Audi is more of a direct rival to BMW and Mercedes-Benz, as the three nearly always produce a model that directly competes with each other. This means the trio have produced some incredible cars over the years, and they show no sign of letting up.
But what about when you compare two similar Audi models? The Audi A3 was long the entry point into the Audi range, but has since been replaced by the more compact Audi A1. But which used Audi is right for you? Is the Audi A1 just a smaller Audi A3? Discover the bigger picture below.
- Introduction and Design
- Versions and Performance
- Interior and Technology
- Value and Final Thoughts
Introduction and Design
The first generation A1 first appeared in 2010, and replaced the A3 as the entry level model in the Audi range. The A3 has been around a little longer, after first appearing in 1996.
Both have had multiple generations with great success, with the A1 now in its second generation (2019 onwards pictured), whilst the A3 compared here is in its fourth generation.
We have already mentioned the Audi A3's competition, but what models does the A1 go up against? Some say the A1 can actually rival the BMW 1 Series - a car which competes directly against the bigger Audi A3. But others suggest the MINI (owned by BMW) as being a more suited rival. Others state the DS 3 and top spec Ford Fiesta models, although both are less premium than the Audi.
The fact that some see the Audi A1 as a BMW 1 Series rival, also backs up why we are pitching the A1 against its bigger A3 sibling too. The little Audi A1 has engineered itself a reputation for punching above its weight, as not many small cars feel premium, but the A1 manages it superbly. Its design is handsome, and there's no mistaking it as part of the Audi range.
A more mature and sophisticated vibe is presented by the Audi A3 in comparison, which could reflect in the buyer. You could therefore argue that the A1 targets a younger, trendier consumer - especially going up against the retro styled MINI.
Versions and Performance
The smaller Audi A1 is available as a 5-door hatchback (Sportback in Audi speak) only, whilst the Audi A3 is available as a 5-door hatchback (also described as a Sportback by Audi), or as a saloon version.
As you'd expect, the trims/specifications mirror each other starting out with 'Sport', moving up to the familiar 'S Line', with 'Black Edition' as the range topper in both regular A1 and A3 line-ups.
A 1.0-litre, 3-cylinder is the entry level engine in both models. In the A1 it's offered with 94bhp or 109bhp, whilst the A3 only offers the latter. The shared engine performs better in the lighter A1, and therefore makes it a tad quicker. But taking around 10 seconds, it's not lighting fast, but the A1 feels quicker than the stats suggest, whilst the A3 feels a bit restricted.
The uncanny thing about the 3-cylinder in the A1 is its uncanny refinement. It feels much more refined and smooth than a 3-cylinder engine found in a Toyota Aygo or similar for example.
Engines increase in size with larger 4-cylinder 1.5-litre engines available in both models, with similar performance offered, taking around 8 seconds to go from 0 to 62mph. Both cars feature front-wheel drive too.
If you want incredible performance, the Audi S3 takes things up a notch, whilst the range-topping RS 3 (pictured) takes things even further. Both cars (available in Sportback and Saloon) come complete with all-wheel drive for enhanced performance whatever the weather, with 0 to 62mph coming up in 4.8 seconds for S3 models, and just 3.8 seconds for the RS 3 variants.
Interior and Technology
With digital interiors very much commonplace in modern cars, Audi have ensured the whole vibe of their interiors has been excellent, even before the digital 'switchover'.
In the A1 (pictured) and A3, you get digital dials, with the option to upgrade to the full Audi virtual cockpit with cars featuring the upgraded 'Technology Pack'.
Long before digital instrument clusters were introduced, Audi have been nailing the interior vibe for quality and refinement. You don't really get behind the wheel of an Audi these days and feel disappointed, like you do with some manufacturers who don't offer a digital cluster as standard, or seem a little cheap with the materials.
Both the A1 and A3 feel solid, refined and beautifully made. No matter what spec Audi A1 or A3 you get behind the wheel of, you'll feel like you're in a premium vehicle.
Higher spec models will further impress, with features like black headlining, leather, more dynamic styling and fancier toys such as enhanced speaker and music systems, and upgraded safety features.
You'd think the Audi A3 would have the Audi A1 beat for practicality, and you'd be right. Being larger, it's easier to live with for sure, offering more interior space and a bigger boot.
Boot spaces are listed below:
Audi A1 Sportback = 335 litres / 1090 litres with the rear seats folded flat
Audi A3 Sportback (pictured) = 380 litres / 1200 litres with the rear seats folded flat
Audi A3 Saloon = 425 litres*
Audi RS 3 Sportback = 281 litres*
Audi RS 3 Saloon = 321 litres*
*It's worth noting you can fold the seats in the A3 Saloon and two RS 3 variants too.
Interestingly, the saloon versions of the Audi A3 offer bigger boots with all seats in place, whilst the hatchback versions do make loading easier.
Value and Final Thoughts
Used Audi cars are a decent buy, thanks to the way they hold their value, the quality they offer and the refinement they showcase too.
The Audi A1 is perhaps one of the most refined small cars on the market, whilst the larger Audi A3 (pictured) is ideal for those wanting that tad bit more space, and more sophisticated vibe.
The high performance all-wheel drive Audi S3 and RS 3 models are ideal if you want most of the benefits of a standard A3, but with supercar-taunting straight line performance. Sure, you'll lose a little boot space and comfort due to the sports suspension, but it's not going to be a problem for those used to performance cars.
To some, the A1 may just be a smaller A3, but it really isn't as much as some would think. It's great that Audi offer both models, so you can choose the perfect Audi that best suits your lifestyle. It's worth trying both if you are unsure on whether you need or don't need the extra space.
With a used A3, the larger 4-cylinder engine does feel better suited, whilst the smaller 3-cylinder engines don't feel out of a place, like it could feel for some in the larger A3.
Find your perfect used car at Evans Halshaw
Whether you are after a used Audi A1, used Audi A3, used Audi or perhaps a used car from another manufacturer, Evans Halshaw have a comprehensive selection of new and used car offers for you to browse online.