Audi is quite open about how little it has changed the A3 over the years, and says this is because its target buyers don’t particularly want it to change. That means they age slowly; models from almost 20 years ago still look relevant today, especially the sportier models.
And while a brand new S3 will set you back £38,000 plus options, the first generation from around the turn of the Millennium can be yours for sums even Scrooge couldn’t refuse. The cheapest one we found online was just £1100, with this tidy-looking £2450 example being our pick.
The A3 as we know it was launched in 1996 with the internal model code 8L. It was the first ‘small’ car Audi had sold since the Type 50 in the late 1970s. Three years later a more performance-focused version was added, blending luxury, quattro part-time four-wheel drive and raw speed in the exact same template still being used by the car today.
For two years it was sold with 207bhp until a 2001 facelift raised the bar to 222bhp. We’ve picked out one of the earliest 222bhp cars at fixed-price car dealer BINCA in Bletchley, Milton Keynes. Sitting handsomely over its six-spoke alloy wheels, you can identify it as a facelifted car only by its one-piece headlight/indicator units and larger reversing lights within the rear light clusters.
Doesn’t it still look fantastic? Understated but classy silver metallic paint and a pretty perfect ride height lead to a timeless interior complete with electrically adjustable leather seats by Recaro. The interior layout seems barely a generation old, while the 1.8-litre 20-valve engine at the front is among the most tunable and fixable ever put into a hot hatch.
Even the engine bay of this one looks pretty clean for its age. With a very believable 164,000 miles on its odometer, it has 12 service stamps, a pile of paperwork including service invoices and two keys. It’s had just four owners in its 19.5-year life, too, which is encouraging. The asking price is just £2450 and we can’t think of a cheaper way to buy a premium hot hatch that can still cut it on the 2020 driveway catwalk. What’s stopping you?