It was a clever tactical move by Audi to add two more doors to its sporty three-door compact hatchback and lengthen the body by 80 mm. This not only widened the A3’s target market and boosted sales, but started a trend to match sportiness with a compact station-wagon shape.
The Quattro models are perhaps unnecessarily complex for South African conditions, but provide extra grip when you need it. Both petrol and diesel derivatives are enjoyable driver’s cars with space for a family plus its luggage, with a boot size of 312 dm3 and utility space of 1 016 dm3. Automatic transmissions are best for cut-and-thrust traffic and the DSG ‘boxes are a lot of fun although more complex than the standard six-speed manual transmission.
In 2005, the engine line-up comprised 2,0-litre turbodiesel (103 kW) and petrol motors (110 and 147 kW), as well as a mighty 3,2-litre V6 that produced 184 kW. If you’re after a 3,2 Quattro, note that this model was dropped in 2009.
The more recent line-up offered the following powertrain choices: 1,4T FSI (92 kW/200 N.m), 1,8T FSI (118 kW/250 N.m), 1,9 TDI (77 kW/250 N.m), 2,0 TDI (103 kW/320 N.m) and 2,0T FSI (147 kW/280 N.m). The S3 Quattro has a 188 kW 2,0-litre turbo as opposed to the V6. The designation DSG (for direct-shift gearbox) changed its name to S tronic along the way. A mild midlife facelift in 2008 introduced the most recent powertrains, as well as a few cosmetic alterations.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR
Early 2,0 TDI engines can suffer from oil-pump failure due to wear in the small hexagonal drive after about 80 000 km.
The cambelts should be changed every 120 000 km for the TDI and 180 000 km for other models, but the V6 uses a timing chain. Unfortunately, cambelt failures are quite common and could occur due to incorrect belt tension or failure to replace the tensioner pulley that can lead to pulley seizure. Dual-mass flywheels can also break, so watch out for rattling noises up-front as a symptom. If you have gear-changing issues with a DSG, the mechatronics equipment is located behind a black cover plate on the side of the gearbox, which can be removed for inspection.
SUSPENSION, BRAKES AND WHEELS
A number of owners encountered problems with wheel bearings which required replacement. Bearing noises can be tricky to diagnose, as a feathered tyre tread can cause similar noises.
Battery-draining issues came up and seemed to be linked to instrumentation faults. Another drained battery was due to an air-conditioning fan’s failure to switch off. Remember that hatch solenoids and boot lamps can also give trouble, resulting in a drained battery. Coil-pack failure (usually one at a time) is an annoying but not horribly expensive fault, and obviously only relevant to petrol engines.
No complaints, so a thumbs up for the typically classy, solid Audi fit and trim.
If you have a DSG/S tronic gearbox, remember to adhere to the oil-change intervals of 60 000 km. A specific type of oil must be used and the filter changed at the same time. Special tools are required and if you want to do this service yourself, there is help available on the Internet.