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I owned the Audi A3 1.8T Sport for 4 years, I purchased the car from new. At this point I need to make it clear and state that I am not Jeremy Clarkson, I didn't race this car around a track, or drop it from a height, nor did I destroy any caravans in the making of this dooyoo review.
I did however clock up over 80,000 miles in this car, had it serviced according to the schedule at the main dealer, and so I am, in my opinion qualified to tell other people about it. If you are reading this review you are probably looking to buy this car second hand, so I hope this review is of some use to you.
The model A3 1.8T sport, cost me around £18,000 in 2001, but today, you can pick a decent one up for around £4 - 6,000 depending on mileage.
At the time (2001) the car was outwardly contemporary, having a look of a posh VW Golf about it, a car that would look as good, if not more stylish, than its more expensive german counterparts in the firms car park.
I suppose it has aged rather well, it does look a little dated, I grant you that. It isn't to bad though if you were considering buying one even now. The main attractive feature is the rounded curves, and smooth lines provided by having only two main doors. Giving the car a more refined appearance, and beefier wider girth than the comparable cars in its class.
However, considering the car has 17" wheels, 150 horses, a 0-60 time of 8 point something seconds, a realistic top speed of 130mph, and is only two models down from the flagship S3 version. The car is very understated. Visually giving you no impression of what it is capable of. With only the small T, hinting that the car has a turbo (proper petrol car turbo, not a boring diesel turbo).
Audi certainly don't do tack! No go faster stripes here, or ridiciolous spoilers, Audi do refinement, if thats not your bag, then this isn't the car for you.
This is a car for people who are quietly confident, assured, like to be quietly understated, rather than acting like testosterone fueled monkeys (of all ages) wanting to demonstrate their virilty and size of manhood, via their wheels.
The option I choose came with leather seats, heated of course! An these dominated the interior, giving the car an incredibly luxurious look and feel . The centre arm (also leather) raises up giving you more cabin space, and it even opens via a top lid, giving you more storage space. The cloth variety also looked stylish, albeit not the same effect, so I would recommend finding an example with leather.
From the driving seat, you are confronted with a dash that looks plain yet refined, the central digital display panel, giving you all the information you need, ranging from time to next service, to engine status, to external temperature. You are even able to set speed warnings, to alert you if you stray over a set limit. The dials are beautifully made and just dont look cheap, (nestled either side of the digital display) as doesn't the quality plastics used overall. There is even an inlay of American walnut running across the dash, and down the centre console, giving the whole cabin even more refinement.
The rear of the car is easily accessible, as at a touch of a button, the whole seat moves forward and leans down, giving you easy access. The seat also maintains memory of its position, and so returns back to its same setting when your done. Especially important if your the driver. I wouldn't consider the rear to be cramped, 5 adults can fit comfortably in the back, it certainly isn't a 2 +2 type car, the rear seats are usable.
-Cars Best Bits -
The best bits
I am not going to reel off a list here, whats the point? But I will mention the most significant nerdy specs.
EBD, Electronic Breakforce Distribution, - Basically means it evenly distributes and constantly adjusts the braking pressure to each individual wheel, making the braking more efficient, even on uneven surfaces. This coupled with ABS, means that this Audi can stop on a sixpence, almost literally. Best brakes I have ever used!
ESP, no not Extra Sensory Perception, but Electronic Stability Programme or similar, - Basically it is a combination of traction control (no more wheel spinning) and a clever connection with the ABS, meaning that if you are driving in adverse weather you maintain control and traction of your vehicle around corners etc. It clevely detects a wheel trying to spin faster than the others, and gently applies the brakes to that wheel, bringing it into line with the others. This function can be switched off, but the dealer advised against it. Unless you want to drive off the road, and into a hedge that is!
Climate Control - To me this is quite alien, it basically works the same way as air conditioning, except you type in the temperature desired, rather than twiddle a knob. If twiddling a knob is your thing (no smutty comments) then you won't like it. Personally I prefer fiddling with buttons so it suited me. The effect was the same as regular air conditioning, but it did cost an extra £1,000 or so. A great feature to look out for though!
Bose Sound System - As an option this Audi can be installed with an 8 speaker Bose sound system (amazing sound), and comes with a 6 CD front loading stereo system, which is compatible with MP3 units (even back in 2001).
-Safety & Reliability-
The Audi A3, achieved a 4 star crash rating of Euro NCAP for occupants, meaning that for the time of manufacture 2001, it was one of the best of its size class. It is most definitely a rigid car, and feels very solid. There are also 6 air bags, and two side curtain airbags, should you decide to crash, you should be quite safe.
Reliability considering its an Audi, was rather amazingly a problem for me. At the time of ownership Audi was having an issue with one of its manufacturers of ignition coils. They conveniently failed to tell me that while selling the car, I suppose it wouldn't be a good thing to mention during the sales patter. So anyway, during the first year of ownership I had to take the car back to the garage a total of 5 times to replace them. Which for a 4 cylinder car is quite amazing. The failing ignition coils didn't technically cause the car to breakdown, but they did make it sound sickly, and cause the dreaded engine ECU light to illuminate.
Aside from this issue which has now been resolved by Audi (to my knowledge) there were no more gripes during my 4 years and 80,000 miles of owning the car.
If I was to say the word extortion. You might conjure up thoughts of the Mafia, or Eastend villains, but no, I am talking about main dealerships who see fit to charge over £100 per hour. Now I am not talking an hour with a high class hooker, I am talking about paying for an hour of work done by John the grease monkey.
To give you an example, to have my front pads changed, and a full service it cost me £750! Wow, I said, did I drop off my Testarossa to be serviced? Or my A3? No it was just the cost for a plain Audi A3.
Fortunately though the main services were only around every 40,000 miles, with an interim coming inbetween at every 20,000. Still expensive though, so if purchasing one second hand, do avoid the main dealers! Unfortuntaly for me, I had no choice because of the new car warranty, and living nowhere near an alteranative dealer.
-Driving Experience and Summary-
When driving normally, the car was undenibaly dull, mind numbingly dull. It was like floating around on a cloud, wafting, billowing around aimlessly, devoid of emotion. There was such a huge detachment from driver to wheels, it was surreal. Having since driven BMW's, and Mercedes, I now know thats the german way. Which is why the sport derivatives of those German cars are so exciting in comparison.
So if like me you had previously owned (and now own again) an Alfa Romeo, a real drivers car, an Italian car, a car that screams at you, a car that speaks to your soul. Your going to be bitterly dissapointed.
The Italians like passion, excitment, lust, whereas clearly the Germans, like their Austrian counterparts, enjoy a more refined drive, quitely, aimlessly, a softly softly approach to driving. They enjoy wafting around listening to classical music, thinking (probably, about what family member to lock up in the basement next).
This isn't to say that the car isn't quite impressive in acceleration, the comforting whistle from the turbo lets you know your moving along swiftly, but the feelings from the car, don't inspire excitment, passion, or lust, or make you feel like your about to die. You won't get home and want to make love after driving this car, you'll just want to soak in the bath, smoke a pipe, put on some slippers, and go off to bed.
It does everything well, just disspassionately, effieciency is the name of the game. However if the German effieciency, and approach to life, is for you, then this is certainly your car.
Me, well i'm most definitely an Alfa Romeo man!