Luxo hatchbacks: the group test

Some gamble. The A-Class has merely exchanged fringy practicality for mainstream desirability, a realignment that brings it into a neat and orderly line with every other premium hatchback. They're all copying a template laid down by the Audi A3, ooh, about 15 years ago. Since then Audi has sold 18 lakh A3s. Yep, it's been outsold by the Mercedes, which begs the question of why everyone is trying to shoehorn themselves into the A3's parking space rather than the A-Class's.

Two reasons: firstly because it's a bigger, more predictable and stable segment and, secondly, because these aren't just cars. They're brand extensions. The A3 is just one link in the four-ringed chain that progresses buyers from As 1 to 8, with allowable forays off into Q or S ownership. It's a condensement of what Audi stands for in a way the old A-Class never was.