Cars with butt! Compact sedans from Audi and BMW tested for space and comfort

In 2020, three out of ten Audi’s A3 sold in the Netherlands were Limousines. With the BMW 2-series, it is the Gran Coupé that has the most similarities with the classic sedan and there was quite a lot of enthusiasm for that last year.

The technology of the BMW 218i Gran Coupé is copied from the 1-series, so a 140 hp three-cylinder drives the front wheels. The tested Audi A3 Limousine 35 TFSI has four cylinders, mild hybrid technology and 150 hp. Both test cars are equipped with an automatic gearbox.

You don’t buy a compact sedan for space

In these sedans the front seat is just as spacious as in the five-door hatchback versions of the Audi A3 and the BMW 1-series. Everything is different in the second row. A sleek design and optimum aerodynamics dictate a sloping roofline, where the headroom of the occupants is irrelevant. Even if you are of average height, you will soon come into contact with the roof. Although Audi speaks of a sedan and BMW of a coupé, you are just as tight on both rear seats.

“You’re just as tight on both rear seats.”

There are more similarities: the Gran Coupé has a trunk of 430 liters and the Limousine gives you a comparable luggage space of 425 liters. Much more important is the backrest of the rear seat, which in the 2 Series consists of three folding parts. This gives the BMW driver more flexibility.

BMW is again praised with the intuitively operated iDrive system, where you can choose whether you use the rotary knob between the front seats or the central touchscreen. The Audi only has a touchscreen, but underneath is a button bar for the climate control. Physical buttons work so much better than the ‘slider’ that you find in the Volkswagen Golf (review), Skoda Octavia (review) and Seat Leon (review). It is a pity that the buttons do not light up in the dark.

Adaptive shock absorbers make the difference

The BMW 218iA has a conventional chassis that takes its comfort tasks seriously. It reacts smoothly to imperfections and absorbs most of the trouble effortlessly. In the car you can feel what is happening under the wheels, but that is not bothersome. However, the body of the Gran Coupé moves more than we would like.

The body of the A3 Limousine gives us the desired rest, but the Audi is also equipped with adaptive shock absorbers and you have to pay extra for that. The adaptive chassis also handles holes, clinkers and manhole covers just as smoothly as the BMW.

“Tire noise is louder in the A3 than in the 2 series.”

Both test cars are equipped with sports seats. The Audi mounts them in every version above the basic version, BMW asks 534 euros for it. Depending on your stature, you may find the BMW’s seats a bit narrow. Those from Audi are wider and at the same time offer better cornering support. One aspect of comfort that the A3 Limousine does not win is interior noise. Tire noise is louder in the A3 than in the 2-series.

Price: that’s how much a compact sedan costs

Would Audi and BMW copy each other’s homework? The A3 Limousine 35 TFSI has a basic price of 38,870 euros and, in order not to arouse suspicion, BMW is 25 euros below it with the 218iA Gran Coupé (38,845 euros).

The fact that the tested Audi comes to a much higher price of 44,134 euros, has everything to do with the additional costs for the adaptive shock absorbers, the 19-inch wheels and the progressive steering. Our BMW with 18-inch alloy and sports seats costs ‘only’ 40,520 euros.

Curious about the full test from Auto Review 3/2021? Don’t feel like going outside? Order Auto Review 3 in our webshop.

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