Audi A3 vs BMW 1 series review

Normally I would not want to post about this on my blog, keeping it technical and all, but since a week I drive a different car and some things really bug me about both of them now. Last week I had a little accident with my 2010 Audi A3 and the next morning a rental car was delivered to my doorstep. As some weird evil plan they gave me a BMW 1 series (2012 model). I am writing this review from my own perspective and I am in no way a certified engineer. If I missed any details, sorry.

Now, a first thing to note is that both cars are not equal in options, but as we get along in this ‘review’ of mine, I will point out some differences between the cars which are really remarkable.

So lets get things started shall we?

Both cars have a very different look. Of course things like rims are just optional when purchasing a car and with a rental I can imagine they don’t want to fit it with $2000 rims. I really love the front of the 2012 BMW 1 series. It has quite an aggressive look, which I prefer, but the same goes for the front of any 2010+ Audi A3. The LED strips make them very aggresive, especially with the spoilers under the front bumper. The BMW does not seem to have any LED stips, but it does have DRL. Audi +1, BMW +1


The front of the BMW

The front of the Audi

The back of the cars is a totally different story. Where the A3 has a nice firm big ass, the BMW feels more like a blown up VW Polo. It misses the lack of a ‘spark’ and it feels like the want to compensate for the aggressiveness of the front of the car. I am not saying it’s ugly, but it’s certainly not as nice as the A3. Audi +1, BMW 0.


The back of the BMW

The back of the Audi

When I first got in the BMW, I only noticed the big gigantic huge LCD screen they have fitted in there. Awesome! (BMW +1). It’s clear, easy to read (even with in sunny weather) and it makes a good impression. I have played with cars with iDrive before, but never used one for myself. Well that system is very intuitive, navigation through the menu’s is easy and because the LCD screen is close to the front window, it’s easy to change settings while driving (although you should always watch the roads!!). The amount of settings you can change for the cars also wasn’t a disappointment.

My A3 is fitted with the biggest navigational system/car-stereo Audi could deliver, a so called RNS-e, but control of it is nowhere near as easy as the iDrive system (Audi +0). The screen is a bit smaller and you need to look down to actually see it. Before I got the BMW I did not find this a problem, but now I have experienced differently. The amount of options I get in the A3 to connect audio is a big plus though. I can fit my stereo with 2 32GB SD-cards and have all the music I want in my car, next to that I have iPhone and AUX connections to connect even more devices. Although the iPhone option is a big plus, it was an option, so it would not be completely fair to give point for that.

iDrive in the BMW

RNS-e in the Audi


Time to put on some music… BMW? It’s time to put on some music and make it louder? louder? Nope. The BMW lacks any oomph in this department. The speakers probably sound good to old people or maybe people with a hearing problem, but this is ridiculous. I can choose a radio station on a big fancy LCD screen and then the music sounds like it came from my 1998 Sony Walkman (yes, the one with cassettes) BMW +0.

When I turn on the audio in my A3, there is some noise! And when you turn the volume up there is even more noise! Want bass? No problem, because Audi gives you active speakers with this model. Want more speaker power? Just order some Bose speakers in there and you will be blown away. Audi definitely scores some points there, so Audi +1.

Navigation system
Next up, navigation system. Both cars have a very nice navigational system, both with lane assist, traffic announcements, etc. So no scores there, but in the BMW I am not certain which language this woman speaks. I confirmed it was actually set to Dutch, but I think she lost it somewhere. City names, directions and everything she says sound really weird. Let’s just say it’s good you got a big ass LCD display to see the route you need to drive, BMW +0.

The Audi on the other hand, the voices are clear and all cities and directions are pronounced very clearly. City names are all recorded in the native language of the country where the city is located, which helps in the navigation, Audi +1

Board computer
Ow man, it’s all in the details. Why can’t they just all make a list of things they think they need, then just visit each other and make sure everyone has every option.

