Used 2008 Audi A3
There are no major changes for the 2008 Audi A3. Satellite radio and an auto-dimming mirror are now standard on the 3.2 model, while iPod integration and manual rear sunshades become available on both A3 models.
- Versatile interior space, enjoyable driving dynamics, availability of F1-style sequential-shift transmission, excellent safety for a small car.
- Rear-seat legroom is tight, 3.2 trim level's lofty price is out of sync with A3's entry-level status.
Edmunds' Expert Review
Resist the pricey options list and the 2008 Audi A3 offers good value for entry-level luxury buyers with the bonus practicality of a four-door hatchback body style.
Like George and Weezy, Audi's entry-level A4 has been moving on up ever since its arrival more than 10 years ago. Back in the 1990s, this entry-luxury compact was big on value thanks to its low $20Ks base price, but today a bare-bones A4 hits the register at more than 28 large before even the most basic options are selected. Thankfully, there's a more affordable way to get in on the Audi ownership experience: the 2008 Audi A3 compact hatchback wagon.
Slightly smaller than its pricier sibling, the A3 is now Audi's least expensive car. Although it has been on sale in Europe since 1996, U.S. buyers didn't get a crack at it until the second-generation A3 arrived here for the 2006 model year. This delay has been attributed to Americans' general dislike for hatchbacks and wagons, but with gas prices and environmental awareness rising (not to mention the A4's price), Audi gambled that its versatile luxury hatchback could win a few converts.
As such, the 2008 Audi A3 is a bit of an enigma. In terms of body style and base price, one could cross-shop it against performance hatchbacks and wagons like the Mazda Mazdaspeed 3 or Subaru WRX. At the same time, the A3's Audi badge puts it into consideration with other entry-level luxury cars, and only the Volvo V50 and Saab 9-3 SportCombi come close to being direct competitors.
Therefore, the A3 should be considered an alternative to both segments, but realistically, only those luxury buyers who can live with its highly compact hatchback layout will find it truly appealing. If you're one of those people, and you can steer clear of the A3's pricey options list, the base A3 2.0T is a pretty good bargain considering its lively performance and handling and high-quality interior. The 3.2 Quattro is a different matter, as its additional standard feature content causes it to start 8 grand north of the 2.0T. In that price territory, we can think of a lot of other entry-level cars -- BMW 328i, Infiniti G35 or Audi's own A4 2.0T -- that would be more satisfying to own.
trim levels & features
The 2008 Audi A3 is a four-door hatchback/wagon offered in two trim levels: 2.0T and 3.2 Quattro. The numbers refer to each trim's engine displacement, while Quattro is the name of Audi's all-wheel-drive system.
Standard features on the 2.0T include 17-inch wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, one-touch power windows, a trip computer and a 10-speaker audio system. There are a number of packages and stand-alone options available as well. The "S line" Package provides a sport-tuned suspension, foglamps, sport seats with leather upholstery, aluminum interior trim, unique front and rear fascias and a roof spoiler. The Premium Package also includes some of the S line's items like leather upholstery and foglamps, but adds a 12-way power driver seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rain-sensing wipers and HomeLink.
The 3.2 Quattro includes almost all of the equipment from the S line and Premium Packages as standard. Satellite radio is also included. Options on both trim levels include bi-xenon headlamps, a dual-pane sunroof, a navigation system, a manual rear sunshade, Bluetooth connectivity, iPod integration and a cold weather package that includes heated seats, windshield washer nozzles and exterior mirrors.
performance & mpg
The front-wheel-drive A3 2.0T is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. Blessed with a usefully broad power band, it propels this A3 to 60 mph in just 7 seconds. The 2.0T's standard transmission is a six-speed manual, and Audi's S tronic (formerly "DSG") sequential-shift automated gearbox is optional. With its rev-matching downshifts and lightning-quick gearchanges, the DSG is one of the best F1-style gearboxes currently available, and it offers all the convenience of a regular automatic transmission. Fuel economy is pretty good with this engine as well; the 2.0T with S tronic gets 22 city/29 highway mpg for 2008.
The A3 3.2 Quattro features a 3.2-liter 250-hp V6 that comes paired to the S tronic transmission. Although the 3.2 Quattro's standard all-wheel drive will be an asset for those who face slippery driving conditions, the heavier weight of this A3 means not much is gained in performance; the sprint to 60 mph takes 6.8 seconds. The A3 3.2 Quattro gets 18 city/25 highway mpg for 2008.
