Searching for a stylish supermini? Small cars needn’t feel cheap and cheerful, as proven by the Mini hatchback, the Audi A1 and the DS 3 – three of the most luxurious compact hatches on sale today. We compare the trio to help you pick a winner.
Mini Hatchback vs Audi A1 vs DS 3 – price
Looking at the most basic models in each range, the DS 3 gets of to the best start. There’s very little to choose between it and the next closest challenger – costing from £13,995, it undercuts the entry-level Mini by just £80. The Audi is the most expensive of the three at £14,530.
Those figures don’t quite tell the full story, though. Get over-excited with the options list on either the Mini or the Audi and the numbers soon climb well ahead of the more generously equipped DS. However, the DS won’t hold its value quite as strongly as the other two when the time comes to sell it on.
Mini Hatchback vs Audi A1 vs DS 3 – styling
In terms of style icons, few cars are more instantly recognisable as the Mini. The round headlights, chrome detailing and the wheel-at-each-corner stance make it a shape difficult to mistake for anything else on the road.
In contrast, the Audi doesn’t offer much to help it stand out from the crowd except for the prestige that comes with a four-ringed logo attached to its nose. It looks minimalist, modern and less flashy than the other two. Is it too dull though? We’ll let you decide…
The DS 3’s more youthful, eye-catching look excites more than the Audi, and the unusual side window line and bold DS grille adds plenty of character. Like the Mini, a huge range of roof and body colour options allows buyers to personalise their car to their own specific tastes.
Mini Hatchback vs Audi A1 vs DS 3 – interior
The Mini’s retro cabin features a quality feel on every surface, button and toggle switch and, arguably, the most stylish cabin of the three. The dashboard is dominated by a round central bezel housing an infotainment screen. The user interface looks slick, and it’s the easiest to use here thanks to clear menu progression and the use of a control knob rather than a fiddly touchscreen.
Interior quality in the A1 is almost on a par with the Mini but, next to its retro rival, the A1 just feels a little too bland – too many grey plastic surfaces feature and the design looks just too anonymous. The side is also let down slightly by the infotainment graphics, which look old-hat next to the Mini.
The DS 3’s cabin is a mix of the sublime – such as the soft ‘watchstrap’ leather interior of this top spec Ultra Prestige Model – and the disappointing – especially the small and confusing touchscreen infotainment system. With the exception of one or two cheap plastics, material quality is good, if not quite a match for the other two.
Mini Hatchback vs Audi A1 vs DS 3 – practicality
Cabin space will always be a compromise for such small cars and, in the case of the Mini, it’s the boot that suffers the most. At 211 litres, it’s the smallest here, though it does compensate with a decent hidden storage space below a false boot floor. There’s only space for two at the back, but once there – a task which takes some gymnastic talent – there’s respectable headroom and certainly more room than any of its notoriously compact forebears.
Overall, it’s the Audi that’s the most practical in this test. The 270-litre boot volume is respectable, while an adjustable boot floor and a couple of securing hooks adds a little extra versatility. Like the Mini, the A1 is a strict four seater. The lack of a third rear seat might seem like a compromise, but does boost shoulder room for the remaining two seats. Legroom is okay but headroom is poor for taller occupants.
The DS 3 feels claustrophobic in the back – the seats are cramped and the rear windows are small. It has seating for three along the back bench, but they’d only be a suitable option for children. Storage space is next to nonexistent – the glove box is a joke, the door bins are pretty much useless and the there aren’t any cupholders. It counters with the largest boot here which, at 285 litres, just edges the the A1, however.
Mini Hatchback vs Audi A1 vs DS 3 – driving
Most small cars feel darty and fun from behind the wheel and, in this respect, the Audi A1 is something of a let-down. The sport suspension option does little to improve the excitement, instead merely spoiling the ride quality. All isn’t a disaster however – the A1 feels easy, relaxing and grown-up to drive. If you’re not interested in sporty driving and, instead, want a car that gets from A to B without fuss, the A1 makes a great choice.
The Mini feels by far the most exciting on the road. It has huge levels of grip, giving you loads of confidence along a twisty road and the steering has excellent precision making it easy to predict how the car will respond around corners. The suspension setup is firm but rarely feels uncomfortable so this sporty hatch can easily be used everyday without extra chiropractor appointments. Road noise is a little more audible than in the other two, however.
With the Mini feeling the most sporty and the Audi the most comfy, the DS 3 sits somewhere between the two. It’s fun to drive – darting into corners with real enthusiasm – but a compliant suspension setup helps it cope with the daily commute and motorway driving admirably.
Mini Hatchback vs Audi A1 vs DS 3 – engines
Of its petrol lineup, the Audi A1’s 1.4-litre turbo is a sweet, flexible and fairly frugal option. The equivalent Mini is slightly less economical than the Audi, returning a claimed 52mpg to the A1’s 56.5. However, it’s quicker than the Audi, and the three-cylinder motor makes a more characterful noise.
The pick of the DS 3 petrol range is the 1.2-litre PureTech turbo petrol unit. Performance figures are a match for the Audi, yet a claimed 62.8mpg figure is a step ahead. For more power, the 1.6-litre turbo engine is shared with the old Mini and provides a useful slug of power when needed.
If diesels are your thing, Audi, Mini and DS each offer cars with almost identical 0-62mph times. On paper, the Audi A1 is the most frugal with a claimed 80.7mpg figure, followed by the DS 3’s 78.5mpg and the Mini’s 74mpg. However, both the Mini and the DS 3 are available with less powerful but more frugal alternatives, both capable of 83.1mpg.
Mini Hatchback vs Audi A1 vs DS 3 – verdict
There’s much to like in all three cars and, to a large extent, it depends on what matters to you the most. The Audi is handsome in a subtle way, and feels the most grown-up on the road. The DS 3 deserves consideration thanks to its value for money, unique style, and respectable ride and handling balance.
Overall, though, it’s the Mini that takes the top spot here. It’s beautifully built, eye catching, and leaves the driver with the biggest smile on their face. That it also functions well as a regular hatchback is merely the icing on an already very convincing cake.
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