Is Audi a Good First Car? (A1, A3, A4, A5, S3, S4, TT + 5 More)

Audi makes luxury cars, sports sedans, and SUVs.

But how suitable are they as first cars?

is audi a good first car

Generally: Are Audis Good First Cars?

Most Audi vehicles adopt the all-wheel-drive system, in line with its premium status, but it increases costs.

The brand’s products generally have commendable build quality. Still, most Audis are high-performance vehicles at premium price tags, making them less ideal for first cars, except for a few models.

Further, Audi placed #15 out of 28 automotive brands in Consumer Reports’ 2021 reliability ranking – a middling performance relative to the competition.

Research is crucial to pick the best Audi suitable for your first car.

Specific Audi Models:

#1 Is an Audi A1 a Good First Car?

The Audi A1 is Audi’s premium supermini that is popular in Europe but, logically, isn’t available in the US market.

The Audi A1 is an excellent first car with many positives:

  • Excellent fuel economy – 30 city/69 highway/48 combined UK mpg (25/57/40 US mpg) for the smallest petrol variant; 53 UK mpg (44 US mpg) combined for the diesel. These are real mpg figures.
  • Solid build quality – excellent fit and finish that’s typically Audi.
  • Strong reliability – AutoExpress and CarBuyer UK rated it 4/5 stars; the AA awarded 4.5/5 stars.
  • Top-notch Euro NCAP safety rating – the 2010 and 2019 Audi A1 achieved 5/5 stars.
  • Fairly expensive insurance – UK insurance group 9 or higher, depending on variant and engine size.

However, the A1 isn’t an ideal first car for American buyers due to the added expense and hassle of importation and the high cost of parts that aren’t available locally.

Alternatives to the Audi A1 include:

  1. Mini Cooper – fun handling in an iconic styling.
  2. Alfa Romeo Mito – has great looks and more features; cheaper too.
  3. Fiat 500 – tinier than the Audi A1 and more affordable, although its build quality is lower than the A1.

#2 Is an Audi A3 a Good First Car?

The A3 is Audi’s smallest luxury sedan in the US market, available in sedan, convertible, or wagon, depending on model year.

If you can afford the relatively high price, the Audi A3 is a good first car despite minor drawbacks:

  • Moderately powerful – the less potent A3s with 140 hp (2010 to 2013 turbodiesel) and 150 hp (2015 & 2016 turbodiesel) are adequately-powered. Other A3s produce more horsepower.
  • Front-wheel-drive – the ideal drivetrain for new drivers.
  • Good visibility – slim roof pillars; a plus for inexperienced drivers.
  • Strong reliability – 2015 and newer A3s; pre-2014 models are less reliable.
  • Top-notch safety – IIHS and NHTSA gave full marks in their crash tests.
  • Average fuel economy – between the mid-20s and 30 mpg combined, depending on model year.
  • Regular gas – thankfully, it’s a luxury car that doesn’t require premium fuel.
  • Relatively costly for a first car – unless you opt for used A3s more to 10 years old (below $10,000).
  • Moderately expensive to maintain – about $741/year, although luxury compact cars average $801/year.
  • Somewhat cramped back seats – still, it’s a compact car.

The more expensive AWD drivetrain is available for extra traction but isn’t necessary for a first car unless you live in a snowy region.

Read the Audi A3 First Car post for more details on the pros and cons, plus an A3 comparison with other compact sedans.

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.

The 2015 Audi A3 is the most problematic, according to CarComplaints – excessive oil consumption is its most reported problem.

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

2016 to 2020 Audi A3 are the best with a combination of higher fuel economy, impeccable safety ratings, and strong reliability – but they’re relatively more expensive.

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.

#3 Is an Audi A4 a Good First Car?

The Audi A4 is the bigger brother of the A3 and oozes more horsepower than the latter.

It may be an excellent luxury sports car and has some positives for new drivers, but overall, the Audi A4 is an average first car:

  • Moderate power output – near or above 200 hp, depending on model year. That said, you don’t need a turbocharged engine in your first car.
  • Expensive AWD – although FWD variants are available in some model years.
  • Pricey first car – if you want an A4 for under $10k, you’ll need to aim for a 10-year or older one.
  • Average fuel economy for a first vehicle – mid to high-20s mg combined, but
  • Premium fuel – first cars should only need regular gas.
  • Patchy reliability record – older A4s seem more reliable than newer ones.
  • Good crash safety – 2017 and newer A4s achieved full overall scores in IIHS and NHTSA tests, but the older ones did not.
  • Moderately expensive maintenance – $739/year, similar to other luxury midsize cars’ average, although cheaper than the BMW 3-Series.
  • Good visibility – slim windshield pillars and large windows help outward views; probably the best among small luxury vehicles.
  • Roomy backseat – the A4 and A3 are small luxury sedans, but the former is comparatively larger.

