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Used Audi A3 review: 2004-2007

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Not so long ago you would have been laughed at if you'd suggested that your aspiration was to own a small car, but that's how far the market has matured in a very short time.

Such is the maturity in our market that when Audi launched the A3 in 2004 it was quite open about its ambition for it to be a small car people would aspire to own.

Audi said upfront that it wasn't out to become the volume leader in the segment; its ambition for the A3 was for it to be the benchmark in the class.

MODEL WATCH

The A3 was the entry model in the fast growing Audi range and that put it up against cars like the BMW 1-Series, Mercedes-Benz A-Class, Volvo S40 and even the Alfa 147. Although it looked less aggressive than its predecessor, and was 55 mm longer, 30 mm wider and 10 mm lower, there was still a familiarity about it that reminded you of the old model.

While the A3's looks were underwhelming there was big news under the skin with a number of innovations including new suspension, electro- mechanical steering, a new and innovative direct injection engine and a direct shift gearbox.

The engine range was made up of three petrol engines and a turbo- diesel. It kicked off with a 1.6-litre single overhead camshaft four- cylinder engine that produced 75 kW at 5600 revs and 148 Nm at 3800 revs and ended with a 3.2-litre V6 that offered 184 kW at 6300 revs and 320 Nm at 2500-3000 revs, but the real interest was in the 2.0- litre FSi engine and the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel that fitted in between the bookend engines.

The FSi was a direct injection engine where the fuel was vaporized in the combustion chamber and not in the intake manifold, as is the case with most petrol engines. Audi claimed significant improvements in response, economy and efficiency for the new engine, which put out 110 kW at 6000 revs and 200 Nm at 3500 revs and promised 0-100 km/h sprinting in 9.1 seconds. The turbo diesel produced 103 kW at 4000 revs and 320 Nm at 1750-2500 revs.

The 1.6-litre engine was available with a five-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed tiptronic auto, FSi buyers could choose between a six- speed manual and six-speed auto, while diesel buyers got a DSG sequential-shift manual shift six-speed.

The DSG was an innovative gearbox that had two clutches working in tandem for smooth, seamless shifting. While one clutch was engaged the other one preselected the next higher gear; then when it was time to shift up one clutch disengaged and the other automatically engaged bringing the higher gear into play.

It works much like an auto 'box without the losses that come with an automatic transmission, and without the sloppiness that characterized the shifting of most other automated manual shift gearboxes.

Audi offered two models in the A3 range, the entry level Attraction and the uprange Ambition. The Attraction came with a choice of the 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre FSi engines, along with 16-inch alloy wheels, cloth trim, split-system air, eight-speaker CD sound, stability control and traction control. The Ambition was available with the 2.0-litre FSi engine and the turbo-diesel. Perched above them all was the Quattro Ambition with the 3.2-litre V6, all-wheel drive and DSG transmission.

IN THE SHOP

Overall the A3 appears to be holding up well since its launch in 2004. The things most reported by mechanics are oil leaks and brake wear, the latter a common issue raised by owners of most European cars. Check for a service record to make sure the oil has been regularly changed; old oil can be a killer of engines.

IN A CRASH

With front airbags, head and side airbags the A3 had plenty of protection in a crunch, while standard ABS braking, ESP stability control, and traction control it was also packed with the electronics to help avoid the crunch. When tested by ANCAP the A3 was given a four-star rating.

UNDER THE PUMP

The turbo-diesel is the hero when it comes to fuel consumption with a claimed average of 5.7 L/100 km. Of the petrol engines the 2.0-litre FSi sets the pace with a claimed average of 7.7 L/100km, while the 1.6-litre has an average of 8.1 L/ 100 km and the V6 9.9 L/100 km. When Cars Guide tested it the 2.0-litre FSi Attraction averaged 8.9 L/ 100 km.

OWNER SAYS

The only thing Aldo Scodella doesn't like about his 2007 Audi A3 is the cost of servicing it. It costs a "fortune" he says. It's a 1.8- litre TFSi and he's done 20,500 km so far without any trouble to report, but says he's still getting used to the hill-start assist and is having trouble getting away smoothly.

LOOK FOR

  • Uninspiring looks
  • Good build quality
  • FSi performance
  • Diesel economy
  • Robust and reliable.

THE BOTTOM LINE: A well equipped, smooth and advanced small car that grows on you.

Audi A3 2004: 1.6

Safety Rating
Engine Type Inline 4, 1.6L
Fuel Type Premium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency 10.5L/100km (combined)
Seating 5
Price From $4,180 - $6,160

Pricing Guides

$6,261
Based on 29 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months.
LOWEST PRICE
$2,500
HIGHEST PRICE
$10,888

Range and Specs

Vehicle Specs Price*
1.6 Attraction 1.6L, Premium Unleaded Petrol, 5 SPEED MANUAL $4,070 - $5,940
1.8 TFSI Ambition 1.8L, Premium Unleaded Petrol, 6 SPEED DIRECT SHIFT $5,500 - $7,700
Sportback 1.6 Attraction 1.6L, Premium Unleaded Petrol, 6 SPEED AUTOMATIC TIPTRONIC $4,510 - $6,600
See all 2007 Audi A3 in the Range
*Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price
Graham Smith
Contributing Journalist
With a passion for cars dating back to his childhood and having a qualification in mechanical engineering, Graham couldn’t believe his good fortune when he was offered a job in the Engineering Department at General Motors-Holden’s in the late-1960s when the Kingswood was king and Toyota was an upstart newcomer. It was a dream come true. Over the next 20 years Graham worked in a range of test and development roles within GMH’s Experimental Engineering Department, at the Lang Lang Proving Ground, and the Engine Development Group where he predominantly worked on the six-cylinder and V8 engines. If working for Holden wasn’t exciting enough he also spent two years studying General Motors Institute in America, with work stints with the Chassis Engineering section at Pontiac, and later took up the post of Holden’s liaison engineer at Opel in Germany. But the lure of working in the media saw him become a fulltime motorsport reporter and photographer in the late-1980s following the Grand Prix trail around the world and covering major world motor racing events from bases first in Germany and then London. After returning home to Australia in the late-1980s Graham worked on numerous motoring magazines and newspapers writing about new and used cars, and issues concerning car owners. These days, Graham is CarsGuide's longest standing contributor.
About Author
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