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Used test – posh hatches: Audi A3 vs Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Their badges imply they're a cut above your usual family car. But are the Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class really worth the extra cost?

Words ByWhat Car? team

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What are they like inside?

Anyone downsizing from a larger Mercedes saloon will feel right at home inside the A-Class. It truly feels like a high-quality product.

You operate the audio and satellite navigation functions by scrolling through menus using a rotary dial between the front seats. Unfortunately, the menus aren’t especially intuitive, so the system can be frustrating to use, particularly on the move.

The Audi A3’s menu system is much more user-friendly. You control it with a dial on the centre console in much the same way as the Merc’s, but the on-screen menus are more instinctive and there are some handy shortcut keys to help speed things up.

What’s more, the Audi has an even classier feel. The interior features the sort of materials you’d usually expect to find in an executive saloon, while beautifully weighted switchgear and millimetre-perfect panel gaps only add to the feeling that no expense has been spared.

The A3 we’ve tested here is a three-door model which gives the five-door Mercedes an obvious advantage in terms of practicality. However, getting into the back of the A-Class requires some stooping because the roofline juts into the door openings.

If you want a truly practical car, your best bet is to go for the five-door version of the A3, called the Sportback. It commands a small premium over the three-door, but it’s worth the extra, because it still works out cheaper than the Mercedes, yet makes the A3 much more practical.

Once you’re inside, both cars have enough space to comfortably accomodate four six-footers. There’s slightly more leg room in the back of the A-Class, but less head room. Both cars can seat five at a push, but only for short trips.

In either Audi, the boot is longer, deeper and ultimately bigger than the Merc’s, which is quite a bit wider, but suffers from a narrow boot opening.

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