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New compacts by 2018: Audi presents, BMW and Mercedes counter

Christian Schulte
New compacts until 2018
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W e are standing in front of one of Germany's bestsellers. Someone who masters various disciplines almost perfectly: looking good, driving sporty and still being able to win comparison tests. This distinguishes the Audi A3 from its competitors, the Mercedes A-Class and BMW 1-series, which had to make significant compromises in favor of the design (A-Class with limited headroom at the rear) and the drive concept (rear-wheel drive BMW 1-series with a narrow rear). Audi can therefore forego any far-reaching technical changes in the course of the facelift, especially since some important homework has already been done.

A3 with optical changes

There is a plug-in hybrid in the form of the A3 e-tron Yes, and sales are developing so satisfactorily that Audi boss Rupert Stadler has now announced that production will be doubled to 90 cars a day. Even the Federal Ministry of Transport is adding three variants to its fleet. At BMW and Mercedes there are - still - no comparable offers, at least in this segment.

The A3, on the other hand, needs visual changes, because the new head of design Marc Lichte wants to realize his style here too, but without interfering with the sheet metal. That would have become too expensive in the course of the facelift. So he sharpened the grill in the style of the Prologue study, made it flatter and wider and made it appear more three-dimensional. At the same time, Lichte is working intensively on lighting technology. At the front, the so-called LED matrix headlights are used as an option, which also gives the A3 a higher-quality look.

The individual diodes can be controlled as required and adapt to the respective traffic situation and the course of the road. At the rear, the rear lights with their OLED technology ensure a striking night design. The interior - how could it be otherwise with the quality fanatics from Audi - will be even higher quality and adapted to the current smartphone integration, but major changes are not expected. As an extra, however, the TT's digital cockpit moves in, while a further developed operating concept with touchscreen and gesture control is only planned for the successor in 2019.

Audi is expanding the Q series

Show strength - that is Rupert Stadler's motto everywhere, and so the engine output is also increasingincrease, with CO2 emissions falling at the same time. Even the turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder in the RS3 just presented increases again and has at least 400 hp instead of the current 367.

The A3 model range remains with two-door, Sportback, sedan and convertible basically unchanged, but the Q1, which will also be launched on the market next year, is based on exactly the same technology kit. Visually, the smallest SUV of the Audi family with a length of 4.15 meters and a trunk volume of 350 liters can hardly be seen because, unlike the A3, it has a design with a surprising number of beads on the side and rear.

Because Audi is convinced of the success of the Q models, there will be another representative on the same basis. It belongs to the TT series and was presented as a show car called Offroad Concept last year. With a length of 4.40 meters, the production car is exactly the size of the Q3 successor (from 2018) and thus ranks above the Q1 in terms of size, but at a height of 1.53 meters it is unusually flat and undercuts the Q3 by eight centimeters. Sales start of the sporty SUV coupé: not before 2017.

Mercedes is adding up

A lot of material and inspiration for the competition that has to take up the gauntlet so that the A3 extended family does not escape them. Mercedes is already working intensively on the model changeover of the A- and B-Class from 2017, which will then be based on the so-called MFA-II construction kit (Mercedes front-wheel drive architecture). The decisive advantage over the current technology: The platform is even more flexible for further offshoots and various drives from downsizing combustion engines to plug-in hybrids to pure electric drives, as can already be found in the B-Class. In addition, the cockpit already takes future connectivity and multimedia technology into account, including a head-up display and touchscreen.

On the other hand, the strong focus on design and sportiness should be over, especially the next A-Class should be optically appear reduced and much more pragmatic. The interior should also be significantly more spacious and airy. While the two-door and a convertible have little chance of mass production, the notchback sedan is already taking shape as a new offshoot in development. It will be shorter and less coupé-like than the CLA and is particularly aimed at China and the USA, where it is expected to gain additional market share with front-wheel as well as all-wheel drive. With a length of around 4.50 meters, the SUV ranks between the GLA and the GLK's successor, the GLC, but is optically based on the veteran of the Mercedes off-roaders - the G-Class, which has been built since 1979, the first major facelift with a wider body in the traditional style in 2017 receives.

