GMC Hummer EV Tesla Cybertruck vs. GMC Hummer EV 2021 Genesis GV80 2021 Ford Bronco 2020 electric vehicles Best car lease deals Best car insurance

2021 Audi A3 vs. BMW 228i Gran Coupe vs. Mercedes-Benz A220: The entry-level luxury trio

If you've got around 40 grand to spend on a small European sedan, which one is going to be best for you?

Audi A3 Sedan, 2021

Audi's new A3 is aggressively styled and I am digging it.

Audi

They might not be sales superstars, but small luxury sedans are great. The German trio of the new Audi A3, BMW 228i Gran Coupe and Mercedes-Benz A220 are all solid choices.

All three of these contenders go for around $40,000, but which one is right for you? Here's a look at how these subcompact offerings compare on paper.

Drivetrains

The Audi A3 uses Quattro all-wheel drive, and though we're still waiting on confirmation of which engines we'll be getting here in the US, we know that it'll be some sort of turbocharged I4 mated to an automatic transmission, producing between 200 and 300 horsepower. There is a strong likelihood that we'll get the A3 with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system, too.

The babiest Benz' base model is the front-wheel drive A220. For some extra greenbacks, you can get Mercedes' 4Matic all-wheel drive system. The standard engine is a 2.0-liter I4 that puts out 188 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. A seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is the only available gearbox. If you want more power, you need to step up to the A35.

The BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe's base trim is the 228i xDrive model, which uses all-wheel drive (but is based on front-wheel-drive architecture). There is also no manual transmission available. The output from the 2.0-liter turbo I4 is a respectable 228 hp and 258 lb-ft, though, so that's a bright spot. Like the A-Class, the 2 Series Gran Coupe is available with more power, in the form of the M235i.

Powertrain


Engine type Engine size (liters) Power (hp) Torque (lb-ft) Transmission
Audi A3 Mild-hybrid I4 TBD TBD TBD TBD
BMW 228i xDrive Gran Coupe I4 2.0 228 258 8-speed automatic
Mercedes-Benz A220 I4 2.0 188 221 7-speed DCT

Cabin tech

Technology -- both infotainment and safety -- is hugely important to buyers these days, especially for those shopping in the entry-level luxury segment. On that front, none of our contenders disappoint.

The Audi, in particular, has based much of its refresh around its updated interior tech, most of which mirrors what's offered in other, more expensive Audis. Gone is the little pop-up display of the old A3 and in its place is a very sharp-looking 10.1-inch touchscreen. The driver gets the option of having one of two digital instrument clusters. There is a base version spans 10.25 inches, or if the Digital Cockpit Plus option is checked, that expands to 12.3 inches. Audi's MMI Touch system offers up all the same goodies you'd expect from a modern multimedia suite. This includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, handwriting detection, natural voice recognition and a 4G LTE data connection. Audi claims this system has upwards of 10 times the processing power of the previous generation of MMI, so it should feel pretty snappy to use.

The Mercedes A-Class was one of the first Benzes to get the brand's excellent MBUX infotainment system. Its interior styling is dominated by the massive dual-screen floating display, and it makes its rivals' interiors look like they were designed by tax professionals, for tax professionals. As you'd expect, MBUX is great to use, especially now that the screen is touch-responsive, and offers up lots of standard features like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Eleventy-billion-way adjustable ambient lighting is available as an option, ditto for the larger, high-res 10.25-inch screens (the standard ones measure 7 inches each).

The 2 Series "don't call it a sedan, please" Gran Coupe has a typical interior for a BMW. It's unfussy, practical and mostly monochromatic. The infotainment system on deck for the base model is BMW Live Cockpit, which runs iDrive 6, but cool kids will likely end up going for the Premium Package, which includes -- among other things -- Live Cockpit Professional which is powered by iDrive 7. As with our other two contestants, the Bimmer will play nice with Apple CarPlay and that Live Cockpit Pro upgrade also brings navigation with it, if that's important to you. Android Auto isn't available just yet, but it's coming soon. BMW also offers its weird gesture controls.

Safety

Audi's bringing some exciting new safety features to the fourth-gen A3, with its car-to-X communication system being chief among them. This system allows the vehicle to better interpret the world around it and makes features like Traffic Light Assist (which gives you a countdown for traffic lights) possible. Other cool safety features include Audi's PreSense collision mitigation tech, enhanced adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist technologies.

Mercedes is no slouch when it comes to safety either, but unfortunately, you've got to pay extra for them. Automatic emergency braking is standard, but the good stuff like full-speed adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, steering assist, route-based speed adaptation (which integrates with cruise control to slow your car for corners) and other things all cost extra. The Driver Assistance package will set you back $2,250, which isn't cheap, but it's probably worth it.

The BMW 228i xDrive offers more standard safety features than the Mercedes. The Bimmer's suite of features is called Active Driving Assistant. It includes all the greatest hits like frontal collision warning, lane-departure warning, active blind-spot detection and speed limit info. Unfortunately, BMW's parking assistant is an extra $200, and adaptive cruise is a $1,200 standalone option.

Interior space

These are subcompact sedans, so don't expect a ton of space in any of these three. And while we don't have final specs for the new Audi A3 just yet, we do know what its competitors bring to the table.

When it comes to headroom, the Mercedes outdoes the BMW, but not by a ton. The Merc offers front passengers 40.3 inches of noggin room, and the folks in the back get 37.2 inches. The BMW, comparatively, offers 39.8 inches in the front and 35.7 inches out back. Based on design alone, our guess is that the Audi would likely split the difference between the two.

Legroom is another critical component, and up front, the Mercedes wins again with 41.8 inches to the Bimmer's 41.4. In the rear, things are reversed, with BMW giving passengers slightly more room to stretch their stems. The 2 Series provides 34.4 inches of rear legroom, while the Mercedes only offers 33.9 inches.

Interior dimensions


Front headroom Rear headroom Front legroom Rear legroom
Audi A3 TBD TBD TBD TBD
BMW 228i xDrive Gran Coupe 39.8 in. 35.7 in. 41.4 in. 34.4 in.
Mercedes-Benz A220 40.3 in. 37.2 in. 41.8 in. 33.9 in.

Pricing

We don't yet know what the 2021 Audi A3 will cost, but I'd be shocked if it's a massive change from the $33,300 that Audi is asking for a 2020 A3. If you want the BMW, be prepared to shell out a few extra clams for that, because it's entry price is $37,500 before any options. The Mercedes-Benz A220 in front-drive form is a relative bargain at $32,800, but that goes up to $34,800 if you want all-wheel drive.

Now playing: Watch this: 2021 Audi A3 sedan debuts wild new design, mild-hybrid...
3:52

First published April 23.