Audi has just pulled the covers off its all-new Audi A3 sedan, the sexy new entry-level sedan is longer, wider, and roomier than the model it replaces, and offers updated drivetrains and latest generation connectivity systems.
The entry-level sedan segment has become a hotbed of activity for premium automakers, especially in markets such as China and North America where traditional sedan models are still popular.
So we thought this would be an opportune time to compare the new Audi against its rivals from Mercedes-Benz and BMW, namely the A-Class sedan (sold here) and the (China and Mexico market-specific) BMW 1 Series sedan - just to see how they measure up.
The Audi A3 Sedan comes in as the longest and widest of the trio – a major emphasis of the new car’s design has been head and shoulder room on the interior. As for the Mercedes-Benz A-Class sedan, it delivers the best height and wheelbase, the benefits of these two aspects will most likely be felt at the back. A major drawback of the first-generation CLA sedan was the rear headroom and legroom, Mercedes-Benz has noticeably remedied that with the A-Class sedan.
As for the BMW 1 Series, given that it's specific to the Chinese and Mexican market, BMW has paid special attention to the rear legroom and bootspace – hence it’s got the second-longest wheelbase of the three and the largest cargo volume by far amongst the three.
As for the platforms, the Audi A3 sedan sits on the MQB platform, which also underpins the 8th-generation Golf. Also note, the A3 sedan is 15cm longer than the hatchback version also launched not too long ago. The A-Class is based on the MFA2 (Modular Front Architecture) platform which is shared with the hatchback model. Interestingly, the 1-series despite being based on BMW’s UKL2 platform, the same as the hatchback model, its closest relative is actually the 2 Series Active Tourer, which has an identical wheelbase.
Engines and gearboxes
The new A3 Sedan is available with a choice of two TFSI engines and one (2.0-litre turbodiesel) TDI engine for now. The petrol version is a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, direct-injected and turbocharged engine that outputs 150 PS and 250 Nm of torque. This is comparable to (165 PS/250 Nm) 1.33-litre turbocharged engine available in the A200, but it pales in comparison to the (227 PS/350 Nm) 2.0-litre turbocharged mill in the A250 and the BWM 125i sedan’s (231hp/350Nm) 2.0-litre turbocharged four-banger.
Previous generation Audi RS3 sedan and the current generation Mercedes-AMG A45S 4Matic
However, this is just the first rollout of powerplants. Don’t discount Audi from introducing a more powerful 2.0-litre turbocharged variant like the (255 PS/370 Nm) mill available in the A4 2.0L TFSI, and the howling S3 and RS3 variants to combat the Mercedes-AMG A35 and A45 models respectively.
As for the transmissions – the A3 is offered with a 7-speed dual-clutch S Tronic gearbox, the A-Class sedan also features a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. The BMW, on the other hand, is fitted with the seminal, and excellent ZF 8-speed automatic.
All the variants of the three models discussed here send power to the front wheels. However the Mercedes-AMG models offer the company's 4Matic AWD system, and the A3 will likely offer a Quattro AWD version in due time.
Interior and infotainment
The interior of all three cars are meant to characterise modern luxury and simplicity. The A-Class has been a segment leader thanks to its futuristic styling, impressive material usage and trademark build quality, but the all-new A3 is definitely taking the fight to it.
The angular dashboard architecture is focussed towards the driver. The centre console houses a 10.1-inch MMI touch display screen relaying important navigation and multimedia info. As standard, it includes handwriting detection as well as natural language control. Another 10.25-inch instrument cluster behind the steering wheel is digital even in the basic model. Elsewhere, the A3 cabin should carry Audi’s trademark premium feel and build quality. As for the BMW, its features share the same interior architecture as the (F40) 1 Series hatchback model.
The A-Class features the company’s ground-breaking MBUX infotainment and connectivity suite of functions which is augmented by a voice-controlled AI system. The A3, on the other hand, receives the Audi MMI Navigation Plus, which offers a multitude of Audi connect services as standard, including online traffic information, news, and photos. The Navigation Plus (depending on variant) is 5G LTE capable and offers WIFI smartphone compatibility.
In both the Audi and Mercedes-Benz, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is offered. Keeping in mind that the BMW is only designed for selected markets, it is understandable that it doesn't feature the latest BMW Live Cockpit Plus system, however, it's still equipped with an 8.8-inch central display with the iDrive touch knob and Apple CarPlay connectivity.
When can I buy one?
We don’t have to hold our breaths for the 1 Series sedan, as we've said, it's only for the Chinese and Mexican markets. The A-Class sedan, introduced here in April 2019 is the current top-dog given it’s one of the newest models in the Mercedes stable, and offers three variants starting with the A200, the mid-range A250 and potent Mercedes-AMG A35 model.
Audi Malaysia still does sell the (well, now previous generation) A3 1.4-litre TFSI (150PS/250 Nm) sedan variant priced at RM239,180. If you are curious when the all-new model will arrive, well no one knows, but if Audi Malaysia indeed decides to introduce it, you can place your bets that it will happen only next year. As for Germany, deliveries of the A3 sedan start in June 2020.