People buying Audis are often said to be buying a badge.

But with the prestige associated with this German car maker, it’s perhaps not so surprising if they do.

That doesn’t mean to say, however, that those buyers are not watching their pennies when it comes to running costs, and it’s certainly possible to have Audi models and keep running costs to an impressive minimum.

During a week of driving a 105bhp Audi A3 diesel, I found I was regularly getting to destinations with the onboard computer showing me I had averaged around 60 miles per gallon.

And on one journey which didn’t involve any motorways and with four people in the car - admittedly driving as gently as I could – I actually recorded 65 miles per gallon.

And while that figure doesn’t come close to Audi’s claimed average consumption of more than 74 mpg, my figure for “real life motoring” was pretty impressive even allowing for the now ubiquitous stop-start system. The A3 has been around in one form or another for some time now having been launched in 1996 and it’s easy to overlook it and the frugal motoring it can provide.

My 1.6-litre version was not only light on fuel but exceptionally clean running, with just 99g/km of CO2 emissions, which means you don’t pay any road tax.

It’s not the cheapest car on the road even compared to other larger cars, but it certainly has a quality feel to it.

My test car came with a host of optional extras which added to that quality feel but also, of course, added to the price. These included Milano leather at £1,115 and heated seats at an extra £260.

Despite Audi’s upmarket image the A3’s interior is functional rather than flash with a very clean look to the dashboard – even the audio multimedia system is tucked away in the glove box – but everything is well thought out.

Audi A3 SE
Audi A3 SE
 

Having black seats, dashboard and doors can be a bit too all encompassing but in this case the use of chrome trim and brushed aluminium detail on the dashboard, doors and around the gear shift provided the necessary contrast.

The sleek exterior is somehow enhanced by the use of daylight running lights, which are standard if you order a car with the optional bi-xenon headlamps.

On the road, the A3 feels taught and sharp in bends and corners and feels firmly planted to the road at high speed.

With its leaning towards economy and with just 105 bhp it’s not the fastest model in the A3 line up but it certainly is a very torquey engine and delivers respectable acceleration.

The cabin is well soundproofed so you are well insulated from the noise of surrounding traffic.

If you are looking for a relatively compact car that is frugal yet sports an image and don’t mind paying that little extra the A3 is still a sound investment.

Fast Facts

Audi A3 SE

Price: £20,155

Mechanical: 1598cc, 4 cyl, 105bhp diesel engine driving front wheels via 6spd manual gearbox.

Max speed: 121 mph

0-62 mph: 10.7 secs

Combined mpg: 74.3

CO2 emissions: 99 g/km

Insurance group: 16

Warranty: 3 years 60,000 miles