The Audi A1 and Audi A3 are both small, premium hatchbacks with beautifully made interiors and smart looking outsides. Thanks to an overlap in price, you might be caught between a mid-range A1 or entry-level A3 so which is the best option for you.
They both get almost identically positive reviews from critics too, so we’re putting them side-by-side to help you pick which one’ll suit you best. Both have seen recent facelifts in a bid to keep them looking fresh.
Audi A1 vs A3 – styling
From the front, they’re deceptively similar with the A1’s angled headlights mirroring the A3’s. Look from the side and rear, and you’ll notice that the A1 is shorter and has more curved roof pillars – the bits of bodywork that join the car’s roof to the rest of the vehicle. This is the main visual difference between the two, and one that’s emphasised by the paint options, is that you can spec an A1 with a roof that’s painted a different colour to the body.
The A3 looks slightly more like a traditional hatchback than the A1 – most obvious from behind thanks to its wider boot and a more conventional styling. Both share Audi’s familiar grille and angular lights but the A1 has more scope for personalisation thanks to its range of colours.
It’s worth noting that both the A1 and A3 are available in three- or five-door form – we have separate reviews for the A1 Sportback and A3 Sportback if you’d like to take a closer look. The A3 is also offered as a Saloon and as a Cabriolet.
Audi A1 vs A3 – interior
Audi is known for the quality of its cars’ interiors and the A1 and A3 don’t disappoint. Inside, they’re just as well built and classy as their bigger, more expensive siblings including the Audi A4. Both make use of gorgeous materials and have simplistic layouts helping make them easy to use on the move.
Practicality wise, the A3 takes the prize – it’s a bigger car than the A1 so there’s simply more passenger space in the front and back. The same is true in the rear too – children will fit in the back of the A1, but you’ll want the A3 if you regularly carry rear passengers. The A1 has a much smaller boot too – opt for the five-door A3 Sportback and you’ll have an extra 200 litres of capacity over a three-door A1.
Audi A1 vs A3 – driving
The A1 is praised by critics for being fun to drive – its small size gives it a real go-kart feel and, thanks to the A1’s slightly shorter wheelbase, it feels slightly more nimble on a twisty country road than the bigger A3. If you want the fastest A1 available you’ll want the S1 – it’s ridiculously quick, features four-wheel drive and can dart from 0-62mph in just 5.8 seconds.
Although the agile A1 is fun, its suspension isn’t as supple as the larger car’s. In addition, the longer distance between the A3’s wheels means it absorbs bumps better than the A1 and feels marginally more stable at motorway speeds. While it’s not as fun overall as the A1, the A3 counters with better steering with fewer turns needed from lock to lock helping the car turn into corners with more gusto.
Audi A1 vs A3 – engines
Compared to the A3, the A1’s engine line-up is somewhat limited. Diesel-wise you’ll have to opt for the 1.6-litre that produces 116hp – it claims 72mpg and is road tax exempt, too. It shares petrol engines with other Volkswagen Group cars – the newest being a 1.0-litre three-cylinder claiming 67.3mpg – making it almost as efficient as diesel option. If you want some power, there are 1.2-litre and 1.4-litre petrols too, the latter of which has a healthy 148hp and will get from 0-62mph in a brisk 7.9 seconds.
The A3 shares some of its engines with the A1, with the 1.2-litre petrol being the cheapest in the range. It’ll come with more power in the A3 though, and there’s more choice for diesel fans – as well as the economical 1.6-litre unit, you can opt for the powerful 2.0-litre instead. This’ll give you more torque than the smaller option, while achieving similar mpg figures and, if you pick the 182hp version, you’ll get from 0-62mph in 7.4 seconds.
Audi A1 vs A3 – value for money
The A1 can be yours from £14,530, while A3 costs from £18,865. This might seem like a big leap but it’s worth considering that, if you opt for a fully-kitted out A1 in S-Line trim, you could spend considerably more than £20,000. With that in mind, you could get yourself a mid-range A3 for a similar price and, naturally, you can save money on either car by buying it through carwow.
Both models can be specced in SE, Sport or S-Line trims, and there isn’t that much difference in equipment levels between identical trim versions of the A1 and A3. Be aware that sportier models get firmer suspension that jiggles more over bumps in the road. This can be removed for free, however, on the options list for more comfortable ‘Dynamic’ suspension.
Audi A1 vs A3 – verdict
This one is really up to you – both cars offer good refinement, use quality materials and offer that sought-after German badge. They share lots of components too, and there isn’t a vast difference between respective specifications. If you like the idea of a funky two-tone paint job and a fun drive every now and then, the A1 is for you.
If you want an understated premium hatch with a little more room, however, you’re better off with the A3. While the A1 is perhaps a little more fun, the A3 is the best bet on long motorway journeys and for families. If you need to carry passengers in the back frequently, it’s worth stumping up the extra for the A3.
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