The least powerful available are 2019 & 2020 A4 (188 hp) and 2006 A4 or older (170 hp).

The Audi A4 First Car post details these pros and cons, plus an A4 comparison with better first cars.

Best Audi A4 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 A44/45/529 mpg75/100
2021 A44/45/528 mpg75/100
2020 A44/45/530 mpgNA1
2019 A44/45/530 mpg81/100
2018 A44/45/531 mpg81/100
2017 A44/45/531 mpg82/10013
2016 A43.4/45/525 mpg82/1002
2015 A43.4/45/527 mpg82/1001
2014 A43.4/45/527 mpg83/1009
2013 A43.4/45/526 mpg84/10016
2012 A43.4/44/525 mpgNA11
2011 A43.4/44/525 mpgNA26
2010 A43.4/4NA26 mpgNA18
2009 A43.4/4NA25 mpgNA35
2008 A4NANA24 mpgNA20
Audi A4 model years comparison.

According to CarComplaints, the 2009 Audi A4 is the most problematic with excessive oil consumption.

Across all A4 model years, engine issues are the worst problems; 2009, 2010, and 2011 A4s top that list.

The 2017 to 2019 A4s are reliable and have excellent safety ratings and fuel efficiency, making them the best overall Audi A4 for your first car.

#4 Is an Audi A5 a Good First Car?

The A5 is a luxury car that shares many features with the A4 and is available in coupe, convertible, and 4dr hatchback body styles.

It is a fine piece of engineering with an abundance of interior refinement, but the Audi A5 is unsuitable for a first car:

  • Powerful engine – it’s an inline 4, but it produces around 250-hp, outside the safe limits of a first car.
  • Expensive AWD – beginners should start with the cheaper FWD.
  • Average gas mileage – mid-20s mpg in combined driving.
  • Premium unleaded fuel – required or recommended depending on the model.
  • Too pricey for a first car – the latest models cost above $40k. The cheapest used A5 is still close to $10k.
  • Costly maintenance – $887 per year is expensive for a teenager. Luxury midsize cars average $739 per year.
  • Moderately expensive insurance – close to $6,000/year for 16-year-olds.
  • Low ground clearance – less than 5 inches is low for a city car that needs to negotiate bumps, humps, and potholes. A Civic or Corolla has 6.7 inches of ground clearance.

The Audi A3 is the better first car if you want an Audi sedan.

#5 Is an Audi A6 a Good First Car?

The Audi A6 is a midsize luxury sedan and a step up from the A5.

Unless you regularly carry passengers and require the room, you’re paying extra for features that a first car doesn’t need:

  • Too expensive for a first car – unless you settle for a 12-year-old A6 or older (under $10k).
  • Expensive drivetrain – all A6s are AWDs. Only helpful if your region experiences inclement weather.
  • Moderate to powerful engines – between 220 and 335 hp, depending on the model.
  • Middling fuel economy – between 20 and 26 mpg combined for the older gas models and 27 mpg combined for the hybrid (2019 onwards).
  • Requires premium fuel – you pay extra every time you refill.
  • Relatively costly to maintain – $913 a year.

#6 Is an Audi A7 a Good First Car?

The A7 bases on the A6 but has a sweeping roofline towards the back-end – Audi calls it the Sportback body style.

Only the A8 is larger than them in Audi’s sedan lineup.

Most of the A6’s drawbacks apply, and the Audi A7’s size makes it a poor choice for a first car because it’s difficult to park and maneuver for a new driver.

Plus, the maintenance cost on the A7 is prohibitively expensive at $1,251 per year – luxury full-size cars only average $976 annually (according to RepairPal).

Suppose you need the generous space of a full-size sedan for your first car.

In that case, there are many cheaper but quality alternatives:

  1. Toyota Avalon
  2. Kia Cadenza
  3. Chevy Impala

Still, your first car shouldn’t have more power than it needs to be an economical daily driver.

