2015 BMW M235i: I'll Take the Audi Instead
by Dan Frio, Automotive Editor on November 11, 2015
I like our 2015 BMW M235i. But I'd rather have our former Audi A3.
This may sound like apples to oranges, but think of it more like Fuji to Red Delicious.
On paper these two don't really compete. One's a four door, the other isn't. The Audi is built for four humans, the BMW for two humans and two laptop bags. Maybe two other very small humans. The Audi has two fewer cylinders.
For about the price of the Audi as tested ($39,745), you can get a lightly optioned 228i coupe, or a base all-wheel-drive 228i convertible. As spec'd, our M235i costs about $17,000 more than the A3, which included options like a sport suspension, sport seats, shift paddles, navigation and WiFi connectivity.
Pegged to the dollar, these cars aren't the same.
But I'd argue they vie for the same buyer, someone young, badge-conscious, headed up the ladder, and with plenty of disposable income or high tolerance for leasing. Although our as-tested prices are vastly different, remember that our M235i represents the high-performance end of the 2 Series lineup. Option up an Audi S3 and suddenly the gap isn't quite as wide.
But even given the M235i's silky performance advantage — the engine really does sing sweetly — I'll still take the A3. The A3 has cargo room. Its knobs and controls are intuitive, elegant even. The BMW's seats are nice (maybe best in fleet), but the Audi's are also pretty great. You'll have a hard time finding someone on staff who found issue with the Audi's long-haul comfort. I helped drive it from Houston to Los Angeles and I'd do it again without reservation.
We even came within 1 mile-per-gallon of matching the EPA combined MPG rating (27) during the long-term test.
And after all this, the A3 is still a 14-second car. OK, that doesn't have quite the same ring as a car that covers the quarter-mile in 12 seconds, but for a well-equipped, all-wheel-drive sedan that delivers sharp, nimble reflexes in the turns, that kind of quickness is impressive and useful every day.
I'd have a couple of gripes with the A3, however. Ours wasn't equipped with a rearview camera, which I always felt was an extraordinarily cheap gesture. 2016 A3 models now get a rearview cam standard across the board, so that's a moot point. A larger concern is the dual-clutch transmission's character at low speed, around town. Ours was prone to some hiccup and lurch, and although we didn't have any mechanical issues with it during 20,000 miles, I'd be a bit worried about its life after 50,000-plus.
If I was smart, I'd take some of that $17,000 I saved by not buying the BMW, stash some in a maintenance fund, some in a tire fund, and splurge on the Bang & Olufsen stereo. That'd be a car I'd enjoy seeing in the driveway for a long time.
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor