I never thought I would write a review about a car but as time is passing by, I am getting braver and braver. I am no car expert, but think people sometimes want to read a real user's opinion instead of just the professional jargon. I have had this car for some time now, have driven approx. 25,000 miles in it, and would like to share my experience with those who are considering buying an Audi A3 1.6 Special Edition (SE) in the future.
------ A little explanation ------
The difference between Special Edition and standard A3 is that the former comes with 16" alloy wheels, ESP (about it later), air conditioning and is a 3-door car. If you like this car but would prefer a 5-door version, then you will need to look for Audi A3 Sportback 1.6 SE.
I remember quite clearly a school trip to France about ten years ago when I was still in college. I was sitting in a coach, going sightseeing, when we passed by a huge car park filled up with shiny new, exactly the same silver Audis. I had never before though about cars at all, but I fell in love straight away and decided I would have one of those when I'm grown up and earn a lot of money (lol).
So one day when I was visiting my parents I entered Audi website to see what cars they had on offer, not really thinking seriously about this, but I noticed there was one specific car I liked in a dealership close to my parents' place. We all went to see the car, spent about 2 hours viewing it from all angles, checking specs and interior. I was getting excited like a child who just wanted to jump up and down with joy, just by looking at it. After a short test drive around the area, the decision was made. This car had to be mine and I bought it there and then.
This is the third car I have owned after a Skoda Fabia (from new) and a 10-year old Honda Civic. I had also driven Peugeot 308 and Porsche Boxter (brief and terrifying experience!), so an Audi was quite a big upgrade for me.
------ Looks ------
As I mentioned before the car is stunning. Since my trip to France, Audi cars have changed their outside look, gaining even more class and style. Especially the models built since 2004 are appealing visually - still elegant but also more modern, sporty and a little more aggressive (not in a bad way), thanks to the new grille and headlights shape.
I won't lie, I bought this car mainly because of its looks, as a typical girl would, but I am also glad that Audi in general don't focus only on the looks, but make sure the cars are well built, reliable and practical. If I ever wanted to change the make of my car (I wouldn't!), then I would choose a German car again, as I trust it won't let me down.
The interior is classy and elegant but also understated. The dashboard is mainly dark grey hard plastic with some silver trimmings (e.g. around air vents, door handles, Audi logo on the steering wheel). It looks simple and very practical, which isn't bad, but I was slightly surprised at its simplicity when I first saw the interior.
------ Driving experience ------
* Power and acceleration
My Audi A3 was built in 2007 and it is a 75 kW petrol car. There is also a possibility of buying an 85 kW model, although I am not sure if this makes a noticeable difference. The power in this car is a bit on the weak side and I find that, when driven at up to 40 mph speeds, the car struggles a little to accelerate, especially when you want to put away quickly at the traffic lights. I find it a bit frustrating when I am in the faster lane struggling to pick up speed, while cars behind me (less 'prestigious' brands) don't have any problem at all. I don't think my car has enough power to easily and quickly reach the speed of 40 mph and when I try to force it to do that, I can hear the engine making just too much noise for my liking. So it's either the case of revving the engine a lot to get fast acceleration or shifting the gears quickly and not getting enough speed. I have to say, I was a bit disappointed with this aspect of the car.
In Audi's defense, I need to say that when it reaches a 40 mph level, it does accelerate pretty quickly, even if it's already in the 5th gear and I feel comfortable that it will have no problems overtaking. That is why I prefer to drive my car on motorways, rather than in town.
I found that once you have passed that 40 mph magic speed level, it is very easy to reach high speeds of 90-100 mph without even realizing it, because there is so much comfort when driving at high speeds. In some of the cars I've driven before, you could feel the speed in the steering wheel which would start to shake somewhat and make you feel very insecure (e.g. that happened to me with Peugeot at 70mph!). With Audi there is nothing like that - whether you drive at 60mph or 100 mph there is no difference in the ease of handling, comfort or feeling of security.
