There’s no doubt that the Mercedes-Benz A-Class is a tempting proposition. It looks fantastic, for starters, and climbing aboard, its luxurious interior only heightens the appeal. Those are two reasons it’s been such a popular car.
The problem is, that appeal rapidly dissipates the minute you start driving the A-Class. The jarring ride and slack handling make it feel both uncomfortable and unexciting to drive, meaning there’s very little pleasure to be gained by driving it. It’s also noisy, its engine grumbling away in your ear the whole time. And for all this, you have to pay more than you will for the Audi, both when you’re buying and while you own it. All of which makes it very tough to recommend.
There's a clear winner in this test, then. The Audi A3 has always been streets ahead of the Mercedes A-Class as a new car, and as a used proposition, that gap only widens. We’d pick the five-door Sportback rather than the three-door model here, but otherwise it’s very hard to fault the Audi – except for the fact that its ride is perhaps a smidge on the firm side.
But if you can live with that – and we certainly could – you get one of the best family cars around. The A3 can boast a fabulous interior, both neatly styled and beautifully made; what’s more, it’s delightfully quiet at any speed, comfortable, enjoyable to drive, and cheaper to run than the Mercedes. It is, quite simply, the best used posh hatch money can buy.
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1st – Audi A3
For Gorgeous interior; brilliant to drive; super quiet; cheap to run
Against Slightly firm ride; potentially less reliable
Verdict The best used posh hatch you can buy – by a mile
2nd – Mercedes-Benz A-Class
For Bags of style; smart interior; decent amount of space
Against Awful ride; sloppy handling; noisy; expensive to buy and run
Verdict A major disappointment in too many key areas
Specifications: Audi A3 2.0 TDI 150 Sport
Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
List price when new £22,730
Price today £11,000
Torque 236lb ft
Top speed 130mph
Fuel economy 68.9mpg (Official average)
CO2 emissions 106g/km
Specifications: Mercedes-Benz A200 CDI Sport
Engine size 1.8-litre diesel
List price when new £23,270
Price today £13,000
Torque 221lb ft
Top speed 124mph
Fuel economy 62.8mpg (Official average)
CO2 emissions 118g/km
Price today is based on a 2013 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing
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