2019 Audi A3 Sedan vs. 2018 BMW 3 Series Sedan

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

For enhanced safety, the front and rear seat shoulder belts of the Audi A3 Sedan are height-adjustable to accommodate a wide variety of driver and passenger heights. A better fit can prevent injuries and the increased comfort also encourages passengers to buckle up. The BMW 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer height-adjustable seat belts.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests front crash prevention systems. With a score of 6 points, IIHS rates the Audi Pre Sense Front in the A3 Sedan as “Superior.” The 3 Series Sedan scores at most only 3 points and is rated only “Advanced.”

The A3 Sedan has a standard Secondary Collision Brake Assist, which automatically applies the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer a post collision braking system: in the event of a collision that triggers the airbags, more collisions are possible without the protection of airbags that may have already deployed.

To help make backing safer, the A3 Sedan’s optional cross-path warning system uses wide-angle radar in the rear bumper to alert the driver to vehicles approaching from the side, helping the driver avoid collisions. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer a cross-path warning system.

Both the A3 Sedan and the 3 Series Sedan have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available lane departure warning systems, blind spot warning systems and rear parking sensors.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the Audi A3 Sedan is safer than the BMW 3 Series Sedan:

 

A3 Sedan

3 Series Sedan

 

Driver

STARS

4 Stars

4 Stars

HIC

217

232

 

Passenger

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Chest Compression

.5 inches

.6 inches

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

A significantly tougher test than their original offset frontal crash test, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety does 40 MPH small overlap frontal offset crash tests. In this test, where only 25% of the total width of the vehicle is struck, results indicate that the Audi A3 Sedan is safer than the 3 Series Sedan:

 

A3 Sedan

3 Series Sedan

Overall Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Restraints

GOOD

GOOD

Head Neck Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Head injury index

103

549

Peak Head Forces

0 G’s

0 G’s

Chest Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Hip & Thigh Evaluation

GOOD

ACCEPTABLE

Femur Force R/L

1.4/0 kN

3.4/3.4 kN

Hip & Thigh Injury Risk R/L

0%/0%

1%/1%

Lower Leg Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does side impact tests on new vehicles. In this test, which crashes the vehicle into a flat barrier at 38.5 MPH and into a post at 20 MPH, results indicate that the Audi A3 Sedan is safer than the BMW 3 Series Sedan:

 

A3 Sedan

3 Series Sedan

 

Front Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

172

258

Chest Movement

1.1 inches

1.1 inches

Abdominal Force

219 G’s

232 G’s

 

Rear Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

277

326

Spine Acceleration

56 G’s

64 G’s

 

Into Pole

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Max Damage Depth

12 inches

17 inches

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

Reliability

The Audi A3 Sedan’s engines use a cast iron block for durability, while the 3 Series Sedan’s engines use an aluminum block. Aluminum engine blocks are much more prone to warp and crack at high temperatures than cast iron.

To reliably power the ignition and other systems and to recharge the battery, the A3 Sedan has a standard 320-amp alternator. The 3 Series Sedan’s standard 170-amp alternator and largest (Diesel) 180-amp alternator aren’t as powerful.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Audi vehicles are more reliable than BMW vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Audi 1 place higher in reliability than BMW.

Engine

As tested in Car and Driver the A3 Sedan 45 TSFI is faster than the 330i (automatics tested):

 

A3

3 Series

Zero to 30 MPH

1.9 sec

2 sec

Zero to 60 MPH

5.4 sec

5.6 sec

Zero to 100 MPH

14 sec

14.7 sec

5 to 60 MPH Rolling Start

6.3 sec

6.5 sec

Passing 30 to 50 MPH

3.2 sec

3.5 sec

Quarter Mile

14 sec

14.2 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

100 MPH

98 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the A3 Sedan 40 TSFI FWD gets better fuel mileage than the 320i RWD Auto (26 city/35 hwy vs. 24 city/35 hwy).

