2016 Audi A3 vs 2016 Toyota Corolla: Premium compact or economy car

2016 Audi A3 vs 2016 Toyota Corolla - Premium compact or economy car

2016 Audi A3 vs 2016 Toyota Corolla: Premium compact or economy car

2016 Audi A3 vs 2016 Toyota Corolla: An Introduction

My recent comparison of the Audi A3 and the Honda Civic addressed the manner in which the auto industry has fostered a “democratization of luxury.” This democratization stems from the fact that “mainstream brands and proud premium marques” have started to compete for the same consumers who are situated at the intersection of these two, traditionally, separate market segments.

Commenting on this trend in her Edmunds.com article “2015 Audi A3 Stealing Customers From Toyota and Honda,” Anita Lienhert notes that “one-quarter of [A3] buyers are 30 years old or younger, [and] many are financing versus leasing.” Interestingly enough, “the majority” of these buyers are “coming out of Toyota and Honda cars.”

To this end, CBS News correspondent Jerry Edgerton reports that “entry-level luxury cars — those with purchase prices often starting under $35,000” are the primary reason that “luxury vehicles have increased their market share in recent years.” Moreover, he notes that “data suggests…the growth was due almost exclusively to new buyers entering the market” from other brands, such as (you guessed it) Honda and Toyota.

In an effort to explain the movement by those under 30 from Japanese to German brands, Lienhert quotes both Mark Del Rosso (Audi of America Chief Operating Officer) and Scott Keogh (Audi of America President). The former said: “It is a younger demographic[:] move-up customers who are wowed by the fact it’s an authentic Audi”; while the latter stated: “We have a perfect demographic to make this car work—young [and] affluent. They are looking for these types of things.”

And what are the “types of things” for which these “young and affluent” drivers are looking? Well, as already mentioned, they’re in search of an “authentic Audi.” But what does that mean? In other words, what characteristics or features does an Audi offer that, let’s say, a Toyota does not provide?

To begin with, the prestige of owning of a German luxury vehicle, such as an Audi, certainly trumps Toyota ownership in terms of cultural cachet. In the introduction to her Forbes’ article “Ten Reasons to Buy a Luxury Car,” Hannah Elliott quotes consumer-researcher Wes Brown who says: “It’s about emotional connections that people can make with a brand and how it makes you feel .” Undoubtedly, for the “young and affluent,” owning a luxury car makes them feel much better and, perhaps, more secure in their station in life.

But, as Elliott notes, driving a glamour vehicle is not just about appearances and “emotional connections.” In fact, the higher ticket price on these consumer items necessarily means that you’ll be purchasing a better product. She goes on to write:

Premium cars offer the most advanced safety options and the best entertainment technology on the market, not to mention some of the plushest interiors and the most options for customization

Elliott, though, is not the only person to advocate for luxury cars. In “Luxury Cars: Are They Worth the Extra Money,” Doug DeMuro presents a short but convenient list of reasons to purchase a high-end make. In addition to the brand name, he lists quality of materials, handling, and ride as reasons for choosing a luxury car. If Elliot and DeMuro weren’t convincing enough, Edgerton also mentions that luxury brands boast a “high resale value.” This, obviously, is important when drivers decide it’s time for a new vehicle.

2016 Audi A3 vs 2016 Toyota Corolla: A Spec Comparison

While the argument for a luxury compact over a mainstream compact, in the general sense, seems more or less straightforward, what about a comparison between two specific vehicles? Well, the discrepancies between cars appear even more glaring when actual makes are placed in juxtaposition to one another.

To this end, you will find a comparison of the Audi A3 and the Toyota Corolla at two different trim levels in the below tables. The first table shows the specifications for the entry-level edition of each model without modifications or upgrades. The second comparison matches the fully-loaded versions of both cars.


Engine Turbo-charged, 4-cylinder, 16-valve 1.8L 4-cylinder, 16-valve
Horsepower / Torque 170 / 200 132 / 128
City / Highway / Combined 23 / 33 / 27 27 / 36 / 31
Acceleration (0-60) 7.2 seconds NA
Top-Speed 130 mph NA
Warranty 4 years / 50,000 miles 36 months / 36,000 miles
Maintenance 12 months / 5,000 miles 2 years /25,000 miles
Transmission 6-speed dual clutch, front-wheel drive 6-Speed Manual
Wheel Base 103.8 inches 106.3 inches
Curb Weight 3,175 pounds NA (2,820 pounds with automatic transmission)
Length 175.4 inches 182.6 inches
Height 55.7 inches 57.3 inches
Cargo Volume 12.3 cubic feet 13 cubic feet
Climate Control Dual-zone Automatic central air-conditioner
Panoramic Sunroof YES NO
Headlamps Xenon headlights / LED running lights LED lights
Driver Assist Parking System Plus, Audi Presense Basic NO
Audio Bluetooth, HD Radio, SiriusXM AM/FM CD player, Bluetooth
Sound System 10 speakers 6 speakers
Infotainment System 7-inch touchscreen, MMI interface 6-inch touchscreen
MSRP $30,900.00 $17,830


