Audi’s A3 and A4 share many things in common and can cause some uncertainty when it comes to purchasing either model. They are both mid-size sedans that look similar, have similar features, and aren’t too far apart on price. So the question is which one fits your vehicle needs and personal lifestyle. There are many different distinguished factors that we will make sure to go over to make your purchasing decision that much easier. In this article, we will be discussing price differences, engines, problems, reliability, and much more.
As you will see below, there are many generations of both the A3 and A4, so for simplicity purposes, we will be writing about the most recent generations in each vehicle. If you happen to be in the market for a used Audi A3 or A4 that isn’t the mentioned generation and want us to write a post about that specific generation, reach out in the comments.
Audi A3 vs A4 – The Basics
As stated above, we will be focusing on the most popular generations for both the Audi A3 and A4, which happen to be the Audi A3 8V and the Audi A4 B8/B8.5. However, before jumping into those respectively, let’s go over all the generations and years for each model.
Audi A3 Generations
Audi A4 Generations
Hopefully, this will help you understand the different models that may be on the market. Each model has different engines, transmissions, interiors, sizes that we will go into further detail in this article. First, we’ll go into pricing because we know this is an important aspect of choosing which model is best for you.
A3 vs A4 Price
Typically the Audi A4 will be more expensive than the A3, but that is because of the features we have listed below. So with that said a used base A3 8V, which is the most common A3, is running around $12,000 – $31,000 depending on mileage and year. A base A4 B8, which is the most common A4, is running anywhere from $8,500 – $28,998 depending on mileage and year.* Now, this isn’t the best comparison since the two generations happen to be different years. So, in that case, a brand new base A3, as of 2021, is currently going for $33,900, while the brand new base A4 is going for $39,900. As you can see, there is only a $6,000 difference in MSRP between the two, so is the A4 worth the extra money? We’ll cover that more in-depth below.
*At the time of writing this article, we are in a market where used vehicles are overvalued, so take that into consideration when seeing the used prices above.
General A3 & A4 Topics
In this section, we’ll be going over more general topics about both models. Those topics include size, performance, and reliability. Generally, the A4 is bigger than the A3, the A4 has better performance, but both are relatively similar when it comes to reliability. For simplicity’s sake, we will be going over the 2022 Audi A3 and A4 for each of the topics to help realize the price difference and features between the two.
Audi A3 vs A4 Size
Below are some basic details about the size and weight differences between the two models.
Audi A3 vs A4 Dimensional Specs
As seen in the table, all the attributes are bigger on the A4 other than an extra inch taller that the A3 has over the A4. The A3 is classified as a subcompact sedan, while the A4 is classified as a compact sedan. Since the A3 is smaller, it has less cargo space and trunk space. So in short if you plan to carpool, be the primary driver in your friend group, have children or dogs, the A4 will be better suited.
Audi A3 & A4 Performance
When it comes to performance, there are too many engine options on both models to list out 0-6 seconds, 1/4 miles, etc. So we will again just be focusing on the base models for the performance comparisons.
The new Audi A3 comes with a 2.0 TFSI (40 TFSI) engine that puts down 201hp and 221lb-ft of torque. It comes with Front-Wheel Drive, a seven-speed S tronic automatic transmission, has a 0-60 time of 6.6 seconds, and has a top speed of 130. The 2.0TFSI (40TFSI) engine gets 29mpg in the city and 38mpg on the highway for a combined mpg of 32 with a 13.2g fuel tank.
The new Audi A4 also comes with a 2.0 TFSI engine, but it puts down 201hp and 236lb-ft of torque. Unlike the A3, the A4 comes equipped with Audi’s quattro® AWD ultra technology, has the same seven-speed S tronic automatic transmission, has a 0-60 time of 3.3 seconds, and also has a top speed of 130. The 2.0 TFSI on the A4 gets 26mpg in the city and 34mpg on the highway for a combined mpg of 29 with a 15.3g fuel tank.
Now, this component may be important to some of our readers, so we want to make sure to include a snippet of the tuning capabilities we’ve seen with each engine. We don’t have exact numbers on what either can accomplish, but both engines are easily modable. Since both have a turbocharged engine, it would only take a few hundred dollars to get some real power into them with an ECU tune. However, we have written a post on “The 5 Best Audi A4 B9 Performance Mods” and “The 5 Best Audi A3 Mods” which lays out the performance numbers that could be seen with simple bolt-ons.
Audi A3 & A4 Reliability and Common Problems
The Audi A3 scored in the middle of its class when it comes to reliability. RepairPal gives it a reliability rating of 3.5 out of 5, while other sites have it rated below average at 51.7 out of 100, with an average of 57. Since it is a luxury German automobile, you can expect the annual upkeep costs to be relatively high, $741 on average. Common problems seen in A3’s are start-stop system malfunction, engine misfires, high-pressure fuel pump failure, jolting automatic transmission, defective fuel tank pump, and more. Although there is a laundry list of common problems, we’ve seen MANY A3’s last up to 250,000 miles or more.
The Audi A4 scored a 3.5 out of 5 by RepairPal, and on other sites rated it below average at 37.85 out of 100, with an average of 57. Specifically, the 2009 Audi A4 was by far the model’s worst model year, so if you are in the market for that specific year, run. Annual maintenance costs are about equal to the A3 at $739. Common problems seen in A4’s are excessive oil usage (2011), engine misfires, faulty pistons (2012), PCV valve failure, high-pressure fuel pump failure, and more. Although there is a laundry list of common problems, we’ve seen MANY A4s last up until 250,000 miles or more. See below for specific A4 generation common problem posts we have written.
Based on reliability, it seems that the A3 is better. However, we view it as the early A4 models tainting its new reputation. In fact, the 2020 Audi A4 ranked 88 out of 100 by Consumer Reports. So the stats above may be skewed due to both early models in A3’s and A4’s. Overall, these are both fairly reliable vehicles that can surpass 200,000 miles with ease depending on how well they are maintained. Any German vehicle maintenance should be followed religiously or else you will start to see problems piling up. So, oil changes, tire rotations, inspections, make sure to stay on top of it.
A3 vs A4 – Which is Better?
We think this question is subjective to everyone’s opinion because many consumers own cars for different reasons. Therefore it is hard to specifically have a set answer, but in our opinion, we like the A4 more because you get a bigger bang-for-your-buck. From a high level, the A3 gets better fuel economy and is more compact. The A4 has more power and has more cargo and trunk space. Both models got a 5-star rating for safety, both have similar interiors, and both have similar features such as park assist, adaptive cruise control, and more.
So this goes back to the consumer, what are you looking for in your next Audi?