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Audi A3 vs. BMW 1 Series: which is better?

Two titans of the premium hatchback segment go up against each other in this Audi A3 vs. BMW 1 Series review

on the left is a black audi a3 and on the right is a yellow bmw 1 series

Small luxury hatchbacks are some of the most popular cars on the market right now – they’re hot property.

With a lot of people moving over to SUVs, it’s refreshing to see a revival in the uptake of smaller cars.  

Two that are leading the charge are the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series. These two German hatchbacks are really well put-together and offer incredible interior quality, and are really fun or relaxing to drive, depending on your mood. 

Plus, you can find plenty of used Audi and used BMW models on the market if you fancy saving money compared to purchasing brand-new.

Audi A3 vs. BMW 1 Series: styling

on the left is the wheel and front of an audi a3 and on the right is a yellow bmw 1 series' wheel

Both the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series are good-looking cars. Of course, that's subjective, but this can be backed by their sharp edges and smooth curves that flow throughout the design.

The BMW 1 Series is a really smart-looking car that's now only available with five doors (models produced before 2019 were also available with three doors).  

As for the Audi, this is a hatchback that's very popular among those who are upgrading from a first car to something a little nicer with more space and power.

Its overall look is classy, but because it competes with the likes of the Volkswagen Golf, it’s also very familiar-looking.  

Audi A3 vs. BMW 1 Series: what are they like to drive?

on the left is a blue audi a3 saloon driving down a country road and on the right is a yellow bmw 1 series parked in a traditional German town

When it comes to driving, the 1 Series really shines. BMW is no stranger to making great-handling cars, and this pocket-rocket of a hatchback is no exception.

When driving down a country road, expect good handling and refinement, a firm but well-judged ride, and steering that actually lets you know what’s going on beneath the front wheels.   

As for the A3, this is a hatchback that's reliable and one that you can trust to get you where you want to go.

But don’t think it’ll just do that, because the A3 is also a great car to drive. It’s quick, smooth, soaks up bumps in the road nicely, and is really comfortable inside – offering a superb all-round experience.  

Engine options for both cars are great too – with used cars coming with the option of a petrol or diesel engine.

And if you opt for the spicier RS3 or M1351, you can expect to see a large boost in power and overall driver involvement.  

Audi A3 vs. BMW 1 Series: interior and technology

on the left is an audi a3's interior and on the right is a bmw 1 series' interior

Inside, both cars offer similar clean and functional cabins that make your drive much more pleasant.

For starters, they both offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity – meaning you don’t need to try and learn the car’s in-built infotainment system and can instead just plug in your phone and go. 

The newer versions of the 1 Series offer a more stylish dashboard with more technology and digital instruments.

Even those made up to 2019 feature the sublime iDrive multimedia setup that gets a rotary dial to control the central screen.  

As standard on the older 1 Series, you get Bluetooth connectivity, USB sockets, a multifunction steering wheel, a DAB radio and air-con.

The newer models give you sat-nav, all-round parking sensors, and auto LED headlights.

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But if you’re feeling particularly fancy, higher trims (Sport and M Sport) add climate control, electric seat adjustment, leather and carbon fibre, and a larger infotainment screen. 

When you step inside the Audi A3, you will be greeted with a similar layout in terms of simplicity and tech.

One of the main talking points of the A3 is its luxurious interior, which is accentuated by its premium build quality.   

The Audi A3 Technik model is great value for money and offers rear parking sensors, a 10-inch touchscreen infotainment system, and LED headlights.   

Audi’s higher A3 S Line trim gets you extras on top of the standard kit, including heated front seats and a larger infotainment screen.

You can boost that even more with the Black Edition model, which offers a sportier look with darkened privacy glass.   

Audi A3 vs. BMW 1 Series: bootspace and practicality

on the left is a grey audi a3 saloon's boot and on the right is a bmw 1 series' rear seats

Moving towards the rear of both cars, you will notice decent levels of boot space.

The 1 Series offers between 360 and 380 litres of available space, depending on the model – that’s plenty for several bags of shopping or a family trip to the beach.  

The A3, on the other hand, has the same size boot in hatchback form, but this grows to 425 litres because of the larger dedicated boot space. 

Both cars also come equipped with plenty of cupholders and cubbyholes to store maps (do people even have those in their cars anymore?), phones, snacks etc.

There's also ample room in the rear for adult passengers but don't expect SUV-levels of interior space.

Audi A3 vs. BMW 1 Series: safety and reliability

Reliability and safety are not to be ignored, and luckily for you, both the A3 and 1 Series take great pride in this.

You’ll be glad to hear that both BMW’s 1 Series and the Audi A3 boast a full five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, and rank highly across consumer reliability surveys. 

And to improve their reliability scores, you can opt for cinchCare to ensure the longevity of your vehicle.  

Along with this, they come with great safety features such as automatic emergency braking (AEB), electronic stability control (ESC), lane keep assist, driver attention detection etc.  


Audi A3

Length: 4495mm

Width: 1816mm

Height: 1425mm

Boot space: 380 litres (425 litres in saloon form)

BMW 1 Series

Length: 4219mm

Width: 1799mm

Height: 1434mm

Boot space: 380 litres

Verdict: Audi A3 vs BMW 1 Series: which should you buy?

We’re sure you’ve come to your own conclusion after reading our comparison of the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3, but if not, here are some pointers to help you out. 

If you’re someone who likes to take the scenic route home on swooping British B-roads then we’d suggest taking a look at the BMW, because it’s great at handling and comes with a whole array of peppy engines too. 

If you want something that's perhaps a little more grown-up and more comfortable, then the A3 would be better suited to you. 

But regardless of what you end up with, you'll be very pleased. Both cars offer great value for money on the used car market, and they will keep you entertained for many years to come. 

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