You’re in the market for a five-door hatchback, but do you buy new with a stylish Vauxhall Astra or do you go used with the supremely classy Audi A3? Read our full new vs used test to find out
Picture the scene. You’re about to commit to that five-door hatchback that you’ve decided is the car you need and your research tells you the Vauxhall Astra is one of the best; it’s decent to drive, reasonably efficient and comes with a spacious and practical interior. It’s excellent value, too.
However, just as you’re about to sign on the dotted line, you discover that for the same price as your new Astra you can have a one-year-old example of the Audi A3 – and that’s a car with a premium badge and is a former What Car? Car of the Year.
So does the A3 have what it takes to sway you out of your new Astra? Is it worth taking the risk on a used car? Read on as we pit our favourite versions of the two cars against each other.
*** Note : £1 = $1.35 (correct at time of post)
Vauxhall Astra 1.0T Tech Line Nav
- List Price £18,500
- Target price £17,092
- Official fuel economy 64.2mpg
- Emissions 102g/km CO2
- Power 103bhp
- 0-62mph 10.5sec
- Top speed 121mph
Audi A3 1.0 TFSI Sport
- Price new £22,965
- Price today £17,000
- Official fuel economy 60.1mpg
- Emissions 107g/km CO2
- Power 113bhp
- 0-62mph 9.9sec
- Top speed 128mph
Price today is based on a 2017 model with average mileage and a full service history
New Vauxhall Astra vs used Audi A3 – styling
Compared with the version it replaced, this latest Astra pulls off a clever trick: it’s a fraction smaller on the outside but bigger on the inside. It looks great externally, too, being fresh, smart and attractive. The wide front grille and neat headlights have the look of a premium car and the Astra tapers back to a fine point just behind the rear window, making the car really stand out in this class.
Like the Astra, the A3 has had some quite bland predecessors. However, this model, while it’s been around for a few years, was mildly facelifted in 2016 and still looks crisp, modern and handsome. The headlights are a work of art, and while the styling is four-square and a predictable evolution of older A3s, it manages to portray the car’s high-quality feel to onlookers.
New Vauxhall Astra vs used Audi A3 – driving
The Astra has an up-to-the-minute platform that imbues the car with good levels of grip and nicely balanced handling. It feels light on its feet and keen to change direction. Added to that, it rides well most of the time, although the low-speed ride can be a little fidgety and road irregularities are both heard and felt. The 1.0-litre engine has just enough oomph to propel the Astra along well, even if sharp inclines can occasionally catch it out.
The A3 has a chassis of rare composure in this class, with a silken fluency to its ride most of the time. At low speeds, there can be a little patter but, despite its relative firmness, the car is never uncomfortable. It handles corners with aplomb, too, via quick and accurate steering, high levels of grip as well as well-balanced and – for the keener driver – encouraging handling. The 1.0-litre engine is more than up to the job, with plenty of flexibility, excellent accelerator response and a consistent power delivery.
New Vauxhall Astra vs used Audi A3 – interior & equipment
The aim for Vauxhall with this Astra was to up its perceived quality to let it take on cars such as the A3. Largely, it’s worked, with a logical dashboard layout and use of better-quality materials, as well as some styling tweaks that utilise more flashy foils and decorative trims to the interior. Our Tech Line Nav car is well equipped, too, adding a useful sat-nav to a healthy list of standard kit that includes alloy wheels, air-con and an intuitive touchscreen infotainment system.
However, it has some way to go to match the sparkling interior of the A3. The dashboard and its surrounding controls (both major and minor) are all where you’d expect to find them and all feel beautifully made and well damped. The interior is a paragon of quality and modern design. Ergonomically, the Astra can’t match it. Our Sport trim is well equipped and gives you dual-zone climate control, sports seats and sat-nav, while the large and clear infotainment screen is controlled by Audi’s excellent MMI rotary controller.
New Vauxhall Astra vs used Audi A3 – space & practicality
Despite the stylish exterior, the Astra hasn’t compromised on interior space. The driving position is good, with plenty of adjustment, and there’s plenty of room up front and in the rear, with an especially sizeable amount of rear leg room. Boot space is around the class average, although it can’t hold a candle to the humongous Skoda Octavia.
To add to that neat interior and clear instruments, the A3’s driving position is first class, with a perfect set-up easily achievable. It’s a spacious car in both the front and rear, despite looking more compact from the outside than the Astra, with a boot of around the same size as its rival’s, albeit with a slightly lower lip to haul items over.
New Vauxhall Astra vs used Audi A3 – costs
According to our Target Price team, it’s possible to walk away with our chosen Astra for just £17,092, against its on-the-road price of £18,500. That’s a healthy reduction, although you have to factor in the fact that the Astra is expected to lose quite a lot of value in the first year, whereas the A3 will already have shed some. That Target Price figure will buy you our chosen A3, the 1.0 TFSI Sport, that will only be a year old and probably have a minimal mileage on it.
There’s further good news for the A3 when it comes to reliability. In our most recent survey, its sibling, the A3 saloon, scored a perfect 100%. Our hatchback model here came in seventh place in the family car class, while the Astra was near the bottom in 25th place. Audi as a brand finished in 12th place, whereas Vauxhall finished in 18th.
The Astra would come with a full three-year warranty, of course, while the A3 would have only two of its three years’ cover left.
The Astra has the slight advantage in claimed fuel consumption, too, with its average figure being 64.2mpg compared with the A3’s 60.1mpg. With both cars registered after the tax changes of April 2017, they would both be liable for the same annual road tax bill.
New Vauxhall Astra vs used Audi A3 – alternatives
If you wanted something similar to the Astra, in other words a spacious family hatchback for not a lot of cash, you could consider the Seat Leon. This humdinger of a car is based on the Volkswagen Golf and carries most of the good qualities of that exceptional car. There’s a strong range of efficient engines, plenty of kit and low running costs. It’s great to drive, too, and there’s always a good deal to be had on a new one.
Alternatives to the A3 would include the aforementioned Golf – a car that manages to be comfortable, well equipped, refined and yet relatively cheap to buy and own. It’s also great to drive and has a relatively classy interior. A year-old example of one of our favourite trims would cost about the same as this A3.