A wealth of safety technologies is standard on the A3, including front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, antilock brakes and stability control. Seat-mounted side airbags for rear passengers are optional. In crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the 2008 Audi A3 earned ratings of "Good" (the highest possible) in both the frontal-offset and side-impact tests.
Whether you choose the 2.0T or 3.2 Quattro, brisk performance is at hand for passing and merging maneuvers. When the curves come up, the 2008 Audi A3's electromechanical steering does a superb job of quelling vibrations and kickback without marring feedback. In typical Audi fashion, the ride is comfortably firm and the A3's handling is just as sporty as its larger siblings'. The junior Audi's well-tuned suspension keeps the car buttoned down in the turns, even as midcorner pavement imperfections try to knock it off line.
Like all Audis, the A3 features a well-crafted cabin with superior build quality and solid materials, though the furnishings aren't quite as nice as those of the more expensive A4. Styling is classically German, with straightforward buttons and controls -- a simplicity some may find preferable to the more complicated, expensive Audis. The excellent steering wheel with its built-in S tronic shift paddles fits the driver's hands perfectly, as does the leather-topped shift knob. The interior's total volume is actually equal to that of the first-generation Audi A4 wagon, and with a maximum cargo capacity of 56 cubic feet, is just 3 cubes shy of the current A4 Avant. Still, most will find the backseat short on legroom.
Features & Specs
More About This Model
No sooner had BMW kicked off the launch of its new 1 Series convertible in Valencia, Spain, than we were driving the 2008 Audi A3 Cabriolet a week later under similarly sunny skies a few hours up the road in Marseilles, France.
As anyone who has followed the fortunes of BMW and Audi in recent years will attest, it is typical of the rivalry of these two German carmakers that when one presents a new model, the other is not far behind.
We can expect the same confrontation when the 2008 Audi A3 Cabriolet joins the 2008 BMW 135i Convertible on the streets of America. We don't know yet when that will be, but our guess is probably later rather than sooner.
Back to the Ragtop
Hardtop convertibles have been the trend item from Europe lately, as only the very well-to-do can afford garage parking, and cloth-top convertibles are vulnerable to break-ins while parked on the street. The Volkswagen Eos hardtop is a direct response to these concerns.
But just like the BMW 1 Series convertible, the 2008 Audi A3 Cabriolet is a classic convertible with a power-operated fabric top. Michael Dick, Audi's development boss, maintains, "Audi has always offered cabriolets with a fabric roof. It provides greater upmarket cachet. When was the last time you saw a Bentley with a folding hardtop? With the latest developments in place, there are no compromises to a fabric roof."
Well, if you say so. More likely, the use of a fabric top reduces engineering costs and also lowers the price of the car to the customer. Of course, we'll admit that the modern, well-insulated cloth top with a glass rear window doesn't force you to accept any compromises in insulation from either the weather or road noise, and it's lightweight besides.
Conceived as a direct competitor to the BMW 1 Series convertible, the new four-seat cabriolet extends the A3 lineup to three body styles — three- and five-door hatchbacks plus this two-door convertible. But while the 1 Series is clearly the A3 cabriolet's keenest rival, Audi also counts the Ford Focus Coupe Convertible, Opel Astra TwinTop and Volkswagen Eos among the competition.
At this early stage, Audi is not committing to American sales, but with BMW set to push its new entry-level convertible in the U.S., the decision is just a matter of timing, really.
On Looks Alone
On looks alone, the A3 cabriolet gives the 1 Series a good run for its money. Flaunting the revised front end soon to be adopted by the upcoming face-lifted A3 hatchback and also wearing a stylish new rear treatment, the cabriolet turns heads, which is one of the most important measurements of convertible goodness.
Styled under the direction of Walter de'Silva (prior to his promotion to the post of design director for the whole of the Volkswagen Group), the A3 cabriolet looks more elegant than its competition. It hints at the larger A4 cabriolet, then mixes in elements of the recently introduced A5 coupe, most notably in the design of the angular taillights with their distinctive LEDs.
By choosing a traditional fabric roof over one of the more fashionable folding-hardtop arrangements that have come to dominate the compact cabriolet class in Europe in recent years, Audi says it has saved a valuable 88 pounds in weight. Moreover, the simplified packaging of the Z-fold fabric roof has left the back of the A3 cabriolet looking graceful and uncompromised. Unlike its hardtop rivals, the A3's rear overhang is ultra-short, and the trunk does not appear disproportionately large.
