Is an Audi A3 a Good First Car? (11 Crucial Considerations)

The Audi A3 is a good choice for a first car with average fuel consumption and solid reliability, plus some models have an AWD drivetrain for better traction and car control.

That said, it has several premium car drawbacks that you need to consider before deciding.

audi a3 good first car

11 Considerations Before Getting an Audi A3 as Your First Car

Not all of them are negatives; read on to find out.

#1 Pricey First Car

A regular car from a mainstream brand is the more affordable option for most first car shoppers.

The latest Audi A3 base trim retails close to $35,000; for comparison, a brand-new Toyota Corolla starts from $21,000.

But if you opt for a used Audi, the relatively steeper depreciation compared to mainstream cars means you can get one inexpensively.

For example, a ten-year-old Audi A3 can cost between $8,000 and $13,000, trim and condition dependent.

A similar-age Toyota Corolla costs between $7,000 and $12,000, so getting a used Audi A3 for your first car isn’t an expensive affair.

That said, you still need to consider the A3’s running costs.

#2 Costly Upkeep (But Not the Most Expensive)

Owning a luxury vehicle means accepting the above-average costs to keep it running.

Fortunately, the A3’s $741 annual maintenance cost is slightly below the average of $801 for luxury compact cars.

But that figure is still high and is a crucial cost component, especially for first car owners who need to keep expenses in check.

Crucially, that is close to double what you’ll pay to maintain a regular Honda Civic.

Refer to the table below for the year-on-year increase in annual maintenance costs for an Audi A3 and how it stacks up against other compact cars.

The Honda Civic sedan is an excellent benchmark because it has a thoroughly affordable ownership cost.

YearAnnual Costs (Audi A3)Annual Costs (Audi A4)Annual Costs (BMW 3-Series)Annual Costs (Honda Civic)
A3 vs. A4 vs. 3-Series vs. Civic annual upkeep costs (CarEdge)

The probability of significant repair also increases with the A3’s age:

  • 2.77% in year 1,
  • 13.02$ in year 5,
  • 26.81% in year 10, and
  • 51.66% in year 12.

These probability figures are lower than those for the BMW 3-Series but on par with the Audi A4.

But a used car’s condition varies depending on its service history, so you’ll need to inspect and verify before deciding.

#3 (But) The Cheapest Maintenance Among Audis

Luxury cars are generally expensive to maintain, although Audis are typically cheaper than the equivalent Mercedes or BMW models.

However, if you want one of the least expensive Audis to maintain, the A3 is a smart choice.

ModelMaint. Costs (avg/yr)
Audi A3$741
Audi A4$739
Audi A5$887
Audi A6$913
Audi A7$1,251
Audi S3$974
Audi S4$1,171
Audi TT$924
Audi Q3$915
Audi Q5$928
Audi models maintenance cost (RepairPal)

#4 Cheapest German Luxury Brand to Insure

Expensive cars come with pricey insurance – as much as powerful vehicles in the hands of new drivers are more prone to accidents.

Mainstream brands aside, Audi is the cheapest to insure among the three German luxury automakers – BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi.

See the table below on the average full coverage cost for the various age groups (assuming good driver and credit):

Audi A3$5,884/year$2,656/year
Audi A4$5,441/year$2,456/year
BMW 3 Series$6,019/year$2,717/year
Honda Civic$5,070/year$2,289/year
A3 vs. A4 vs. 3-Series vs. Civic insurance costs (CarEdge)

16-year-old male teens can expect higher insurance premiums.

Insurance costs can vary significantly depending on your location, so it’s best to get quotes from insurers when budgeting for your first car.

#5 Relatively Strong Reliability

Audis are luxury vehicles built to pamper and thrill, first and foremost.

Still, Audis are relatively reliable vehicles.

Consumer Reports ranked Audi #15 out of 28 automakers in their 2021 reliability survey – two rungs above BMW and eight above Mercedes-Benz.

Elsewhere, RepairPal ranked the Audi A3 #4 out of 17 luxury compact cars in reliability – a respectable position and comforting if you want a luxury sedan.

That said, you can play a significant part in ensuring your car runs reliably by providing it appropriate and timely care.

#6 Average (But Improving) Fuel Economy

Premium vehicles typically aren’t as fuel-efficient as their non-premium counterparts.

However, the A3 is among the more fuel-efficient luxury cars, although older models have higher fuel consumption.

 Fuel Economy
BMW 335i25 mpg combined
Audi A428 mpg combined
Audi A330 mpg combined
Toyota Corolla33 mpg combined
Honda Civic33 mpg combined
Hyundai Elantra37 mpg combined
Audi A3 vs. other cars in fuel consumption.

The Toyotas, Hondas, and Hyundais have class-leading fuel economy.

So, if you want to get the most bang for your gas money, they are the ideal choice.

First cars can never be too fuel-efficient – the more you can stretch your petrol money, the better it is for your pocket.

#7 Regular vs. Premium Fuel

Luxury vehicles typically require or prefer premium fuel.

2020 and newer Audi A3 runs on the lower-octane and cheaper regular gas.

However, Audi recommends premium fuel for most A3s, except for the pre-2014 A3 wagons, which need the more-expensive gas.

Fuel requirement varies between model years and trims, so it’s best to check individual car specifications to avoid putting in the wrong type.

#8 Adequately Powerful Engines

Audi A3s are cars with reasonable power output.

The least powerful A3 with turbodiesel engines (2010 to 2013; 2015 & 2016) produce between 140 hp and 150 hp.

