New Audi A3 vs rivals

3 Oct, 2012 11:00am

Audi invented the premium hatch when it launched the original A3 in 1996. Can the new car take it back to top of the class?

Audi appears to launch a new model every week, but this is the car that really matters to the company: the A3.

Over the past 16 years, sales of this model have made up a fifth of Audi’s total revenue – laying the financial foundation for adventurous low-volume cars as diverse as the R8 and A7.

So what does the third-generation A3 have in store? It’s the first car to use the VW Group’s all-new modular MQB chassis, which will underpin everything from the next TT to the MkVII Golf. It also gets a modern interior, with the latest tech.

For now, the A3 is available only as a three-door, so to bridge the price gap to its five-door rivals, we test it here with the 2.0-litre TDI engine in entry-level SE spec.

Can it topple our reigning class champ: the fun and cost-effective BMW 116d EfficientDynamics? The 1 Series is less powerful than the new Audi, but it’s one of the cheapest company cars around, and is surprisingly practical, too.

Completing our trio is the Volvo V40. It lost out to the BMW by a tiny margin in our previous test, and could give the Audi a run for its money. So can the A3 return to the top of the class it created?

Verdict

Picking a winner from these fierce rivals is no easy task. The depth of talent on display proves that customers searching for a new premium hatch are now spoiled for choice.

All of these cars excel in different areas, so it’s cruel that the Volvo finishes last. Its relaxed character and smart styling provide the sort of charisma that the A3 lacks, but limited practicality and steeper deprecation put it third.

The Audi makes up for a conservative exterior with a first-rate cabin, while its engine strikes a fine balance between performance and economy. Yet despite a new chassis, the handling hasn’t moved on from the old car – the firm ride and numb steering make it capable rather than fun.

So the victor – by a slender margin – is the BMW. It’s not only the cheapest and most practical car here, it also proves that efficiency and fun can go hand-in-hand. Even the extra practicality of the upcoming five-door A3 would not have changed this result.

But with the sleek new Mercedes A-Class around the corner, it may not be long before the BMW loses its top spot.

Disqus - noscript

Wondering why there is no Alfa Giulietta here. Shame on you AutoExpress, this is a complete bias. I am hoping you do not bring your usual Italian quality/ build/ drive with that car as it is as good as these three here. The mere look of it on the road can displace these three off the styling charts at least. And the rest of it is not bad if not better than these three. In the USA the Dodge Dart is getting rave reviews everywhere and look what happens in the UK..... the bias prevails! It was, it still is and do not know if it will be in the future. Mr Marchionne, are you listening? The Germans are filling the bank accounts of these magazines and these magazines are helping their sales. I sometimes really wonder why the reviews of Italian cars are different here in this country to the mainland Europe........ I guess everybody knows the answer!

Wondering why there is no Alfa Giulietta here. Shame on you AutoExpress, this is a complete bias. I am hoping you do not bring your usual Italian quality/ build/ drive with that car as it is as good as these three here. The mere look of it on the road can displace these three off the styling charts at least. And the rest of it is not bad if not better than these three. In the USA the Dodge Dart is getting rave reviews everywhere and look what happens in the UK..... the bias prevails! It was, it still is and do not know if it will be in the future. Mr Marchionne, are you listening? The Germans are filling the bank accounts of these magazines and these magazines are helping their sales. I sometimes really wonder why the reviews of Italian cars are different here in this country to the mainland Europe........ I guess everybody knows the answer!

Wondering why there is no Alfa Giulietta here. Shame on you AutoExpress, this is a complete bias. I am hoping you do not bring your usual Italian quality/ build/ drive with that car as it is as good as these three here. The mere look of it on the road can displace these three off the styling charts at least. And the rest of it is not bad if not better than these three. In the USA the Dodge Dart is getting rave reviews everywhere and look what happens in the UK..... the bias prevails! It was, it still is and do not know if it will be in the future. Mr Marchionne, are you listening? The Germans are filling the bank accounts of these magazines and these magazines are helping their sales. I sometimes really wonder why the reviews of Italian cars are different here in this country to the mainland Europe........ I guess everybody knows the answer!

interesting I have the new BMW 118d on my drive now next to my new V40 D2.
V40 is much prettier, cabin is gorgeous. There's no difference in practicality, on paper the V40 is more economical and emits less Co2. Not sure about your depreciation calculations, I've not seen very many for sale second hand so can't comment. I'm expecting the fact that the V40 is going to be rare over the next year or two will make resale values much better?

Not sure what BMW have done to the steering feel of the new 1 series but it feels numb to me, it's lost that sparkle.

For me the V40 is the better car.

The top marks must also go to BMW - for being the ugliest car in this line up.

mmm! yes I'm with captain morgan on this, V40 is also the safest car in it's class, posting the highest Euro NCAP score of any car... ever... thanks in part to the ground breaking new pedestrian airbag system.

BMW wins again! What a suprise. BMW have hypnotised all motoring correspondents. That is the only way BMW could win anything. Their cars a badly built,unreliable and they have appalling customer service.
Open your eyes auto express BMW are the LADA cars of today.
The new Mk 7 Golf is far superior to all of the cars tested

Trouble is that both the A3 and V40 are better looking, especially at the front.

agree with you on the subject of BMW service, I've had BMWs for 6yrs now, a 5 series and 1 series and service is appalling! I have a catalogue of rubbish service particulalry from Specialist Cars over the years, final straw was the guy that came to pick up my car for a service this week, but didn't knock on my front door to ask for the keys, just drove off?! Moron!? What's that all about?!

This is pretty biased review. A comparison of 118d might have been more apt. Those who would buy 116d as a company car for low cost would obviously compare it with the similar powered versions of A3 and V40. Both V40 and A3 offer better value for money and better styling.

Auto express group tests becoming very poor. There was one comparing Mazda cx5 and a lower powered version of Yeti.

So if the BMW 116d is better than A3, then why no mention of the Giulietta, which is better than 116d?

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