BMW with new drive concept

And what is BMW doing? Although the 1 Series has just got a facelift, the new edition is due for 2017. Background: For cost reasons, the Bavarians want to put the volume model on the front-wheel drive platform (all-wheel drive optional) as quickly as possible, on which the Vans 2 Series Active and Gran Tourer and the Mini are already based. Another advantage: With the change to front-wheel drive and transverse engine, the space available for passengers and luggage increases noticeably - an important argument in this class.

On the other hand, little changes in the dimensions, the 1 Series remains a good 4.30 meters long . The engine range is roughly the same as that of the vans, but with the 116i in the 1 series there will also be a weaker basic engine under the three-cylinder with 136 hp in the 118i. The six-cylinder at the upper end of the performance range has had its day, with three- and four-cylinder engines being planned for the successor. There should not be a pure e-version, a plug-in hybrid only if there is corresponding demand. Only the 2 Series Coupé and Cabrio retain the six-cylinder and rear-wheel drive.

The modified drive concept has hardly any effect on the design; the long bonnet and the familiar proportions remain. To this end, the cockpit is to be offered noticeably higher quality and more digital, and the TFT display is to be offered nationwide by 2018 at the latest. The surfaces in the interior will appear smoother and less playful in the future. 'Customers perceive that as being of higher quality,' says BMW. And the operating logic is based on that of the 7 Series, which will be launched in autumn, which combines a touchscreen with a rotary push button.

BMW Urban Cross is coming at the end of 2017

In addition to two- and four-door models, the next 1 Series is expected to be the first notchback sedan, of which test vehicles are already doing their test laps. It would be a logical step after Audi has already successfully offered an A3 with this shape and Mercedes is planning a corresponding offshoot of the future A-Class. However, BMW is considering only offering this body variant in certain world markets such as China. 2 Series Coupé and convertible with six-cylinder, rear-wheel and all-wheel drive, on the other hand, are indispensable especially for the USA.

In addition to the 2 Series Tourers, the Urban Cross complements the BMW range. The crossover, which is only a good four meters long, will be launched on the market at the end of 2017 as the smaller, more stylish brother of the X1, is also based on the front-wheel drive architecture and has already positioned itself against the SUV of the Audi TT. The other manufacturers will have to do the same if they do not want to leave the field to the German premium trio without a fight. Because Audi, BMW and Mercedes are more diversified than anywhere else in the compact class.

Financing check

Audi with great deals for the compact A3

Due to the higher discounts, the Audi A3 Currently cheaper in leasing than the BMW 1 Series or the Mercedes A-Class. If you only look at the price, then the three compacts from Audi, BMW and Mercedes are close together. But even in the premium segment, nobody pays list prices anymore - discounts belong here Also on the agenda. Audi currently grants up to 21 percent discount for the A3 2.0 TDI and BMW at least 19 percent for the 118d. Only Mercedes is buttoned up with 8.5 percent for the A 200 CDI. What that means shows the financing comparison (leasing over three years, discount amount as a deposit, annual mileage 15,000 km).

The car with the star is almost 70 euros a month more expensive than the A3. Now, with the Audi, it must be taken into account that it Is already a bit older and will be renovated next year, opposite the younger Ko Therefore, Audi has to work with higher discounts. But even if the new model is there, experience shows that the discount should be up to 13 percent. Then an A3 2.0 TDI would cost around 320 euros a month and thus still on the level of the Mercedes A 200 CDI. In this case the BMW 1 Series would be the winner, the victory in the financing check would then go to the 118d.


High number of strokes

There is only one model variant in the compact class that Audi is not considering: a van is in not to be found in the brand's future planning. Is it good like that? It is at least consistent, because MPVs promise utility value rather than premium flair, and you have to get used to a BMW 2 Series Active or Gran Tourer first - also visually. Basically: The number of hits that all three brands present in this class is just as impressive as the consistency with which BMW and Mercedes now want to iron out weaknesses in the space available.

And like Audi, its high processing quality and the great Multimedia offering further perfected. The TT is an icon that deserves an SUV offshoot and will continue to maintain its special position. There remains a close competition between the three manufacturers, from which we motorists can only benefit.


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