The rest of the gas-engined Audi A3 pumps out a healthy 170 hp to 228 hp.

The newer A3s have a hybrid powertrain with around 200 horsepower – peppy yet efficient.

#9 All-Wheel-Drive vs. Front-Wheel-Drive

Many premium vehicles adopt the rear-wheel-drive (RWD) or all-wheel-drive (AWD) architecture – the former provides stronger acceleration and the latter more traction.

Conversely, front-wheel-drive (FWD) cars are cheaper and return higher fuel economy.

The split between AWD and FWD Audi A3s is pretty even.

The lower expense of an FWD covers the vehicle price and upkeep and represents a better value proposition for new drivers.

But if you live in snowy climes, opt for an AWD Audi A3 for a safer drive.

#10 Poor Value Retention

Value retention in the Audi A3 is below-average, losing 49% of its value after five years and 81% after ten years.

The table below assumes a brand-new mid-trim Audi A3 that retails for approx. $40,000.

Vehicle AgeDepreciationValue LostResale Value
Audi A3 10-year depreciation.

Audi A3s come with:

  • 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty.
  • 4-year/unlimited-mile roadside warranty.
  • 4-year/50,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Audi’s coverage is on par with what BMW offers.

Extended coverage is necessary to buffer high repair and maintenance costs when buying a used Audi.

High depreciation in luxury cars is inescapable; the stronger value retention in reliable Japanese cars may be more attractive.

 5-yr Depreciation10-yr Depreciation
Honda Civic39%71%
Audi A349%81%
Audi A451%77%
BMW 3-Series55%78%
Audi A3 depreciation compared to other cars.

#11 Top-notch Safety

How well the car protects the driver and passengers in a collision is a top priority in first car selection.

In that case, the Audi A3 is a top contender and a safe choice.

The Audi A3 has won the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) safety award multiple times.

 IIHS Award (4dr Sedan)IIHS Award (4dr Wagon)
2019 Audi A3Top Safety Pick 
2018 Audi A3Top Safety Pick 
2017 Audi A3Top Safety Pick + 
2016 Audi A3Top Safety Pick + 
2015 Audi A3Top Safety Pick + 
2013 Audi A3 Top Safety Pick
2012 Audi A3 Top Safety Pick
2011 Audi A3 Top Safety Pick
2010 Audi A3 Top Safety Pick
2009 Audi A3 Top Safety Pick
2008 Audi A3 Top Safety Pick
2006 Audi A3 Top Safety Pick
Audi A3 IIHS awards.

Few cars have comparable crash safety credentials; the BMW 3-Series and Audi A4 are similarly safe vehicles.

Best Audi A3 Year for a First Car

Table Guide:

  • Safety (IIHS): 1 (poor) to 4 (good); IIHS tests average.
  • Safety (NHTSA): 1 (poor) to 5 (safest); NHTSA overall.
  • Fuel Economy: mpg combined (base model).
  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems (JD Power).
  • Complaints: total reported problems (CarComplaints).
Model YearSafety (IIHS)Safety (NHTSA)Fuel Econ.ReliabilityComplaints
2022 A3NANA32 mpgNA
2020 A34/45/530 mpg82/100
2019 A34/45/529 mpgNA
2018 A34/45/529 mpg81/1001
2017 A34/45/529 mpg80/100
2016 A34/45/527 mpg82/1005
2015 A34/45/527 mpg82/10029
2013 A34/4NA24 mpg75/1006
2012 A34/4NA24 mpg81/100
2011 A34/4NA24 mpg79/1002
2010 A34/4NA24 mpg78/1004
2009 A34/4NA24 mpg78/1006
2008 A34/4NA24 mpg72/100
2007 A33.6/4NA24 mpg74/1001
Audi A3 model years comparison.

According to CarComlaints, the 2015 Audi A3 is the most problematic – excessive oil consumption is its most reported problem.

Engine issues remain the A3’s worst problem across all model years, with 2015 A3 topping that list.

Although more expensive, the 2016 to 2020 Audi A3 are the best with a combination of strong fuel economy, impeccable crash safety, and strong reliability.

IIHS awarded those A3s the Top Safety Pick award, so you know you’re driving a safe first car.

Alternatively, opt for a 2013 or older A3 in wagon body as they offer a great deal of flexibility and cargo space for a daily driver.

Plus, the A3 wagons won the IIHS Top Safety Pick awards.

Audi A3 Compared with Cheaper Compact Cars

Table Guide:

  • Fuel Economy: mpg city/highway/combined (base).
  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems (JD Power).
  • Maintenance Costs: per year avg. (RepairPal).
  • Safety (IIHS): 1 (poor) to 4 (good); IIHS tests average.
  • Safety (NHTSA): 1 (poor) to 5 (safest); NHTSA overall.
  • Visibility: excellent, good, average, poor.
 Lowest HPFuel Econ.ReliabilityMaint. CostsSafety (IIHS)Safety (NHTSA)Visibility
Audi A3140 hp27/36/3082/100$7414/45/5Good
Honda Civic110+ hp30/38/3382/100$3684/45/5Good
Toyota Corolla120+ hp30/38/3383/100$3624/45/5Good
Mazda 3140+ hp28/36/3180/100$4334/45/5Average
Audi A3 comparison with mainstream compact cars.

Note: The 140-hp Audi A3 has a turbodiesel engine; gas engines in newer A3s produce between 170 hp and 228 hp.

That said, the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and Mazda 3 are excellent alternatives for your first car.

They are thriftier and cost less to run.

Plus, they are just as safe as the A3 but at a lower price.