#7 Is an Audi Q2 a Good First Car?

The Q2 is a subcompact luxury crossover SUV that debuted in 2016 in the European markets.

It is not sold in the US or Canada, where the one-size larger A3 is available.

The Audi Q2 offers the profile and elevated ride height that benefit first-time drivers, is a front-wheel-drive, and achieved excellent Euro NCAP ratings of 5 stars overall, making it a good first car for teenagers.

It has a beginner-friendly 114 horsepower in the base gasoline engine, although the near-300-hp in the most potent variant is too quick for inexperienced drivers.

However, the Q2’s reliability record is average – AutoExpress rated it 3.5/5 stars, and CarBuyer UK gave it 4/5 stars.

UK buyers should note that Audi Q2 falls in insurance groups 13 and higher, depending on variant and engine size – the base 1.0L gas engine is the cheapest to insure.

#8 Is an Audi Q3 a Good First Car?

The Q3 is Audi’s smallest crossover SUV in the American market and a relatively new addition to the brand’s fleet.

Considering the high prices of their vehicles, the Audi Q3 is a good first car because it has an entry-level price (in Audi terms) that lets you get behind the wheels of an Audi in an SUV without blowing your budget.

Plus, it provides an elevated seating position that offers good visibility, has excellent crash test scores, and comes packed with tech and safety features to assist a safer drive.

Its 200-horsepower i4 engine (or 228-hp from newer models) is sufficiently strong to haul an SUV’s weight but nowhere near high enough to cause troubles.

The moderately powered engine should keep insurance premiums reasonable for teenagers.

Still, the Q3’s fuel consumption isn’t class-competitive with low-20s mpg in combined driving.

#9 Is an Audi Q5 a Good First Car?

The Q5 is a luxury compact SUV that levels up on the smaller Q3 in size (minimally) and power.

It comes with a hybrid powertrain beginning 2021, although only an option in 2020.

The Q5 offers uninspired performances in several aspects relative to the extra money you pay over the Q3.

The Audi Q5’s mediocre reliability (especially with the hybrids that debuted in 2020), high maintenance costs (approx. $928/year), and middling fuel economy (low to mid-20s mpg combined) make it a poor choice for first cars.

The hybrid’s 25 mpg combined is particularly disappointing.

Further, the 2014 Audi Q5 recorded the highest number of owner complaints, followed by the 2012 model, according to CarComplaints.

Engine and excessive oil consumption issues are the Q5’s most-reported problems.

#10 Is an Audi S3 a Good First Car?

The Audi S3 is the sportier variant of A3, a luxury performance sedan.

The higher performance and price tag push the Audi S3 into the bad first car territory because teenagers do not need what it can offer:

  • Too powerful for inexperienced drivers – close to 300 horsepower is excessive.
  • Solid safety ratings – maximum overall scores in IIHS and NHTSA crash tests.
  • Considerably more costly than the A3 – expect at least $10,000 more than the A3 for the latest models.
  • Expensive drivetrain – all-wheel-drive vehicles are costly to buy and maintain.
  • Mediocre gas mileage – mid-20s is poor by today’s standard, especially for a first car.
  • Premium fuel required – makes poor financial sense for a teenager’s daily driver.
  • Costly maintenance – expect to pay close to $1,000 per year. Reliable first cars pay less than half that.
  • Low ground clearance – 4.6 inches or less makes going over bumps and humps a painful experience (a Honda Civic has 6.7 inches).

The front-wheel-drive A3 with less power is more suitable for young drivers.

#11 Is an Audi S4 a Good First Car?

The S4 is similar to the A4 but capable of more performance.

While the A4 isn’t a good vehicle for inexperienced drivers, the higher-performance S4 is a terrible first car:

  • Excessively powerful – 300-plus hp is too extreme for a less-experienced driver to handle safely.
  • High fuel consumption – between 21 and 24 mpg combined, depending on model year.
  • Premium gas – recommended or required depending on the model.
  • Steep prices – above $50k for the latest model. If you want a used S4 for under $10k, you’ll need to shop for one that’s 12 years or older.
  • All-wheel-drive – all S4s power four wheels. Excellent for added grip but mostly unnecessary unless you live in a snowy region.
  • Prohibitively expensive maintenance – $1,171/year, according to RepairPal.