  • Display shows the current gear, Audi +1
  • Easily change the car driving mode, with just 1 button, BMW +1
  • Display shows which seats are filled and if they got their seatbelts on, BMW +1
  • Display between speedometer and rpm-meter shows direction where to go, if you got your other display set to radio or something, Audi +1
  • Move the display between speedometer and RPM-meter up a bit, so steering wheel won’t block the view, Audi +1
  • Easily pull up range until your tank is empty, Audi +1

Because these are all minor points, so Audi +1, BMW +1.

Climate control
One of the nicest things on my A3 is certainly the climate control. It measures the temperature in separate areas of the car and actually adjusts things to make sure it’s a nice comfortable temperature in there. I never had the feeling it was still causing a tornado inside of the car while the set temperature was already reached, Audi +1.

The BMW completely lacks this confidence. We were sitting in 9KM of traffic (6 miles) and the sun was doing it’s thing on our pitch-black car. Inside the temperature was not getting any better, where the Audi would have adjusted the speed and temperature of the air that was blown in the car, the BMW just does…. nothing. Yeah it keeps blowing air, but no adjusting at all.
Meanwhile, inside the car, things started to get unpleasant and I started fiddling with the buttons to see if I touched something I shouldn’t have. Nope, everything was still on ‘Auto’, but there was no way this BMW was going to help us out here. As a last resort I just changed the blowing speed by hand, to make sure we weren’t cooked alive (a little bit exaggerated).

So, BMW +0, just because this was not a standard accessory.

This is simple, both cars sit great, look good (where the dashboard of the BMW could use some more design, but OK). The passengers in the back of the BMW had about the same legroom as in the A3, so this was all OK. One thing I missed in the BMW were adjustable seatbelts, you know, just to make them comfortable in your neck.

I am of average length (yes, average, not short damnit!) and the seats in both the BMW and the Audi are good. They give great support and even driving for long times does not wear you out.

The booth-space is a different story. In the BMW you could hide maybe 2, maybe 3 dead bodies, but in the Audi you could easily fit 5, if you pushed really hard maybe even 6, Audi +1

Also, while many people won’t think this is an issue: the cup holders in the BMW are sitting in the right place. In the A3 they are placed beneath the arm-rest, where they are unusable. Whenever I enter the BMW I know where I can put my phone and other stuff, in the A3 I have to fiddle to get my phone somewhere so it won’t launch through the car when taking a turn, BMW +1.

While all the ‘real’ car reviews will say that the BMW is one of the best cars there is, I think I agree with them. Driving in the BMW does feel very nice! The rear-wheel drive causes a lot of joy when driving, where the Audi is a lot more reserved. Steering in both cars feels very direct, so no difference there, but I got to admit it, the BMW feels nicer when you can push the pedal down a bit, BMW +1.

I tried configuring both cars on the BMW and Audi websites. When I chose almost the same option for both cars the BMW was a bit more expensive (2.500 euro’s extra). This is mainly because some stuff in the Audi is standard on each model, which I have to pay for with a BMW. While this does not seem like a lot of money, it can certainly convince some people to choose the Audi over the BMW, especially if you think of the extra booth-space you get when getting the A3, but some people might think the driving experience is worth it, so I am not going to give points for this.

Now let’s calculate those scores scientifically. Audi gets 7 points here and BMW gets 5. But does this make the Audi a better car by definition? No.

But with either car, the more cash you got, the better they get. When I am going to choose my next car, I am certainly going to look at the BMW.

Small side note: I don’t care if you agree or don’t agree with my review. I based this list on my own experience and have given it some thought. If you do have arguments I missed, or have other information I could use so I could expand my review, please leave it below in the comments.


2 thoughts on “Audi A3 vs BMW 1 series review

  1. Both BMW 1-Series and Audi A3 entry-level sedans are good in their own ways, but due to its striking exterior styling, I would like to choose the 1-Series as the best opt.

  2. Nice post. I found this really helpful as I am just about to order a new Audi and will now take a look at the series 1 BMW before I make my mind up. Thanks

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