Used 2008 Audi A3 Review
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.
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.
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.