Three cylinder engine any good? Mercedes A 180 vs Audi A3 1.0 TFSI

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Mercedes and Audi have slimmed their smallest petrol engines in the A-Class and A3 line-ups to the minimum threshold. Can the three-cyilinder engine in the Audi still fulfill the high expectations? First comparison between the Mercedes A 180 and Audi A3 1.0 TFSI.

Premium is a honey trap, thrown by BMW, Audi and Mercedes into the Golf class: Since the German luxury brands want to offer something special with their five-door hatchbacks – but have more and more problems to justify the premium against stiff competition from bread and butter car makers.

Audi has consequently slimmed  down the A3 with the new three-cylinder 1.0 TFSI engine. Image is elastic as rubber. Especially since Mercedes remained faithful to four cylinders and 1.6 liters with its A 180 after the facelift. Audi 1.0 TFSI four-cylinder replaces two: the 1.2 TFSI with 110 hp and the 1.4 with 125 hp. The new three-cylinder sounds slightly strange only at idle (“There’s something is broken ?!”), in traffic the initial discomfort is quickly dispelled. The heavily armed triple (lightweight, high injection pressure, compact exhaust), which has already been used by the Golf, is also convincing in the five-door A3 Sportback with incredible smoothness.


Very little penetrates the solid body, which in stiffness, processing and space did not need any upgrade. Still, new details abound: Audi Virtual Cockpit with 12,3-inch TFT display replacing the classic instrument cluster (can only be ordered with MMI navigation plus for 2950 Euro), Xenon headlights as standard.


That the A 180 does reach the same levels of satisfaction as the Audi, is due to the birth defects that no facelift can cure. The sparse interior space is still confusing because of the narrow back seat and small head room. Trunk? Also too small. The sport seats, with their integrated head restraints, also block rear view. Unhappy the combination of 16-inch wheels with adjustable damping. Deep holes are well dampened in Comfort and only in Comfort. The A 180 is still stiff as a rock in Sport.


This makes the Audi better in basic tuning. In the tested Sport (1.900 euros extra), the flat 17-inch wheels bring a good ride comfort. The 129 kilos lighter A3 hurries ahead more agile and with a nice grip around corners. In addition, the Audi is braking clearly better thanks to wider profiles.


Unfortunately the S tronic DSG is too slow from stand-still. It sleeps through just at the traffic light in the start-stop mode. It is green, but the clutch does the traction so slowly that the man behind already honks. For the 1.0 TFSI the manual transmission seems like a better fit. The 2000 euros you would have spent on the S tronic can get you a better sound system or traffic assistants.


The new three-cylinder TFSI fits well the A3 – but not with the S tronic. The comparison proves once again that the capacity dwarfing saves more on paper than in everyday life. In other words: The four-cylinder A-Class actually consumes less. Which does not change the fact that the A3 is the superior Compact in terms of space, agility and costs.


TECHNICAL DATAAudi A3Mercedes A-Class
Model 1.0 TFSI180
Engine/cylindersL3, turboL4, turbo
Capacity (cmc)9991595
Max. Power/rpm (hp/rpm)115/5000122/5000
Max. Torque/rpm (Nm/rpm)200/2000200/1250
Transmissionaut. DSG, 7 gearsaut. 7G-DCT, 7 gears
L/l/h (mm)4313/1785/14264299/1780/1433
Weight (kg)13001200
Volume trunk (l)380-1220341-1157
Accelerations 0-100 km/h (s)10,99,0
Max. Speed (km/h)206202
Consumption urban/extraurb./mixed (l/100 km)5,4/4,0/4,56,8/4,3/5,2
Emissions CO2 (g/km)104121
PRICE (euro, Germany)31.05033.213