Produced by German automaker Audi, the Audi A3 was first launched in 1996 as the company’s newest foray into the upper-end small family car class. The three-door Audi A3 came to the Australian market in May of 1997, starting off with relatively good sales that really began picking up after the introduction of a five-door hatch option in October of 1999. The A3 entered an already-crowded market, and the car to beat at that time was the BMW 3-Series Compact.
The Audi A3 represented a shift from prestige vehicles that were large to ones that were small and still packed with luxuries. Coming standard with amenities like power steering and windows, a leather steering wheel, a CD player, and air conditioning, the Audi A3 stood out for stacking so many high-end features into such a small space.
Audi A3’s first generation lasted from 1996 to 2003, followed by a second generation in Australia launched in 2004 that ended in 2012, plus a third generation launching mid-2013. With a range of models and trims, the Audi A3 offers both luxury and customisation to its loyal following.
Fortunately, the Audi A3 is no slouch in the performance department. The earliest Audi A3 first appeared in Australia in 1997. This three-door hatch featured three different engine choices, starting with the respectable, entry-level 1.6L, 4-cylinder unit with 74kW of power and 145Nm of torque. Another option was the 1.8L engine with 92kW of power and 173Nm of torque. The top of the line engine was a turbocharged 1.8L engine with 110kW of power and 210Nm of torque. Generally, they averaged about 7.9L/100km in fuel consumption.
The second generation Audi A3, first available in 2004, offered three petrol engines as well, but also added a much-hyped turbo-diesel option. The entry-level petrol engine had a slight bump in specs over the previous generation’s entry-level engine, with 75kW of power and 148Nm of torque. The high-end petrol engine was a 3.2L V6 engine with an impressive 184kW of power and 320Nm of torque.
Fuel consumption for these engines was pretty good, including an average 8.1L/100km for the 1.6L engine and 9.9L/100km for the V6 engine. The star of the range, though, was the 2L turbo-diesel engine, with 103kW of power and 320Nm of torque. It was especially prized for its average fuel consumption of 5.7L/100km. All in all, the Audi A3 packed a lot of power and performance into a car of its class.
Even the initial 1997 Audi A3 carried a lot of deluxe kit as standard. It came with items like central locking, tinted glass, four-speaker sound, immobilisers, and power windows. With the 1999 update and the new 5-door hatch, additional items came standard, such as remote central locking, air conditioning, a CD player, a leather steering wheel, and more. This early model also had an optional turbo with features like sports suspension and seats, shift knob, and an expensive cloth trim to add further prestige.
The second-generation version of the Audi A3 from 2004 came in two models, the entry-level Attraction and the top of the line Ambition. They had some new standard kit, including 8-speaker sound, CD player, 16-inch alloy wheels, ABS braking, traction control, and ESP stability control. They also had further safety features, including airbags for the front, side, and head. Overall, the Audi A3 range garnered a 4-star safety rating by ANCAP and was considered a good safety pick for a vehicle of its size.
Within the large Audi range, the Audi A3 was released into a market with a number of fierce competitors, such as the BMW-1, the Volvo S40, the VW Golf, the Alfa Romeo and the Mercedes-Benz A-Class. The A3 entered as a prestige small car and brought about a sea change from huge prestige vehicles to luxury cars with small frames.
On the second-hand market, the Audi A3 enjoyed moderate success, particularly as a result of its long-term durability and reliability. The major downside that might have helped out Audi’s competitors was the expensive cost of servicing the Audi A3 vehicle, including relatively common issues like oil leaks and brake pad replacement. Even with its minor flaws, though, the Audi A3 has been a mainstay in the Australian new and used prestige small family car market.