* Gearbox and changing gears
Changing gears in this car is so easy. Previously I had problems with engaging the proper gear in Honda and Skoda, but with this one there are no problems at all and the gears seem to fall into place without you having to force anything.
* Engine noise
For the first few weeks of driving this car, each time I stopped at a junction or traffic lights, I had to check whether the engine was still running. The engine is honestly that quiet. Even now sometimes when the car is in standstill I check on the dashboard if the engine is still on! When driving at more than 60mph you can hear the engine noise being higher, but it is still relatively quiet, so you can listen to the music at the same volume and hold a conversation with someone without raising your voice.
I am sure that I've read somewhere about Audi's soundproofing being great. Unfortunately, I can't share this claim. I find that there is more noise than I would expect when you reach 70 mph, although not as bad as it may seem. You can still hold a conversation without raising your voice. I was just a bit disappointed because comparing to slower speeds there is a huge difference in the road noise.
Also, I noticed that you can hear the music played in the car when you are outside, when all the windows and doors are closed. Even when the radio is not on at a high volume, it can be heard from outside, which somewhat proves that the soundproofing is not so good. I like to listen to music when driving and I often turn up the volume when I really enjoy the song, but need to turn it down quickly when waiting at the traffic lights, so that people don't think I am a chav or a show off!
* Electronic technology
Each Audi A3 SE is fitted with electronic stabilization programme (ESP), which improves the control over the car when accelerating, braking or driving on curvy roads, and it also reduces the possibility of skidding.
So to help with braking, this programme includes an anti-lock brake system and a brake assist system, which help achieve a shorter braking distance. From my own experience I can confirm that the car breaks easily, even at relatively high speeds. I know safe braking doesn't depend only on the brakes, but also on road conditions; however, this is an added safety feature and I totally trust that if driven responsibly, the car will stop when it needs to.
On the other hand, to help with accelerating, the car is fitted with electronic differential lock and traction control system, which make it easier to get the car moving from standstill or to help with acceleration in difficult driving conditions, e.g. slippery surfaces or slope. I have never had any particular problems with driving in difficult conditions, not that I had so many chances to do that, but either this technology is working very well or the conditions were not difficult enough. Either way, I did get to work last year when the snowy weather brought half of the country to standstill, so I guess I should be grateful for the ESP in my car.
Just to finish off my technology bit of the review, I would like to mention that the speed sensitive power steering is just fantastic. I have no problems with turning the steering wheel on any kind of surface, at any speed.
------ Comfort ------
* Air conditioning
Works really fast and cools the car to whatever temperature you need. There are many air outlets so the air is distributed quickly. Unfortunately, there is no option to select a specific temperature (e.g. 20 degrees C) in the standard version, only a rotary dial with hotter air on one side and colder on the other side. Apart from that, there is a special air conditioning button, which cools the air even more if you need it to. You can still control the temperature pretty well and achieve a desired temperature, but you wouldn't know what temperature exactly it is.
The only negative about the air conditioning is that when the system is set to air recirculation mode (i.e. when it only uses the air from inside the car, instead of the air from outside), the air conditioning is quite noisy.
I think Audi have done a good job with space planning in A3, although I guess someone very tall might not be totally comfortable getting into the car, especially into the back seat. This car seems to be designed for a standard height single person or a couple; this is definitely not a family car. However, there is enough leg room at the back when you eventually get there. I rarely take passengers with me but my parents got into the car with me a few times and always said there was enough space for them.
Regarding the space in the booth, you can easily fit a few suitcases in. I always find there is enough space for shopping and luggage. Having changed accommodation several times during last couple of years, I think I have enough experience to confirm this.
------ Running and maintenance costs ------
* Fuel consumption
Audi A3 1.6 wouldn't win prizes for the lowest fuel consumption amongst compact cars but it doesn't fair that bad either. I change gears quickly to increase fuel economy, but I also drive rather fast on motorways, and my average fuel consumption is 37 miles per gallon (if I calculated it correctly!) or 7.5 l/km .
