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Double Deutsch

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Double Deutsch Powered By Docstoc
ry Chris Bishop

Photos Jim McEwan

The German automotive
brands cast a mighty long

Their vehicles are usually technology groundbreakers, provoke serious
badge envy among rivals and customers alike and maintain enviable residual

But when they clash, and the top three Teutons are squaring off in the
premium hatch sector where they first impress customers, it can get ugly.

BMW wants a bigger slice of the pie than it can gobble with the three-door
Three Series Compacts and has cooked up a tasty quartet of One Series

The Munich mob believes their rear-wheel-drive tiddler is more than just a
handling hero.

Audi is not about to cede the ground it's steadily gained with the A3 range
since 1997, and quickly released three and five-door versions.

Ingolstadt's new A3 Sportback already has five variants and three gearboxes.

We've opted for the most popular auto transmissions and jumped upstream
from the entry-level cars, which kick off with 1.6-litre engines.

Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz's maligned A class is imminent. Only a last-
minute certification delay stopped one arriving for this comparison. (See page
65 for launch impressions).

The Stuttgart line-up starts at under $30,000 for a three-door appetiser. It has
nine varieties, including three and five-door models, four engine choices and
a CVT auto.


You certainly pay for a German compact. However, steep prices deliver high
levels of equipment.

For a start, there's ample active safety gear designed to prevent accidents.
Both German brands have specific traction control and stability control
systems, plus anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and
extra hydraulic assistance.

Common passive safety gear includes dual stage front airbags, side front
airbags and dual row curtain airbags.

These cars also share alloy wheels, dual zone climate control, cruise control,
steering wheel-mounted audio controls, front and rear fog lamps, first aid kit
and warning triangle, cargo curtain and a trip computer.

The Audi has a cassette player and CD player, headlight beam adjustment,
temporary use spare tyre, tilt-adjust front headrests, height-adjustable front
seatbelt anchors, pretensioners on all seatbelts plus load limiters for the
outers, and auto-windows from the key fob.

Its options include the $2450 auto, which takes the cost as tested to $43,300.
Plus there's auto-on lights ($510), interior lighting package ($475), metallic
paint ($1300), front centre armrest ($300), leather trim ($3200) and an alarm
($800), among other choices.

BMW counters, arguably more effectively, with rain-sensing wipers and
headlights, 'follow-me home' headlights, flat tyre monitoring system, sports
seats with extendable length and power wrap-around side support, centre
armrest, seatbelt pretensioners and load limiters, and an anti-dazzle, rear-
view mirror.

As the auto tested here, it becomes a $44,100 proposition. Major options
include metallic paint ($1300), sports suspension ($500), leather trim
($2600), business navigation system with iDrive ($2500) and an alarm

BMW needs a kick for its weedy two-year warranty and falters a bit on
insurance costs and the parts list. However, it fights back on servicing costs.

An educated guess would have both cars neck and neck on resale after five

In terms of fuel economy, the duo could barely be separated after 500 km of

The BMW was more efficient on the highway, but thirstier when pressed.
Both prefer top-shelf 98 RON premium unleaded. The Audi has a bigger fuel
tank and a superior range.


We can't help but be impressed with 120i's safety. As well as an alphabet of
active safety features, it earns a five-star EuroNCAP crash test score. Its sole
star for pedestrian safety in EuroNCAP is a minor letdown.

The Bavarian bopper also garners top marks for security, in part due to the
Datadots sprayed around the car.

And it edges further in front on the environmental rankings.

The BMW driver gets overly firm, supportive seats, with fine shaping and
plenty of adjustment.
     However, the rear pew has an upright backrest, unsupportive base and
     narrow centre spot.

     And the rear-wheel-drive layout bites in spatial terms. The Beemer's
     boot is slightly smaller, the transmission tunnel limits foot room in both
     rows and its rear space is insufficient for three adults.

     The minimisation of storage space in new BMWs is senseless.

     We're not sold on the run-flat concept, either, as replacements and cost
     are still issues, especially in regional areas.

     The lack of any spare tyre drags down the BMW's practicality, even
     though it has handy boot tiedowns and well-sited child restraint

     Without the complication of iDrive, the One's ergonomics are good but
     not great. Coincidentally, that is the story for its build quality as well.

Which is where Audi makes its move.

Audi's build-quality is a fillip and the A3 is no exception. Its panels are flusher
and narrower and its interior is a work of art. Although some audio controls
can be a bit small, its ergonomics are also largely fuss-free and logical.

The Sportback is also more spacious. A wider boot, better oddments space
and more rear seat space in every direction make ferrying five less of a

Seating in the Audi is a tad softer but still firm and supportive. The front seats
feel a bit narrow on the base, however passengers in both rows, and the rear
in particular, will appreciate superior shape and comfort.

It's on par with its foe for practicality, although at least it offers a temporary
use spare tyre.

However, in auto form it trails on emission levels, is marginally behind in the
security stakes and also fails to mount quite the same compelling case for

A four-star EuroNCAP score is not to shunned, but A3 is still a star behind
the Munich machine.


