Used test: Audi RS3 vs BMW 1 M Coupe

Fabulous though it is, the BMW 1 M Coupe has become a pricey used buy. So does the vastly cheaper Audi RS3 now make more sense?...

Used test: Audi RS3 vs BMW 1 M Coupe

Our Verdict

With the price differential as it is, it’s easy to see why you’d be swayed by the Audi RS3 Sportback. It might seem to be the perfect car, after all: it’s devastatingly fast, it's practical enough for day-to-day use, it feels upmarket inside, and it’s capable of being all of these things in every weather, thanks to the addition of four-wheel drive.

But in the flesh, the RS3 is ultimately a disappointment. Not only does it lack sparkle in its looks, both inside and out, but that sense pervades the driving experience too. The yawn-inducing steering and lack of depth its chassis offers sap any hope of a laugh or two. Yes, it’s very usable – but if that’s all you want, buy a 1.4.

The problem in comparing these two cars is that even if you can afford the Audi you might not be able to stretch to the BMW 1 M Coupe, so far removed are their prices. But if you can, you should. For one thing, while its price is steep, you won’t lose any money on the BMW – and indeed, if you keep it for long enough, you might even make some.

For another, it was without a doubt the most exciting and enthralling car to come out of BMW’s M Division for years when it was new, and it remains so today. So what if the ride is a bit tough? So what if it gets a bit tail-happy if the road’s greasy? Keep the stability control on in wet weather and buy a cushion.

Do whatever you can, in other words, to work around the downsides, because they pale into insignificance next to the 1 M’s sublime chassis and spine-tingling engine. Its place in the pantheon of the world’s greatest drivers’ cars is assured, and that, remarkably, means it’s worth every penny of its staggering extra cost.

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1st – BMW 1 M Coupe

Used test: Audi RS3 vs BMW 1 M Coupe

For Hugely talented; great fun; sounds fantastic; holding its value

Against Extremely expensive; firm ride; tricky in the wet

Verdict It doesn’t come cheap, but this is BMW’s best M car for years

Rated 4 out of 5

BMW 1 Series review

2nd – Audi RS3 Sportback

Used test: Audi RS3 vs BMW 1 M Coupe

For Performance and practicality; all-weather ability

Against Uninvolving to drive; plain looks

Verdict Disappointingly dull and unengaging

Rated 3 out of 5

Audi A3 review

Specifications: BMW 1 M Coupe

Engine size 3.0-litre petrol

List price when new £40,020

Price today £42,000

Power 335bhp

Torque 332lb ft

0-60mph 5.3sec

Top speed 155mph

Fuel economy 29.4mpg (Official average)

CO2 emissions 224g/km

Specifications: Audi RS3 Sportback

Engine size 2.5-litre petrol

List price when new £39,930

Price today £21,000

Power 335bhp

Torque 332lb ft

0-60mph 4.7sec

Top speed 155mph

Fuel economy 31.0mpg (Official average)

CO2 emissions 212g/km

Price today is based on a 2011 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

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