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?...
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.
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here
1st – 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
2nd – Audi RS3 Sportback
For Performance and practicality; all-weather ability
Against Uninvolving to drive; plain looks
Verdict Disappointingly dull and unengaging
Rated 3 out of 5
Specifications: BMW 1 M Coupe
Engine size 3.0-litre petrol
List price when new £40,020
Price today £42,000
Torque 332lb ft
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
Torque 332lb ft
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
Best hot hatches 2021
What's the best hot hatch money can buy? Here we count down our current top 10 – and reveal the models that are best avoided
Cupra Leon long-term test review
The new Cupra Leon is a hoot to drive and one of our favourite hot hatches, but what’s it like to live with on a daily basis? We’re finding out