Pushing a button on the center console automatically lowers the windows an inch or two and unclips the roof from the windshield header, and then the roof neatly folds back over the cabin. The compact, Z-fold roof stack settles into a dedicated space behind the new Audi's fixed twin roll-over hoops, leaving behind an exposed tonneau cover. The whole operation takes just 10 seconds, or 6 seconds more if you count the time it takes for the windows to wind all the way up again. It is slick and quick!
While BMW has engineered the roof of the 1 Series convertible to operate at speeds up to 50 km/h (31 mph), the A3 cabriolet's fast-acting roof can only be set in motion at speeds up to 30 km/h (19 mph).
Inside, the 2008 Audi A3 Cabriolet comes with the same expensive-looking dashboard and cabin appointments as the A3 hatchback. Despite this car's compact exterior dimensions, the interior accommodations seem spacious and the front seats have a generous range of adjustment.
But of course it's a whole different story in the rear seat, since the top uses up most of the space. Between the upright seatback, narrow shoulder room and limited legroom, this is a space suitable only for pre-teen kids. At the same time, the seatback flips down, expanding the trunk's 9.2 cubic feet to 23.8 cubic feet of cargo capacity.
Audi offers the European-specification A3 cabriolet with a choice of four different engine options, with the promise of more to come once production gets up to speed.
There's a 160-horsepower turbocharged direct-injection 1.8-liter inline-4 and a 200-hp turbocharged direct-injection 2.0-liter inline-4. And since there's surprising demand for extremely frugal versions of even such luxury models as a convertible, Audi offers a 105-hp 1.9-liter inline-4 diesel as well as a 160-hp 2.0-liter inline-4 diesel.
The 200-hp turbo is already familiar to everyone in the U.S. And it's perfectly up to the task of motivating the 3,274-pound cabriolet with a solid shove at low rpm, tremendous flexibility through the midrange and a strapping amount of top-end power.
Making it all the more attractive is Audi's optional six-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission with shift paddles on the steering wheel. It channels power to the front wheels with incredible efficiency, performing lightning-fast gearchanges both on part throttle around town and full load on the open road. Opting for it over the standard six-speed manual will be an easy choice for most buyers, no doubt. Audi claims the 200-hp cabriolet will accelerate to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 7.3 seconds on the way to a top speed of 144 mph.
Not Just a Parade Car
There is more to the A3 cabriolet than its simple good looks and sheer straight-line performance. It is also a surprisingly good drive, with the sort of handling that is sure to see this car appeal not only to the traditional boulevard-cruising crowd but also to driving enthusiasts. Granted, it is not quite in the same league as the TT roadster, but it is rewarding all the same. The electronically assisted steering is linear, the chassis handles well at speed and there's lots of cornering grip from the 225/45R17 tires. Added to all this is a nicely composed ride.
Great handling begins with excellent chassis rigidity. Many convertibles at this end of the market feel compromised by a lack of structural rigidity, but Audi has done its homework, adding a substantial amount of bracing to the floor pan and bulkheads. In fact, Audi claims the A3 cabriolet has better body stiffness than any of its top-down rivals. Scuttle shake is conspicuous only by its absence on all but the roughest roads, and there's no annoying kickback through the steering wheel.
Class Always Tells
The 2008 Audi A3 Cabriolet gives the impression of being a far more expensive car than you'd expect in this class. It reflects all the lessons Audi has learned with the A4 cabriolet, which itself is scheduled shortly to be replaced by the A5 cabriolet.
Of course, this 2008 Audi A3 Cabriolet with its 200-hp turbo engine is priced at $41,400 in Europe, so it's not cheap. Like all of its competition — including the BMW 1 Series convertible — the A3 isn't making top-down driving more affordable. Instead it's simply preventing the cost from becoming even more expensive, as hardtop convertibles like the forthcoming Audi A5 and the recently introduced BMW 3 Series Convertible climb the price scale toward the luxury class.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
Used 2008 Audi A3 Overview
The Used 2008 Audi A3 is offered in the following submodels: . Available styles include 2.0T 4dr Wagon (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M), 3.2 quattro 4dr Wagon AWD (3.2L 6cyl 6A), 2.0T PZEV 4dr Wagon (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M), 2.0T 4dr Wagon (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6A), and 2.0T PZEV 4dr Wagon (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6A).
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