It's hard to imagine two hatchbacks so philosophically different could be so

But they share the same engine outputs, offer near identical acceleration
times, and match highway rev levels and internal noise readings. Both are
middling performers with rewarding streaks. Their firm rides have impeccable
rebound control.

Pre-Sportback, we were happy to acknowledge the Beemer as the one to
beat for handling, courtesy of its pinpoint steering, cornering class and beaut
But Queensland's rough secondary roads and the far-too-firm optional sports
suspension create some doubts.

It smooth surface responsiveness is a burden on bumpy back roads. The
front end can be thrown off line and lumpy stretches cause constant steering

The 120i's engine is a smooth and purposeful performer, albeit a couple of
steps down from spritely. In auto, the gear changes are syrupy and kick-down
response is good.

The BMW has assured and progressive brakes and good noise suppression,
although there is wind noise at cruising speeds.

Audi's Sportback has a touch more engine roughness but less body flutter. Its
brakes lack feel compared with its foe, but they work effectively.

The A3 gearbox is stunningly smooth on the way up, but a fraction more
hesitant to kick down.

On these tyres, its low speed bump absorption is mediocre, but overall the
ride is plusher than the 120i.

This Audi's steering is not as communicative and it can't match the Beemer
for balance, but for a front-wheel-drive it does offer assuring accuracy,
outstanding grip and greater predictability on scuttled surfaces.


Keen drivers will be in their element in either car.

There's next to nothing in it, but in this comparison four circles prove better
than one.

The Sportback is more versatile, while still sporting enough. It is not as
pioneering or focused as the One Series, but should appeal to a greater pool
of potential owners.

A word of warning though. Late in the year, the Australia's Best Cars
weightings will add emphasis to areas like safety and security, where the One
excels. Stay tuned for the rematch.

                           Audi A3 BMW 120i
Running & repair costs
    Fuel economy
     Build quality
                                               A3 Sportback 2.0                BMW 120i
     List price (excl. on-road
                                                        $40,850                   $41,900

(#Does not include on-road costs such as tax, stamp duty, rego or dealer delivery fees.)
Standard features (S: standard; NA: not available; Opt/$:
          Auto transmission                            $2450                     $2200
             Alloy wheels                                 S                         S
              CD player                                   S                         S
           Climate control                          S dual system             S dual system
            Cruise control                                S                         S
                 Alarm                                  $800                      $750
             Leather trim                              $3200                     $2600
            Metallic Paint                             $1300                     $1300
       Power windows/mirrors                              S                         S
           Remote locking                                 S                         S
          Spare wheel type                            Temp use                NA (run flats)
         Split/fold rear seat                             S                         S
       Steering wheel controls                         S audio                   S audio
                Sunroof                                $2950                     $2200
                                  Safety equipment
         Dual front airbags                          S dual stage               S dual stage
         Side front airbags                             S front                    S front
          Curtain airbags                              S 2 rows                   S 2 rows
            ABS/EBD/BA                                  S/S/S                      S/S/S
          Traction control                                 S                          S
          Stability control                                S                          S
       Seat belt pretensioners                           S all                      S all
     Height-adjustable seatbelts                        S front                      NA
      Centre rear lap-sash belt                            S                          S
                Engines                             in-line 4cyl              in-line 4cyl
      Max. power (kW@rpm)                             111@6000                   110@6200
      Max. torque (Nm@rpm)                            200@3500                   200@3600
           Driving wheels                               Front                      Rear
         0-100km/h (secs)                               10.8                       11.2
         60-100km/h (secs)                               7.8                        7.7
     Braking from 80km/h (m)                            24.6                       23.2
   Interior noise at 80km/h (dB)                         66                         66
         Kerb weight (kg)                               1345                      1275
 Max. braked towing capacity (kg)                       1400                      1200
       Length/width (mm)                              4286/1765                 4227/1751
         Wheelbase (mm)                                 2578                      2660
     Track (front/rear) (mm)                          1531/1515                 1481/1497
        Turning circle (m)                               10.7                      10.7
               Tyres                                 225/45/ZR17                205/50R17
        Fuel consumption                               98 RON                    98 RON
     Average (litres/100 km)                              10.8                      10.8
   Best/worst (litres/100 km)                            7/12.3                   6.8/14.8
Tank (litres)/range (km, as tested)                      55/510                    50/465
                                         In service
          Warranty (yrs/km)                            3/100,000                   2/unltd
     Service intervals (km)                         15,000                  20,000
Approx service costs to 60,000 km                   $1186                    $873
Parts bin     (12 replacement items, e.g. brake pads, radiator hoses, air filter,
                          rear muffler, windscreen.)
                 RRP                                $3028                   $3393
Insurance costs (annual^)                           $680                    $812
 ^Based on an RACQI comprehensive policy for a 35-year-old male, maximum no claims bonus,
            vehicle financially unencumbered, and a $350 excess. Postcode 4066.