lavish amenities. Choosing between the two can be a difficult task. Thanks to the research of Car and Driver, Consumer Reports, and Edmunds, we’ve taken the 2010-2011and rivaled it to the 2010-2011 to see which manufacturer can take the prize of best overall value in compact luxury.
Powertrain: Power goes to the BMW on this one. Since the A3 has done away with the 3.2L V6, the Beamer’s 3.0L inline-6 is higher in torque and horsepower, especially on the turbocharged model. However, the Audi does now offer a 2.0L diesel engine which utilizes clean diesel technology. With the new diesel engine fuel efficiency goes to the A3 at an estimated 30/42 mpg (city/highway). Though the diesel engine is only available with front-wheel drive, the A3 does offer All-Wheel Drive on the gasoline-powered models. AWD is not available on the BMW. Even with the smaller engine, the Audi’s S-tronic transmission with dual-clutch gearbox brings acceleration near what the BMW offers.
Winner: Audi A3
Braking/Safety/Handling: Both models received a rating of Good from the IIHS in crash testing. They also come equipped with antilock disc brakes, stability control, and full-length airbags. Braking on both models is in line with industry standards, but handling is slightly better on the BMW. Though the AWD A3 is adequate in traction, the FWD model does exhibit some wheelspin.
Winner: BMW 1 Series
Cargo/Hauling: Despite a luxurious interior, the BMW is lacking in cargo space. The sedan holds 13 cubic feet of cargo while the convertible drops that down to 8.5 cubes. The A3 possesses ample cargo space at 20 cubic feet. It also has a 60/40 split rear seat which folds down, but not totally flat, to accommodate larger items. There is also a center pass-through which allows longer items to be stored.
Winner: Audi A3
Comfort/Interior: The Audi’s cabin is typical with the rest of its line, which is to say it has high quality materials and craftsmanship. The materials are contoured and well-placed with an upscale look that is common on luxury vehicles. The BMW remains competitive in this area but there are many hard plastic materials throughout, leaving no doubt of its entry-level status. The 1 Series’ rear seat is also significantly cramped.
Winner: Audi A3
Amenities/Options: The sun-reflective technology in the BMW convertible’s seats are a nice pickup. The company claims it can lower seat temperature by as much as 20 degrees when sitting directly in the sun. That’s very handy, especially on leather upholstery. They also spread the choices in the other direction, offering a Cold Weather package with heated front seats. Audi matches the Cold Weather package and adds a better navigation/drive system. Still this one is a very close call as both are luxury cars with luxury options.
Value for the $: The MSRP on the Audi starts at $27,270 and climbs only slightly to $30,850 for the AWD Quattro. The 1 Series starts at $29,150 but gets rather pricey with options, running all the way to $40,350 for the fully-loaded convertible.
Winner: With better economy, more space, and a cheaper price, the Audi seems to be the overall winner here. The BMW does give more power, but that’s not always a prime feature in the entry-level class.