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Stylish Subcompacts: Mercedes A-Class vs Audi A3

The Mercedes A-Class has just received a major revamp, which has brought it plenty of acclaim and many commentators now tout it as the benchmark in the subcompact class. The Audi A3 is due an overhaul in 2019, but it still runs the Mercedes close in its current form. 

Soft and flowing vs rigid and angular

The new A-Class is instantly recognisable and show off a new breed of Mercedes styling, with arching lines similar to those you find in the C-Class. They sweep back from a sleek yet aggressive nose with sporty, modern air intakes, back to the updated rear with its elongated twin exhausts. The car’s dynamic design means it’s tough to spot that this is a hatchback until you draw level with it, in a testament to the robust design philosophy which Mercedes like to call ‘Sensual Purity’. It looks youthful and energetic, yet grown-up and sophisticated at the same time.  

The A3 comes with a sharper, more angular design than the A-Class. Features like the air intakes on the nose are more prominent due to the contrasting angles as opposed to the flowing integration you get with the Mercedes. This rigid feel continues backward up the bonnet and through the door, giving the A3 a bold and sporty look, enhanced by the Xenon headlights which come as standard. Alternatively, if you move up through the trim levels, you get LED lights, with the option of upgrading to Audi’s intelligent Matrix LED headlights, which adapt to your surroundings and automatically dip your full beams. 

Conclusion: choose the A-Class for flowing arcs, or go with the A3 for angular sportiness

Groundbreaking vs classic design

Stepping inside the A-Class is where you really start to appreciate the new level Mercedes have taken this car to. The revolution truly begins from within, and Mercedes have brought an elegance and luxury to the compact class that you’d previously only see in larger models. The new dashboard instantly leaps out at you, thanks to the new Mercedes-Benz User Experience - or MBUX for short. There are no longer any gauges in the cockpit, only two widescreen displays that march the A-Class firmly into the future. You can change the appearance of things like your speedometer and rev counter that appear on-screen behind the wheel, while the right touchscreen is your portal to the new infotainment system which offers superb features, connectivity and even learning capabilities thanks to its artificial intelligence. 

In years gone by, being in the A3 felt like you were sitting in the gatehouse of Audi’s interior design, without being allowed to fully step through into what they can really offer. The latest version of the A3 firmly put that to bed when it came out in 2017, and it has a true premium feel. Everything you can see and touch feels top quality, whether that’s in the dials on the dash, the upholstery, or your multi-function steering wheel. You get satellite navigation as standard, and a 7-inch retractable display which you can control with voice commands. It’s tough to see where Audi could bring improvements to the interior with the 2019 upgrade, but in truth, there isn’t much that needs attention for the A3 to compete with any of its current rivals. 

Conclusion: the A3 oozes class and premium quality inside, but that new MBUX system in the A-Class could be a game-changer

Potent engines compared

  • The A-Class engine range currently comprises four petrol options and one diesel, although two more powerful diesels will be added in 2019. The present diesel is the A 180 d, which unsurprisingly offers the best fuel economy, and by some distance too at 67.3mpg. It also boasts the lowest emissions figures, starting at just 108g/km. 
  • Choosing between the A 180, A 200, A 220 and A 250 petrol engines depends on how much oomph you want when you push your foot to the floor, and how much you’re prepared to sacrifice on the economy front in return. If you want all-wheel drive though, the choice is between the A 220 4MATIC and A 250 4MATIC. 
  • Performance figures range from a 0-62 of 9.2 seconds with the A 180, to 6.2 seconds with the most powerful A 150. There’s a difference of almost 9mpg between those two engines in terms of fuel economy, with the automatic A 180 offering a combined 54.3mpg. 
  • The A3 is available with three different petrol engines, and two diesels. Audi have a trick up their sleeve though, as you can also get the A3 with their 1.4 TFSI e-tron power unit. A plug-in hybrid that may be the most expensive A3 in the range, it makes up for that with a combined fuel economy of 166.2mpg, with just 38g/km in the form of emissions. 
  • The choice of diesels is between a 1.6 TDI and 2.0 TDI, with all-wheel drive available on the larger of the two. The quattro option bumps the power output to 184hp, giving it plenty of punch compared to the 116hp 1.6-litre. 
  • If you prefer petrol power, you can pick between the new line-up of 1.0 TFSI, 1.5 TFSI or 2.0 TFSI engines, with all-wheel drive again available on the 2.0-litre unit. The biggest engine gives you 190hp to play with, compared to 150hp in the 1.5-litre and 116hp in the 1.0-litre. 

Conclusion: if you want to go green then the A3’s your only option, otherwise, performance figures are comparable

In numbers…

 

MERCEDES A-CLASS

AUDI A3

Min

Max

Min

Max

Power (HP)

116

224

116

190

Fuel (comb MPG)

43.5

68.9

47.9

166.2

Emissions (CO2, g/km)

108

148

38

134

Top Speed (mph)

126

155

125

151

0 – 62mph in…. (seconds)

6.2

10.5

6.2

10.4

Price

£22,850

£28,700

£21,810

£36,455

 

Mercedes have raised the bar for luxury in the subcompact range, making the A-Class the new benchmark in this genre. The Audi A3 isn’t far behind, but can it catch up – or even overtake – with its 2019 update? Pop into your local Inchcape Mercedes or Inchcape Audi to find out.