Like most Audi models there's a wide range of engines available from economical diesels to high performance petrols. The entry-level model is the 1.6-litre petrol which needs to be worked hard and doesn't suit the premium image of the A3. The 1.8-litre is better but the if you want more performance the turbocharged 1.8T variant is a gem and proved the most popular petrol engine.
Of course real hot hatch fans will want to track down an S3 quattro which manages to squeeze 210bhp from the same 1.8-litre. S3 models from 2001 were uprated to 222bhp. The diesel range is strong too - although the 1.9-litre TDI engine isn't the quietest or most refined unit around. There are four outputs available, 90bhp, 100bhp, 110bhp and 130bhp.
The 90bhp version is adequate but can feel sluggish but both the 110 and 130 versions are excellent.
Smooth, refined and quiet - the A3 is everything you'd expect from a premium hatchback. It's not the most involving car to drive and the steering can feel a little wooden but nonetheless it is safe and controlled, even when pushed hard. There's plenty of grip too and although the ride is firm it's not uncomfortable - a slick gearchange adds to the enjoyment.
Sport models and the S3 get firmer suspension and as a result are better on twisting roads although the ride on the latter is a little crashy over rough surfaces.