Some cars make great new buys but lousy used buys. Others never look that sparkling new but come into their own as a used proposition. Then there are those models that people just want, whether they're new or used. Into that category you'd certainly slot the second generation Audi A3, especially in the improved facelifted guise launched in 2009. Its broad appeal ensures strong used demand and while that might mean that genuine bargains are hard to come by, it also ensures a decent amount of choice and, if you buy at the right time, you needn't get taken for a ride. Here's what to look for.
The original 1996-vintage MK1 Audi A3 changed the way many premium manufacturers thought about small cars. In short, this car made it clear to rivals that to charge top dollar, they were going to have to up their game. This was courtesy of Audi's belt-and-braces design approach. They could have just chopped the back off their compact A4 saloon and created this car: instead, they did the job properly and designed it from scratch.
A second generation version arrived in 2003, continuing the A3's strong sales performance, but in the last few years, Audi has started to feel less comfortable. First, premium rivals like BMW's 1 Series, Mercedes' A-Class and Volvo's C30 began to offer stronger competition. Second, comparably-sized volume models from Ford, Vauxhall and Peugeot amongst others began to approach or even equal the A3's standard of perceived quality, if not its badge equity. In 2009, Audi's response arrived in the shape of a revised A3 model that we consider here. A sleeker car with the kind of technical CV you'd expect to find on something much more expensive, it could be identified by its revised nose and tail styling, with a modified grille and daytime running lights. Common rail 2.0 TDI engines and a seven-speed S tronic dual clutch transmission were introduced and optional "magnetic ride" adaptive shock absorbers were offered. Fuel saving start-stop and recuperation systems were phased in throughout the life of this vehicle, with the 2.0 TDI diesel unit getting this tech in November 2009.
An ultra efficient 99g/km 1.6TDI diesel model was launched at the very end of 2009, at about which time highly regarded vehicle valuation specialist CAP named the Audi A3 'Executive Used Car of the Decade' in its Used Car Awards, acknowledging the major contribution made by the three and five-door hatchback in distilling the premium sector values traditionally reserved for larger prestige cars and introducing them into the compact class.