One of the oldest cars which enters the Almost Cars arena, the Audi A3 8L is the sort of car you buy just for the badge. Find out why in today’s article.
Launched in 1996, just 5 minutes before the VW Golf IV, the Audi A3 8L was Audi’s first compact car in 1978 and was more of an image exercise and less of an engineering one. I say this because the Audi A3 8L sits on the same platform as the VW Golf IV and the Seat Leon 1M that came to the party 2 years later. The Audi A3 has always suffered from this image of “a more expensive Golf” and the little Audi A3 8L suffered at its launch because of it and is still suffering now in 2022 when people are wondering why pay 500 euros extra for the badge when it can buy a Seat Leon. Of course, there are those die-hard fans of a brand who are willing to sleep on the floor or drive a 1996 entry-level model just to have them rings. It’s just that no one will envy you in particular because you have a 1996 Audi A3 8L, unless we’re talking about the S3 or some tuning project.
What did the Audi A3 8L bring to the table in addition to the VW Golf IV?
- First of all, the Audi A3 8L is more robust in terms of interior quality. The parts at the mechanical level are identical to those of the Golf IV, but at the interior level everything that is put there is put on forever and you can be declared married for life. The problem tho is that the Seat Leon 1M has exactly the same interior as the Audi A3 8L.
- The bodywork is galvanized and made with a sense of responsibility. If the Golf IV gets rusty like a homeless man drinking water for the first time in 25 years of living under the bridge, you really shouldn’t have problems with rust here, and if rust appears, you can look for another car because the world is full of Audis, even the Audi A3 8L.
Audi A3 8L Engines
- 1.6 MPI of 101 or 102 horsepower – The same aspirated antique we are used to in the VAG group, but here is the genesis. An average engine, with problems with the spark plugs, oil consumption and irregular knocking at idle rpm, this pile of reliability and simplicity will take you where you need and that’s it. An entry-level engine for an entry-level car.
- 1.8 MPI of 125 horsepower – The classic 1.8 NA petrol with 125 horsepower and decent performance. Marginally more expensive than the 1.6 and much slower than the turbocharged version, this 1.8 is the middle child of the engines. An engine you buy because you probably haven’t found anything better.
- 1.8 Turbo with 150 and 180 horsepower – The classic 1.8T that is still used today, this turbocharged petrol has a proven history of performance. A sensational engine that is worth the money, the spark plugs and the water pumps that it occasionally eats.
- 1.8 Turbo of 210 and 225 horsepower – Present only on the S3, this engine deserves its own article together with the Audi S3, being radically different from the Audi A3.
1.9 TDI of 90, 100, 110 and 130 horsepower – The eternal, the classic 1.9 TDI, more present in the automotive world than Cardi B on quality television. You want the 90-horsepower engine, codenamed ALH, and the 130-horsepower engine, codenamed ASZ. You can read more about 1.9 TDI ALH in the article on Golf IV, where we talked at length. The 100 and 110 horsepower ones are not so bright because they have occasional turbo and ECU problems.
Audi A3 8L General Issues
There aren’t that many problems reported for the first generation Audi A3. In fact, that was the strength of the compact Audi: a more expensive and more reliable Golf. However, there are a few things to look out for and possibly fix.
- The interior space is much smaller than that of the VW Golf IV. You pay some extra money, but atleast you sit in the back, because you won’t fit in the front.
- The mass airflow sensor seems to be a common problem with the Audi A3 8L, regardless of the engine. That should be the biggest problem, a mass airflow sensor.
- Much as with the VW Golf IV, the rear brakes rust, corrode and generally do everything possible to keep themselves from working. But again, you can buy Golf IV brakes and mount them on the Audi A3 8L, as they will go as well as cigarettes and beer at the pub.
- The automatic gearbox from this period is as good as when you drop a cigarette in beer. Tragic, expensive and if you decide to drink that beer anyway, you have good chances of leaving by ambulance.
Audi A3 8L Verdict
Why buy an Audi A3 when you have a Seat Leon available, which is the same car but costs less just because it has Seat written on it and not Audi? Simple, because a Seat Leon comes with more regular engines, for regular people. When you look at a Seat Leon you consider the 1.6 MPI engine, which is a good but average engine, while at the Audi A3 8L you only look at the 1.8T. And now prices are starting to fall even for the Audi S3, which is a relatively reliable torpedo and relatively decent to maintain.
Which engine would I choose? If we are still talking about a cheap and old Audi A3, then I do not recommend anything other than the Audi A3 8L 1.8T 150 or 180 horsepower. Because this way you have a really special car, for enthusiasts, for cheaps.