Audi A1 vs A3 side-by-side comparison

January 21, 2022 by

If you’re looking towards the Audi range for your next hatchback, you’ve got a choice between the dinky A1 and the larger A3.

Whereas the Audi A1 competes with alternatives like the VW Polo and Ford Fiesta, the A3 is in the same vein as the VW Golf and Mercedes A-Class.

How do the two compare though? This guide is here to pick the nuances out and help you choose the right Audi for you.

Driving and performance

If most of your driving is going to be in town and you’re parking in tight spaces often, the Audi A1 is going to be the more appealing option off the bat. It’s the smaller car of the two, with the result of that a more manoeuvrable car.

That said, the A3 is well-suited to town too. Its steering is super light, visibility is great and standard-fit parking sensors will help if you’re not used to parking a bigger car.

If you’re covering motorway miles often, you may want to consider the A3 here. First off, it’s the only one of the two with a diesel engine available — your options are limited in the A1.

Wind noise is lower too, and it’s just that extra bit comfier. Both cars can be had with adaptive cruise control though, which will make those longer distances a little more relaxing.

If you’re looking for sheer driving fun though, neither car excels in regular form. The Ford Fiesta has the A1 beat, and the A3 lags behind the Ford Focus and BMW 1 Series in that regard.

That said, S and RS variants of the A3 are available if a hot hatch is on your radar. There’s no racy version of the A1 though, unfortunately. Audi previously offered an S1 but there’s no indication of this returning.

Style and size

Audi takes something of a Russian Matryoshka doll approach to car design. If you had the whole range lined up, you could easily imagine them popping out from one another.

This means the A1 and A3 share a lot of design cues. Take the pentagonal grille for example, and the slots at the top of the bumper — a subtle nod to the old Audi Sport Quattro.

The A3 does get more of a boomerang shape to its headlights though, which is fast becoming a feature on Audi models. The current A1 came just before this trend began to set in.

Similarities continue at the back too. Both get angular brake lights, although the A3’s almost looks like a stretched and flipped version of the A1’s.

Both cars get alloy wheels as standard. For the Audi A1, these kick-off at 15-inches and rise up to 18-inch units depending on your choice of trim. On the A3 they start at 16-inches and can be as large as 19-inches.

Interior and tech

Both the Audi A1 and A3 have a remarkably similar interior layout as well. Both have a 10.25-inch digital driver’s display, and a large infotainment system that’s tilted toward the driver.

Unfortunately, the A1 doesn’t match the A3 for quality. Though for a small car it does feel nice, its cabin doesn’t feel as nicely put together. The centre console feels solid, but scratchy plastics on the doors and lower elements of the dashboard let it down.

In contrast, the Audi A3 feels a lot more solid. Its quality feel is more consistent, though you will still find some cheaper-feeling materials if you’re looking. The BMW 1 Series has it beat here.

As standard in the A1, you get a 9-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Sat-nav isn’t a standard feature but you can use Android Auto and Apple CarPlay with it to mirror your smartphone.

It’s worth upgrading to the 10-inch infotainment system though. As well as adding sat-nav, it looks much sharper and feels more responsive than the older software on the smaller unit.

If you want an even better system, the Audi A3 has you covered. Though the screen is also a 10-inch unit, it gets Audi’s latest software which hasn’t yet made it to some of its more luxurious cars.

Boot space and practicality

If you need more space, the Audi A3 will naturally be the go-to choice of the two. Its larger dimensions translate to more space inside than the A1, which could be enough to tip it for you.

That said, the rear seats in neither car are perfect for tall people. Even in the A3, your vertically-blessed passengers might find them banging their heads on the roof. There’s a reasonable amount of legroom, though.

There’s enough room in the back of the Audi A1 to bring adults along for shorter drives, but it’ll feel rather claustrophobic for longer trips. There’s plenty of space if you’ve got a young family and just need to get a kid’s car seat in, though.

The Audi A3 has the A1 beat for boot space as well with 380 litres compared with 335 litres. That said, the A1 is up amongst the best in its class in that regard.

Safety and reliability

Both the Audi A1 and Audi A3 scored five-star ratings when Euro NCAP crash tested them in 2019 and 2020 respectively.

No major reliability issues have been reported for either car, as both are still fairly new to the market. However, new examples are covered by a three-year/60,000-mile warranty (whichever comes first).

Price and running costs

RRP for the Audi A1 kicks off at £19,805. At the time of writing though, it’s possible to save an average of £484 through carwow.

As is to be expected, the larger Audi A3 comes at a premium, with an RRP starting at £25,010. It’s possible to get an average saving (at the time of writing) of £466 through carwow, however.

The highest MPG quoted for the Audi A1 comes from its 110hp engine option at 53mpg. That’s bested by the A3’s 110hp option at 55mpg, though the A3 will cost more upfront.

If maximum efficiency is your main concern, the 61mpg claim for the A3’s 2.0-litre, 150hp diesel is the go-to. There’s a plug-in hybrid option as well with a claim of 235mpg, but you’ll be hard-pressed to get close to that figure in real-world driving.

Insurance groups for the Audi A1 start at 16 and rise to 31 depending on spec. For the A3 these starts at 14 and shoot up to 33 for high-spec S3 models.

Which is better? An Audi A1 or A3?

If you’re looking for the most affordable way to get behind the wheel of an Audi, the A1 is your best bet. It’s notably cheaper than the A3, though running costs will about comparable.

It’s the ideal choice if you’re doing the vast majority of your driving around town too and space isn’t a major concern.

That said, if you’re looking for a more family-oriented car the Audi A3 is the way to go. Plus it feels posher too — ideal if you’re after a little more luxury.