Engine Turbo-charged, 4-cylinder, 16-valve 1.8L 4-cylinder, 16-valve
Horsepower / Torque 220 / 258 132 / 128
City / Highway / Combined 24 / 33 / 27 29 / 37 / 32
Acceleration (0-60) 5.8 seconds N/A
Top-Speed 130 mph N/A
Warranty 4 years / 50,000 miles 36 months / 36,000 miles
Maintenance 12 months / 5,000 miles 2 years /25,000 miles
Transmission 6-speed dual clutch, quattro all-wheel drive LL-CVT, front-wheel drive
Wheel Base 103.8 inches 106.3 inches
Curb Weight 3,362 pounds 2,865 pounds
Length 175.4 inches 183.1 inches
Height 55.7 inches 57.3 inches
Cargo Volume 10.0 cubic feet 13.0 cubic feet
Climate Control Dual-zone Automatic Automatic climate control
Panoramic Sunroof Yes No (slide moonroof)
Headlamps LED headlights / rear lights LED headlights
Driver Assist Parking system plus, Audi side assist, Audi presense front NO
Audio Bluetooth, HD Radio, Sirius XM/Traffic, iPod Integration Etune: Premium Audio with Integrated Navigation and App Suite
Sound System 14 Bang & Olufsen speakers 6 speakers
Infotainment System MMI 7-inch touch, navigation plus, Audi Connect 6-inch touchscreen
MSRP $43,050.00 $23,125.00


As you can tell, these are not all the specifications for the models, merely some of the more prominent features that consumers look for when purchasing a car. Regardless of what trim comparison you examine, though, the Audi outperforms the Corolla on nearly every level.

True, as with the Honda Civic, the Corolla produces better mpg numbers; but, outside of that one factor, the A3 dominates its competitor. A more powerful engine? Most definitely. More appointments? Of course. Available all-wheel Drive? You better believe it. A top-notch interior? As always. The ability to upgrade in nearly every possible category? Indeed. The Corolla cannot match these specifications. Not even remotely. True, the Corolla costs less than the Audi; but the cars remain, price-wise, in the same ballpark.

One of the hallmarks of the Toyota brand, though, is that of “dependability.” While that rather amorphous category cannot, necessarily, be evaluated from a list or chart of specifications, plenty of independent, third-party research has been conducted to determine which brands are, indeed, the “most” dependable. The results of this research, in fact, tell a not too surprising story. Yes, Toyota, as a brand, does manufacture dependable cars; but Audi creates very dependable vehicles as well.

In a 2015 Consumer Reports study, Toyota and Audi were ranked neck-and-neck in a “reliability” assessment; the manufacturers placed numbers two and three, respectively, in the industry-wide survey. Any gap in how these brands fair in the long-term has been systematically eradicated.

2016 Audi A3 vs 2016 Toyota Corolla: A Visual Comparison

As previously mentioned in the Audi A3 vs Honda Civic comparison, the difference between German and Japanese design languages is rather marked. While you can read more about those differences in my previous post, a cursory glance at the two vehicles’ exteriors demonstrates their varying aesthetics in evident fashion:


2016 Audi A3 front driver view 2016 Audi A3 rear driver view
Corolla_01 Corolla_02


For interior views and more detailed images of certain aspects of their exterior, check out the below pictures of the A3 and Corolla, respectively:


2016 Audi A3
2016 Audi A3 wheels 2016 Audi A3 headlight detail
2016 Audi A3 dash 2016 Audi A3 cabin



2016 Toyota Corolla
Corolla_03 Corolla_04
Corolla_05 Corolla_06


2016 Audi A3 vs 2016 Toyota Corolla: A Video Comparison

Finally, I thought it important to provide some third-party critiques of the 2016 Audi A3 and the 2016 Toyota Corolla. In an effort to provide equal representation for the vehicles, I chose the most recent Kelley Blue Book reviews for each brand. You can watch each video below; but I’ve also extracted representative quotes from both clips in order to give some textual evidence of Blue Book’s opinions.


2016 Toyota Corolla Kelley Blue Book Video:


2016 Audi A3 Kelley Blue Book Video:


While, on some level, both of these reviews offer positive critiques of each vehicle, the reviewers do articulate some clear differences between the rival, compact cars.

