The Audi A3 is one of the best premium hatchbacks, but it’s not the only good choice. Here’s your full guide to the A3’s rivals
The Audi A3 has long combined family car practicality with a sprinkling of luxury, and the latest version adds futuristic tech and a sophisticated driving experience. But an increasing number of carmakers are aiming to be more premium, so the popular Audi now has more rivals than ever. Below, we’ve listed the 10 best Audi A3 alternatives, from old favourites to interesting new models.
1. Mercedes A-Class
The Mercedes A-Class is the A3’s closest rival, and in many ways there’s little to differentiate the two Germans – despite having no shared parts. Each offers a selection of economical petrol and diesel engines, two fast hot hatchbacks, the availability of a saloon body style and even a plug-in hybrid. The A-Class arguably has the more theatrical interior, although the A3 just pips it for material quality and, while the Mercedes is more comfortable, the A3 is a little more spacious in the rear seats. The A-Class has sleeker styling, and that’s before you get to the related Mercedes CLA four-door coupe.
2. BMW 1 Series
Read BMW 1 Series Review
If you want something a little sportier than the A3 then test-driving the BMW 1 Series should be on your to-do list. It’s the better choice for keen drivers, with a more immediate steering feel and almost no body roll through fast corners. The 128ti hot hatch is the pick of the 1 Series range for sweet handling, but even the lowliest 1 Series is great to drive. Like the A3, the 1 Series features a high-quality interior with super-sharp screens and the latest infotainment tech.
3. Volkswagen Golf
Without the Volkswagen Golf there’d be no A3, and the Golf is still a strong contender in the premium hatchback market. A Golf is likely to be a little bit cheaper than the A3 and it still boasts a high-tech interior with a host of impressive online features. The Golf is just as practical as the A3 when it comes to carrying people and luggage, and offers many of the same economical petrol, diesel and hybrid engines.
4. DS 4
If the German hatchbacks above are just a bit too obvious or a little bit uninteresting, there’s a French answer. The latest DS 4 is the brand’s best car yet, with polished driving dynamics, impressive long-distance comfort and a snazzy interior. The DS 4 has the A3 soundly beaten for practicality, with a 430-litre boot – 50 litres more than a petrol A3 – and only a marginal decrease in the E-Tense plug-in hybrid. Compare equivalently specced cars on the used market and there’s very little difference in finance costs, either.
5. Audi Q2
There are lots of Audis that share parts with the A3, from the Q2 and Q3 SUVs, to the smaller A1 and even the sporty TT coupe. We’ve picked the Q2 here because the cost of PCP finance is broadly similar to the A3, although the two cars are also pretty well matched in terms of size and practicality. The Q2 has a very slightly larger boot – not that you’ll notice much of a difference in day-to-day life – and a raised ride height that gives a more commanding view of the road ahead. Or you may just prefer the Q2’s chunky looks.
6. SEAT Leon
The SEAT Leon offers a sportier driving experience than the A3, with the same engines and practicality for less money. And while the Audi still feels a tad more premium inside, the latest Leon has improved materials so the quality difference isn’t enormous. The Leon has an answer for the A3’s plug-in hybrid offering, and the S3 hot hatch is matched by the Cupra Leon. Like the Golf, the Leon gives you the choice of a big-booted estate body style alongside the five-door hatchback.
7. Mazda 3
Driving a Mazda is a bit like being in a special club. There’s no secret handshake, but only those who have driven modern Mazdas know that the interior quality is up there with the likes of BMW and Audi. Mazda has rejected the trend of putting screens everywhere you look – the slim infotainment screen isn’t even touch-controlled – and, while that looks more traditional, it means everything is fantastically easy to use. The A3 is noticeably more practical than the sleek Mazda and much more prevalent on the used market – which lends the Mazda 3 a bit of exclusivity.
8. Mini Clubman
The Mini Clubman is called an estate, but it’s better off when thought of as an A3 and 1 Series rival. The footprint and the boot space of the Clubman are in line with its hatchback rivals, and you get Mini’s trademark go-kart-like handling with space for actual adult humans – and love-them-or-loathe-them rear barn doors instead of a normal boot lid. You’ll also love or hate the styling but there’s no doubting the quality of the interior, helped by Mini’s BMW ownership. Just note that some fancy features were optional extras and won’t be fitted to every car. The engine range is now petrol-only, with the nippy Cooper, quick Cooper S and rabid JCW giving driving thrills regardless of how much you want to spend on fuel and insurance.
9. Ford Focus
Read Ford Focus review
As you’d probably expect, the Ford Focus is typically much more affordable than an A3, so it’s a good choice if you want to trim your monthly spend. The Focus has plenty of rear-seat space and an easy-to-use interior with all the must-have connectivity features – you’re still getting the latest tech even if the materials aren’t quite as plush as the A3’s. Sharp handling, high-speed refinement and economical engines make the Focus a great all-rounder.
10. Toyota Corolla
Toyota’s hybrid hatchback offers a very comfortable ride and a quiet driving experience – especially at lower speeds. Its ability to hit 60mpg matches the A3’s diesel engines, but without the need for AdBlue fill-ups and DPF regeneration cycles. The Toyota Corolla favours a relaxed driving experience, which may appeal if you don’t drive like a racing driver on the morning commute. It looks futuristic and has plenty of technology on board, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.