Car buyer’s guide: Is now the time to buy a premium small car?

By Jez Spinks, 01 Sep 2016 Car Advice

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Mercedes-Benz A-Class

In a new WhichCar series, we reveal upcoming updates or major changes for Australia’s most popular vehicles.

The compact luxury car market is a fascinating showroom battleground where the prices of premium cars start to overlap with those of higher-specification mainstream models.

Medium-sized cars remain the ‘volume’ segment of luxury vehicle sales, though models such as the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class and B-Class twins have helped to close the gap in 2016.

Here, WhichCar provides a guide to any changes planned or expected for these models during the next 18 months – to help you pick the perfect timing for buying one. 

AUDI A3

The latest-generation A3 was released in 2013 and the range has since grown with additional body styles (sedan) and extra variants (e-tron hybrid and RS3 hot-hatch).

Audi A3

An updated version of the A3 is due in late 2016.

The facelift will bring subtle design tweaks, though the headline changes include the introduction of new optional technology such as Matrix LED headlights and the Virtual Cockpit variable cockpit display.

The biggest news under the bonnet is the smallest engine yet for the A3 – a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo, with outputs of 81kW and 200Nm. 

BMW 1 SERIES

Another update to BMW’s smallest car arrives around a similar time to the rival A3 – and follows many of the changes introduced recently on its 2 Series Coupe and Convertible relatives.

BMW 1 series

The mid-range 120i and 125i models switch to the company’s new modular 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, which brings lower fuel consumption despite increased power and faster performance.

The 125i also gains extra features for no extra cost.

The fastest 1 Series changes its badge from M135i to M140i, turning up the wick with a revised 3.0-litre six-cylinder that produces an extra 10kW and 50Nm for a total of 250kW/500Nm.

Pricing jumps $2000 to $64,900, though standard equipment grows to include leather-trimmed and electrically adjustable seats (with heating for the fronts), Comfort Access, and a 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio.

The range continues to kick off with the 118i, priced from $36,900.

BMW’s 1 Series remains unique in the segment with its rear-wheel-drive layout, though the replacement model – due about 2018 – is set to move to a front-wheel-drive platform currently used by the Mini, X1 and 2 Series Active Tourer. 

MERCEDES-BENZ A-CLASS

The baby Benz was given a ‘Series 2’ update in early 2016 – nearly three years after the A-Class turned into a more conventional-looking hatchback.

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

While there was a styling refresh and new additions such as LED headlights and an iPad-style 8-inch dash display screen, mechanical changes were particularly notable.

A revised suspension countered criticisms of ride quality, and the flagship, all-wheel-drive A45 AMG became the world’s fastest and most powerful production hatch after its 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine was upgraded.

Price increases across the range were matched with increased specification.

The next-generation A-Class isn’t expected until 2018. 

MERCEDES-BENZ B-CLASS

The MPV twin to the A-Class had its facelift back in early 2015 – with a similar compilation of changes to styling and features.

Mercedes-Benz B-Class

The B-Class range also received a price hike in return for additional equipment across the board.

Having also been released a year earlier (2012) than the A-Class in latest-generation form, anticipate an all-new B-Class in late 2017 or early 2018. There are reports its name could change.