The battle of the German big hitters is always an interesting one and Mercedes, BMW and Audi are all vying for sales in the premium hatchback sector.
Looking at the Mercedes A Class, BMW 1 Series and Audi A3, everyone will have their favourite, but these days there is very little splitting the trio. As one pulls ahead, the others up thir game and the lead changes hands more often than the Grand National.
And that's good news for buyers as the more competition, the better.
We are looking at the three vehicles and trying to find out which car is leading the charge right now based on key areas such as cost, practicality, efficiency and the current offers.
Pricing in the premium sector is never that straightforward. All models have a very similar entry-level cost, but most buyers tag on a range of optional extras and that's when the pennies, or rather pounds, really start to stack up.
The Mercedes A Class is available as a hatchback, starting from £26,540 or saloon priced from £28,235. We are looking at the hatchback styling and customers have lots of choices to make. Apart from optional extras to personalise the model, they can select from a new EQA version which is fully electric for any Government plug-in grants but it will offer lots of tax savings. At the performance end of the scale is the mighty A-Class AMG model costing from £41,465.
The BMW 1 Series is priced from £26,450 and once again customers are offered a choice of petrol and diesel engines. Step up to the high performance M models and you will be looking at £38,440 before any options are factored in. But there are trim levels that bridge the gap from entry level to high-end M, so buyers have lots of decisions to make.
The Audi A3 is also available is saloon or hatchback body styles and there is a whole range of models from entry level A3 Sportback to high performance RS versions. Prices start from £25,585 for the hatchback in Technik and rising to £39,640 for the Vorsprung version. the RS3 Vorsprung will set you back £61,655.
Hatchbacks are bought for two main reasons, their excellent handling and their practicality and all three models on our list cover both those bases very well.
All the cars offer decent amounts of space in the back for two adults or a trio of youngsters to sit comfortably provided the front seats are not pushed too far back and storage capacities between the three have very slim margins in terms of size and practicality.
The Mercedes A Class has a boot capacity that ranges from 370 to 1,210 litres, the BMW 1 Series can swallow 380 litres, increasing to 1,200 litres with the rear seats dropped and, similarly the Audi A3 can accommodate 380 litres of luggage increasing to 1,200 litres. So, very little between then on that front.
With all three manufacturers offering a range of powertrains, there are engines to suit all budgets and requirements.
The most frugal amongst the Mercedes A Class models would be the upcoming fully electric EQA, but looking at traditional powertrains, the 180d uses a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine producing 116bhp and 260 Nm of torque. This car delivers up to 62.8mpg on the combined cycle and emits 117g/km.
Meanwhile, the BMW 116d SE with its 1.5-litre diesel engine offering 116bh and 270Nm of torque can achieve a combined 61.4mpg with CO2 of 120g/km.
Finally, the Audi A3 Sport 30 with its 116PS TDI diesel unit matched to a six-speed manual gearbox can return a combined 64.2mpg with 115g/km.
Once again, it's hard to split the cars based on running costs.
When it comes to offers, they are changing constantly. At the time we did our comparison, the Mercedes A 180 d Sport Hatchback was available on PCP plans with a deposit of £5,127, followed by 48 monthly payments of £351.10 and a final optional purchase price of £11,650. this car has an OTR price of £29,299 and it would cost £33,640 if the plan was followed.
The BMW 118i M Sport, with an OTR cash price of £29,885, was available on a PCP plan over 48 months. There would be a deposit of £4,644, 47 monthly payments of £349 and the option to buy for £12,487, at the end of the plan.
Finally, the Audi A3 30 TFSI with 6-speed manual gearbox will need a deposit of £2,558, 47 payments of £332 and the option to buy at the end of the scheme from £11,891.
These PCP offers were available from the manufacturer's own websites, but there are all manner of deals across the trio of cars at various dealerships, so it's certainly worth shopping around.
So, which takes your fancy?
All three models have their own individual appeal and it's nigh on impossible to separate them by price, practically or efficiency.
However, the one car that has recently seen quite a transformation inside its cabin is the Mercedes A Class. It now looks more stylish and modern than the other two. But customers will often have their preferred brand and little will make them change their minds