The new Audi A3 does not conform to the usual service periods or distances (miles distance to next service). It uses something called Variable Service, where the car itself decides when it needs servicing and lets you know by making a sound and showing word 'Service' on the miles counter. The service requirement is calculated based on the speed, style of your driving and other parameters that I don't really know much about. If you drive gently, you can expect to have longer periods between servicing; on the other hand if you use the car as hard as you can, you would need to service it more often. The standard should be around every 2 years or 18,000 miles.
Full service costs over £300, but you can reduce it by shopping around and getting quotes from various dealers and opting out of things like a spare bottle of engine oil, which they all insist on giving to you with the service.
* Insurance - Audi A3 1.6 belongs to group 9. I paid for my insurance approx. £300, which included a no claims discount.
* Road tax and CO2 emission - CO2 emission is 169g/km, which is equivalent of band E; the cost of road tax for a year is £170
Roadside assistance - included in the car price is free RAC roadside assistance for 3 years from the date of car registration, which I think is a useful thing to have.
------ Negatives ------
* Brake fluid container - level of fluid not very visible as the container is not transparent enough. The level of fluid is controlled electronically, but I would still like to be able to see how much of it is left in case the electronics stop working.
* Outside metal shell - the outside part of the car is not very tough. It is very easy to get a dent in the car, although the internal structure of the car is strong, this is not great visually. I had once an accident, where a car bumped into my car's back and the whole bumper had to be replaced.
* Standard not fitted with date, temperature display or on-board computer, automatic switch on headlights
* Position of hazard warning lights switch - it is located below the radio/CD control. I can never locate it easily when I need it and spend a few seconds trying to find the button.
* Wiper speed - there is a control to set wiper intervals and there are 3-4 wiper interval settings for slow wiper speeds and same for fast wiper speed. The wiper interval settings work fine on slow wiper speed, but if you change them during fast wiper speed, the wiper intervals don't really change
* Price - Audi in general is not a cheap car make with basic version of Audi A3 1.6 SE costing around £15,000. They don't drop in value as quickly as other makes and even used 1-3 year old cars often cost as much as a brand new Ford of Fiat of a similar size.
------ Positives and things I like ------
* Great looks and style; alloy wheels
* Special Edition, apart from the alloy wheels comes with a great sound system.
* Variable service periods - if driven gently, you get longer periods between servicing
* Central locking system - can be activated manually by using a remote control, pressing a button inside the car or locking the door with a key. For added safety, there is an automatic locking function, which is activated at speeds over 5 mph; no need to worry about leaving a handbag on the passenger seat or someone opening the door from outside. My car is also fitted with security central locking, which makes is possible to open either only the driver's door or both door if you wish. This is a great security feature when driving on your own.
* Seat belt warning - if you are not wearing your seat belt (or your passenger), a warning sign will come up and your will also hear an accompanying sound. I like this feature, although I am sure many cars are equipped with this as standard now.
* Key - can be folded into the handle, which takes less space in the handbag. All remote control keys are registered with Audi and can be deactivated if a key is lost
* Heated mirrors - they are really great. Work very quickly and are so useful during rain and snow
* Good storage - a few small storage spaces cleverly hidden inside the car and I find very useful. For example, there is a cup/ can holder, which is quite deep, so there is no worry of drinks spilling in your car. When not in use, the space can be covered with a sliding cover. Unfortunately, I noticed the cover opens a little when the car is driven.
------ Summary ------
In summary, Audi A3 1.6 SE is a great car, which not only has the looks but is also reliable and practical. I did mention a few negatives, but I think that the positives outweigh them by far. I cannot think about ever owning any other make of a car and I feel privileged and special when driving an Audi. This car is well worth its price and I would recommend it to anyone, as long as you can afford it.
This review has been posted on Ciao under the same username.