See the Audi vehicles comparison below to find the best Audi for your first car.

#12 Is an Audi TT a Good First Car?

The Audi TT is a luxury sports car available as a 2dr coupe or 2dr convertible.

Its evolution spanned three generations: MK1 (1998-2006), MK2 (2006-2014), and MK3 (2014-present).

It is an attractive sports coupe that has superb cornering capability with its AWD system and short wheelbase, but these attributes make the Audi TT less suitable as a first car:

  • Premium gas – recommended (2010, 2015 to 2018) or required (other model years). Either way, it’s the more expensive fuel.
  • All-wheel-drive – an expensive and unnecessary drivetrain in most conditions. AWDs are costlier to repair than FWDs.
  • Too expensive for first cars – unless you opt for a used Audi TT that’s ten years old or older.
  • Poor visibility – the low driver’s seat makes getting a good view of the road challenging, especially for shorter drivers.
  • Low-slung vehicle – more difficult to get in or out; not the ideal daily driver.
  • Unsuitable for night driving – the low seating position means light from vehicles in the opposite direction will constantly beam into your eyes.
  • Low ground clearance – less than 5 inches. Speed humps and bumps will hurt the underside of the car.
  • Costly maintenance – $924/year is exorbitant; first cars should cost half of that.
  • Limited storage space – not ideal for road trips.
  • Tiny rear seats – you’d have to say no to passengers.

Audi TTs are expensive sports cars that invite high insurance premiums.

Check out the Audi TT First Car post for more details.

Rivals to the Audi TT include:

  1. BMW Z4
  2. Porsche 718 Cayman
  3. Porsche Boxster
  4. Toyota GR Supra

These are powerful vehicles that only seasoned drivers should consider.

Audi TT vs. Better First Cars

Table Guide:

  • Fuel Economy: mpg combined (manual).
  • 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.
 HorsepowerFuel Econ.Maint. CostsSafety (IIHS)Safety (NHTSA)Visibility
Audi TT228 hp26$924NANAPoor
Subaru BRZ205-228 hp24$6723.8/4NAGood
Honda Civic Si197-205 hp30$368+4/45/5Good
Mazda Miata116-181 hp29$429NANAAverage
Honda Civic110-158 hp33$3684/45/5Good
Audi TT comparison with better first

The alternatives are less powerful and cheaper to operate.

The Honda Civic Si is at the upper limit of a reasonable first car due to the 205-hp’s delivery through a front-wheel-drive system.

The MX-5 Miata may be an RWD, but its 158-hp is more manageable for new drivers.

A base Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla would be an ideal first car.

Comparison: Best Audi 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.
  • Visibility: excellent, good, average, poor.
  • Fuel Economy: mpg city/highway/combined (base model).
  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems (JD Power).
  • Maintenance Costs: per year avg. (RepairPal).
Safety (IIHS)Safety (NHTSA)VisibilityFuel Econ.ReliabilityMaint. Costs
Audi A1Good25/57/40
Audi A34/45/5Good27/36/3082/100$741
Audi A44/45/5Good25/34/2881/100$739
Audi A5NANAGood24/31/2783/100$887
Audi A64/45/5Good22/32/2680/100$913
Audi A74/4NAAverage22/29/2482/100$1,251
Audi S34/45/5Good22/29/25NA$974
Audi S44/45/5Good21/30/24NA$1,171
Audi TTNANAPoor23/31/26NA$924
Audi Q2Good30/45/35
Audi Q34/45/5Good20/28/2377/100$915
Audi Q54/45/5Good22/28/2479/100$928
Audi models comparison.

If you want a sedan, the A3 remains the best Audi for a first car through a combination of an FWD system, modest horsepower, good visibility, and strong reliability.

UK buyers can opt for the Audi A1.

Alternatively, the Q3 is the best first Audi if you’re an Audi loyalist and desire the elevated seat position of an SUV for improved visibility.

Alternative Makes to Audi for a Teenager’s First Car

If you love an Audi or want the most dependable first car, these brands and models are viable options:

  1. BMW – 3 Series.
  2. Mercedes-Benz – C-Class.
  3. Chevrolet – Impala.
  4. Acura – TLX.
  5. Honda – Civic.
  6. Toyota – Corolla, Avalon, RAV4.
  7. Mazda – Mazda 3, MX-5 Miata, CX-5.

Always do your research, inspect, and test drive before buying.