When the current F20 BMW 1 Series hatchback first debuted, it wasn’t very good looking. It wasn’t necessarily ugly, but it had a slightly frumpy look to it. After its LCI treatment, it actually became a handsome looking car and is now one of the best looking hatchbacks on the market. The current generation Audi A3 is a handsome enough looking car, but it’s a bit boring. However, Audi has just given the A3 a refresh of its own that will be hitting German showrooms this summer. So now that both cars have had their refresh, let’s take a look at them against each other.
The new Audi A3 now shares a familial face with its older brother, the Audi A4, and now wears a sharp body line down its side and revised taillights. Its Singleframe grille looks much better than before and, together with the new angular headlights, has a much more aggressive look. Compared to the BMW 1 Series the A3 now looks more aggressive, with a lower sloping front end and more angular styling. However, the 1 Series’ front end is more muscular, with bulging hood lines and a more upright grille, as if it’s puffing its chest. The A3 looks sharper but the 1 Series looks more powerful.
The same goes for the rear. While the A3’s new taillights are better than before, and their added width widens the look of the car, you can still tell that this is a front-driven car and the rear haunches are somewhat weak. The A3’s rear end might be a bit more stylish than the 1 Series’, but the Bimmer shows its rear-drive nature with its muscular rear haunches.
On the inside, not much changes for Audi’s A3, but it does gain a new MMI system and the availability of Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit. It’s an attractive cabin that’s well laid out and incredibly well built, as all Audi interiors are. However, the 1 Series’ cockpit is more driver-focused, with an emphasis on sportiness and performance. Both are good looking, though, and the winner here is quite subjective as some may like Audi’s simple and clean looking cabin, while others will like the more aggressive, driver-focused cabin of the BMW.
Under the hood, the familiar engines remain for the Audi A3, but it also gained some new ones. A new 1.0 liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine is available at the bottom end and an all-new 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder TFSI engine tops off the gasoline range with 190 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. Some new diesel engines are available as well. The A3 ditches its six-speed automatic in favor of a new seven-speed dual-clutch S-Tronic gearbox and a six-speed manual remains. All A3s will drive their front wheels while the 2.0 liter TFSI has the option for Quattro all-wheel drive. The Audi S3 also receives the refreshed looks and tech, while also gaining a small power bump, going up to 310 hp and 295 lb-ft from the previous variant’s 292 hp and 280 lb-ft. This will compete with the M135i in Europe and M235i in America.
Overall, the Audi A3 has become a much more visually interesting car since its update and it’s gained some clever new technology. The A3 might have a slight looks advantage now in the front end, as it’s sharper and more aggressive, but the 1 Series is the better looking car as a whole, thanks to a better stance, profile and more muscular appearance that stem from its rear-drive layout. Both cabins are very good looking and have their pros and cons, so it’s a bit of a wash inside and strictly comes down to taste. All in all, the 1 Series is likely still the better car, but the A3 has certainly become a more worthy competitor.