It’s time for the ultimate battle of the high-end hatches: BMW 1 Series vs Audi A3 vs Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Chances are if you’re looking for something on the smaller side – but with that premium finish – you’ll be looking at something German.

There’s no denying that the big three – Mercedes, Audi, and BMW – know their stuff when it comes to big luxury in small packages. Though there are other excellent hatches out there on the market, like the ubiquitous VW Golf, there’s no competing against the BMW 1 Series, Audi A3, or Mercedes-Benz A-Class if you want that premium feel.

With a winning combination of looks, practicality, and affordability, it’s no surprise they’re all so popular for car leasing.

But which premium hatch should you pick?

While we can’t answer that question for you, we can help you narrow it down. Whether you want something that looks good, drives well, or can fit five adults and all their baggage in, we’ve broken down what makes each car so good, so you can get on with the exciting bit – driving it.

BMW 1 Series

BMW 1 Series

The baby of the BMW line-up, the BMW 1 Series wins major points for its aggressive and powerful styling.

The third generation of this popular hatch has done away with the rear-wheel drive that made the 1 Series stand out from the crowd before – but it’s no bad thing. Now available as either a front-wheel or all-wheel drive, it’s more spacious, weighs less, and is more efficient to run than ever before.

Music to our ears.

BMW purists might complain that this makes the 1 Series less fun to drive than previous additions, but it still offers a refined, quiet ride – and it’s perfect for pootling around town (and it’s compact size means you always find a parking space).

The interior is quite nice too.

It’s your typical BMW up front, with the instrument cluster directly in your line of sight, and a central touchscreen angled towards the driver. BMW haven’t followed the crowd and binned off all the physical buttons either: you can still control the heating and aircon with the controls just below the touchscreen.

BMW 1 Series

A minor detail, perhaps, but in this brave new world of ours where everything is going into that little screen in the middle of your dash, it can be quite nice to step back in time and press a button again.

But it’s in the back where the new changes have made the most difference.

Compared to previous models, access to the back seats is easier, and there’s extra leg/head/elbow room – so there’ll be fewer arguments when you try and pack your tall friends into the back.

Boot space has been improved too, with an extra 20L taking the 1 Series’ boot to 380L with the seats up and 1,200L with the rear bench folded down. Though not the most spacious boot in the world, if it’s a hatchback you’re looking for, it’s a hatchback the BMW 1 Series is very good at being.

With a high-quality interior, plenty of tech, and a range of engines to choose from, there’s really nothing to complain about.

Browse our best-selling BMW 1 Series lease deals

Audi A3

Audi A3

Since its 1996 launch, the Audi A3 Sportback (Audi speak for hatchback) has been the benchmark that all other hatches have been compared to.

And while the premium hatch category has grown significantly in recent years, the humble A3 is still holding its own. It’s been a huge success story for the German giant, popularising the idea of the compact car with a premium finish that’s still reasonably affordable.

Try saying that five times fast.

It does feel the most spacious of the three, with a solid refinement and dynamic character that make it a fun place to pass time on a long journey, not just a practical one. The finish to the interior and exterior is smart, with its sweeping lines, wraparound design, and hexagonal air vents.

Audi A3

If you’re a Volkswagen Golf fan, the Audi A3 will feel familiar.

It was originally based on the Golf platform, and still shares a lot of the same mechanical underpinnings (along with the latest Skoda Octavia and SEAT Leon). But it’s not just an upmarket version of these popular hatches: the Audi A3 stands on its own two feet as one of the best hatchbacks on the market, not just one of the best luxury hatchbacks.

Inside the A3, the latest variant has done away completely with the MMI clickwheel in favour of a 10.1-inch touchscreen set into the dashboard. The screen itself is crisp, responsive, and logical, and the screens are easy to reach even on the move.

And it’s roomy: there’s plenty of space for adults to sit behind adults without bruising their knees and bashing their elbows. The boot is on par with the 1 Series at 380L, which won’t win any prizes but is more than practical enough for daily life.

Overall, if you’re after something compact, practical, and luxe, an Audi A3 lease is definitely a winner.

Browse our best-selling Audi A3 lease deals

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Wow factor at the top of your wishlist? A Mercedes A-Class lease is exactly what you need.

The dashboard, turbine-style air vents, luxe materials, and crisp digital displays give the cabin an air of luxury, while the comfort-orientated suspension makes even the longest journeys feel like you’re sat in your favourite armchair, rather than speeding down the motorway in what is essentially a tin can on wheels.

The A-Class as we know it today has been knocking around since 2012, and with its tech-laden cabin and luxurious interior, has proven popular with buyers.

We’re on the third generation of the Mercedes A-Class now, and it sits on a platform that’s stronger and lighter than before, and offers a little more space to stretch out inside. And you can’t miss the dash. Mercedes have installed a ‘glass cockpit’, which would make any pilot feel at home inside the cabin.

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

There are no conventional dials at all, just configurable screens that vary slightly depending on the trim you opt for.

Base cars come complete with two seven-inch hi-res screens that run navigation and connected services (including detailed live traffic), while the top-of-the-range A-Classes get a 10.25-inch central screen and big driver’s display/

A voice activation system is standard across the range, so you can use your voice rather than your fingertips to navigate.

And if you’re after something a little more environmentally friendly, there’s a plug-in hybrid on offer – the A 205 e – which is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a Mercedes business lease. The reduced emissions not only mean that the car is kinder to the planet, but it’ll be kinder on your wallet too, with lower rates of Benefit-in-Kind tax.

Browse our best-selling Mercedes-Benz A-Class lease deals

The verdict

You can’t really go wrong when it comes to picking your next premium hatchback lease.

All three are solid and reliable choices, with that premium finish and fun drive that puts them head and shoulders above the competition.

For space? You’ll want to go for a BMW 1 Series lease. For a car that’s stood the test of time and won? The Audi A3 is calling your name. And for a car with that extra bit of pizazz? Opt for the Mercedes-Benz A-Class.

We’ll take one of each.

Beth Twigg

Beth Twigg

Beth is our Content and Paid Media Specialist, tasked with creating great articles to keep you both entertained and informed. She has two years previous experience, but has been writing and scribbling for much longer.