For starters, the reviewer of the Corolla lays bare an all too apparent reality when dealing with a Toyota; he says: “Kids are not going to be hanging Corolla posters on their bedroom walls.” Yes, this is true. And it’s a key factor in deciding as to whether or not you will be purchasing an A3 or a Corolla. Are you interested in style? In luxury? In class? In fulfilling the dreams of your youth that the posters on your bedroom wall symbolized? Then, most assuredly, friend, the Corolla is not the car for you.

Of course, it’s not simply the fulfillment of childhood reveries at which the Corolla fails. In fact, the car misses the mark on some very basic levels. For example, the reviewer remarks that he was “taken aback by the lack of a rear center armrest,” in addition to the absence of “elemental features like automatic headlight control and sliding sun visor.”

With regard to the Corolla’s performance, the reviewer recognizes that “no one seeks face-flattening performance when shopping for a Toyota Corolla.” But with that admission, he notes that “the on-center slack in the steering wheel requires constant corrections, even on straight roads.”

In the end, the reviewer acknowledges that most people purchase Toyota Corollas because they are affordable; but then he levels a rather damning accusation:

this segment is teaming with cars that deliver more refinement, features-for-dollar, long-term value, and driver involvement. Given this burgeoning field of appealing alternatives, the Corolla is no longer the de facto choice for most compact car buyers.

As such, sales of the model have begun to lag, relatively speaking. And one of those other brands in this “teaming” segment? Yes, it’s the Audi A3.

Micah Muzio, Managing Editor of Kelley Blue Book, delivers, in no uncertain terms, a clear and definitive assessment of the Audi A3: “Basically, if you’re a small car fan, there’s a lot to like here.” And what, to his mind, does “a lot” consist of? To begin with, the entry-level trim comes eqipped with “xenon headlights, a big sunroof, leather seats, and a thin…7-inch screen.” Likewise, the “general layout [of the interior] is clean and logical with a touch of sportiness. And the materials’ selection is excellent.”

Moreover, just as the Corolla suffered from a poor ride and handling, the A3 excels in those same areas. More precisely, Muzio says that:

the A3 gains speeds well, thanks in part to a standard S-Tronic dual-clutch transmission. This six-speed gearbox is a winner, shifting with impressive speed and smoothness. Also deserving of praise is the A3’s on-road demeanor. Turn the steering wheel while parking, and efforts are light and manageable. Do the same at speed, and it switches to firm and engaging. The A3 is agile, but its suspension is never abusive. The brakes feel good. The cabin is quiet. And…it’s totally stable on the freeway.

As you can tell from the excessive gushing, Muzio loves the way this car drives.

But it’s not just the ride and handling that Muzio appreciates. He continues with his praise of the vehicle’s offerings, particularly all the “high-end gear” that you can add to the base model in order to customize your driving experience. He notes, in particular, options such as:

a 700-watt, 14-speaker Bang-Oulfsun audio system, LED headlights, Audi Connect Infotainment with Google Earth Maps and Speech-to-Text functionality, an in-vehicle LTV data connection, and a clever touchpad conveniently located atop the MMI controller that recognizes handwriting. Add to that a driver’s assistant package with Lane Keep Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control.

That’s, obviously, quite the list. While one might not tick-off every option box Muzio lists above, the fact that these premium features can be included in an A3 when, conversely, the Corolla does not offer these options to a consumer, speaks volumes when it comes to the overall quality of the brands.

And that, of course, leads into Muzio’s final point: the badge. Audi signifies success, quality craftsmanship, and style. And, as quoted earlier, Wes Brown understands that those aspects of the luxury experience make a person “feel” better. So it’s not surprising, then, that Muzio recognizes some divers’ desire for “an elevated image, premium ride and handling, and a bunch of cool features” when looking for a vehicle. To that end, he states:

The Audi A3 offers all that stuff, just in a smaller more frugal package. If you’re a luxury car buyer looking to downsize, or maybe you’re just an up-and-comer looking to dip your toes in the premium car market, the Audi A3 deserves a closer look.

And, indeed, the A3 does offer potential drivers all those aspects of the Audi experience in a smaller, more compact size, whereas the Toyota Corolla is an economy compact that intends on shuttling drivers from point A to point B as cheaply as possible.

After reading this article regarding the 2016 Audi A3 vs 2016 Toyota Corolla, perhaps, you think the German compact car is the right choice for you. If that’s the case, I encourage you to stop by Prestige Imports at 9201 West Colfax Avenue, located between Wadsworth and Kipling, and test drive an A3. You can also call to schedule an appointment by dialing (833) 825-5423.