To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Audi A3 Sedan uses regular unleaded gasoline (premium recommended on A3 Sedan 45 TSFI for maximum performance). The 3 Series Sedan requires premium, which can cost 20 to 55 cents more per gallon.

Environmental Friendliness

In its Green Vehicle Guide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the Audi A3 Sedan higher (7 out of 10) than the BMW 3 Series Sedan (3 to 7). This means the A3 Sedan produces up to 24.5 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the 3 Series Sedan every 15,000 miles.

Transmission

The A3 Sedan offers a standard sequential manual gearbox (SMG). With no clutch pedal to worry about and a fully automatic mode, an SMG is much more efficient than a conventional automatic but just as easy to drive. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer an SMG.

Brakes and Stopping

The A3 Sedan stops much shorter than the 3 Series Sedan:

 

A3 Sedan

3 Series Sedan

 

80 to 0 MPH

219 feet

225 feet

Road and Track

70 to 0 MPH

156 feet

191 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

108 feet

115 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the A3 Sedan Premium Plus/Prestige’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the 3 Series Sedan (235/35R19 vs. 225/40R19).

The A3 Sedan’s standard tires provide better handling because they have a lower 45 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the 3 Series Sedan’s standard 50 series tires. The A3 Sedan Premium Plus/Prestige’s optional tires have a lower 35 series profile than the 3 Series Sedan’s optional 40 series front tires.

The A3 Sedan has a standard space-saver spare tire so you can replace a flat tire and drive to have the flat repaired or replaced. A spare tire isn’t available on the 3 Series Sedan; it requires you to depend on its run-flat tires, which limits mileage and speed before they are repaired. If a run-flat is damaged beyond repair by a road hazard your vehicle will have to be towed. Some models of the 3 Series Sedan don’t even offer run-flats.

Suspension and Handling

The A3 Sedan Premium Quattro handles at .92 G’s, while the 340i pulls only .84 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.

The A3 Sedan Premium Quattro executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver quicker than the 330i (25.6 seconds @ .71 average G’s vs. 26.3 seconds @ .7 average G’s).

For better maneuverability, the A3 Sedan’s turning circle is 1 foot tighter than the 3 Series Sedan’s (36.1 feet vs. 37.1 feet). The A3 Sedan’s turning circle is 2.3 feet tighter than the 3 Series Sedan xDrive’s (36.1 feet vs. 38.4 feet).

Chassis

The A3 Sedan is 7.3 inches shorter than the 3 Series Sedan, making the A3 Sedan easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

As tested by Car and Driver, the interior of the A3 Sedan Premium Quattro is quieter than the 340i xDrive:

 

A3 Sedan

3 Series Sedan

At idle

41 dB

41 dB

Full-Throttle

73 dB

75 dB

70 MPH Cruising

67 dB

70 dB

Servicing Ease

J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that Audi service is better than BMW. J.D. Power ranks Audi third in service department satisfaction. With a 14% lower rating, BMW is ranked 8th.

Ergonomics

To shield the driver and front passenger’s vision over a larger portion of the windshield and side windows, the A3 Sedan has standard extendable sun visors. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer extendable visors.

Model Availability

The Audi A3 comes in convertible, sedan and station wagon bodystyles; the BMW 3 Series isn’t available as a convertible or station wagon.

Economic Advantages

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the A3 Sedan is less expensive to operate than the 3 Series Sedan because typical repairs cost much less on the A3 Sedan than the 3 Series Sedan, including $196 less for a water pump, $289 less for a muffler, $56 less for front brake pads, $60 less for a starter, $122 less for fuel injection, $120 less for front struts and $692 less for a timing belt/chain.

Recommendations

Consumer Reports® recommends both the Audi A3 Sedan and the BMW 3 Series Sedan, based on reliability, safety and performance.

J.D. Power and Associates rated the A3 Sedan first among small premium cars in owner reported satisfaction. This includes how well the vehicle performs and satisfies its owner’s expectations. The 3 Series Sedan isn’t in the top three in its category.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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