 came with plenty of fruit, from central locking, immobilisers, power windows, tinted glass and four-speaker sound.

After the 1999 update, the five-door hatch came with airconditioning, CD player, power windows, remote central locking, leather steering wheel and a tilt adjustable column. The turbo had sports suspension and seats, steering wheel and shift knob and cloth trim.


While Audi quality has improved markedly in recent years there was a time when it wasn't up to the standard BMW and Benz set, so inspect early A3s carefully. Look for collision damage on the body, particularly doors or hatches that don't open or close properly. Paint-over spray and mismatching colours can also give away crash repairs.

Audi engines are known to guzzle the oil, which isn't a problem if owners dip the engines regularly. Many owners who bought Audis simply didn't bother to check the oil between services and only discovered their engine's thirst for oil when they developed the death rattles.


Early A3s came with dual front airbags and later A3s also had side airbags for front-seat occupants, that provided decent secondary crash protection. Anti-skid brakes and decent handling were also provided with the intention of assisting drivers in having a better chance of avoiding crashes altogether.


Paul Skaraiev was looking to downsize from his Holden Berlina V8 when he bought his 2000 Audi A3 Turbo in 2001, but he still wanted a prestige model. The A3 had done 56,000km when he bought it; it has now done 105,000km without any significant problem. Skaraiev says he loves its looks and performance, reckons the 7.9l/100km fuel consumption is great and is happy with reliability. But he isn't so enamoured of the cost of servicing and parts.


Year Price From Price To
2000 $3,600 $7,700
1999 $3,600 $7,700
1998 $3,800 $7,700
1997 $3,800 $7,040

View all Audi A3 pricing and specifications

Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

1.6 1.6L, PULP, 4 SP AUTO $4,000 – 6,490 1997 Audi A3 1997 1.6 Pricing and Specs
1.8 1.8L, PULP, 5 SP MAN $4,100 – 6,710 1997 Audi A3 1997 1.8 Pricing and Specs
Graham Smith
Contributing Journalist