The Audi A3 Saloon is their new “world car” and joins a revitalised S3 and S3 Sportback series at the end of this month.
From its launch in 1993, the A3 has taken Audi into new sectors across Europe but the arrival of the latest derivative, the saloon A3 is designed to appeal to more US and Chinese buyers and boost the brand as a result.
Its arrival this autumn will also put the A3 Saloon into uncharted waters for Audi in the UK where it’s up against arch-rivals BMW and Mercedes compact saloons, and they are unwilling to put figures on anticipated sales.
Although it shares the model name with its stablemates, the Saloon A3 is actually visually different to them looking at the front, back and sides and some aspects of the interiors differ as well.
Most significantly for the A3 Saloon it gains length and width but it sits lower on the road and with the rear seats in use it provides 45 litres more bootspace than the Sportback and maximum capacity is 880 litres.
It follows the Audi trend towards utilizing the latest lightweight aluminium and hot-formed steel parts to reduce loadings and improve efficiency and economy throughout the series.
The coming of the A3 Saloon will see three new engines introduced, the VW Group’s 140ps 1.4 petrol with on-demand technology which detects when two cylinders can be shut down to save fuel and emissions; a 180ps 1.8 turbo petrol and 150ps 2.0 turbo-diesel.
The 1.4 with CoD technology pushes economy to a combined figure of over 60mpg and emissions turn out at 109gkm with a maximum of 135mph and 0-62mph time of 8.4 seconds. The dual injection 1.8 petrol runs to 146mph with 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds, combined economy above 50mpg and 129gkm CO2, while the launch series 150ps diesel approaches 69mpg combined, emits 107gkm, takes 8.7 seconds to reach 62mph from rest and runs to 137mph. More engines will join the new range in the next few months.
The A3 Saloon will be sold in Sport and S line trims with a £550 premium over equivalent A3 Sportback models, and there is a choice of 7 speed S tronic on the petrol models and 6 speed manual gearboxs on the diesels. Prices of the launch models range from £24,275 to £28,105.
Along with the A3 Saloon, Audi dealers will be stocking the third-generation S3 priced at £30,640 with 6 speed manual or £32,120 with the 6 speed S tronic transmission driving the four wheels. The longer wheelbase under the A3 Sportback with similar powertrains works out at £31,260 and £32,740 respectively.
The sporting quattro S3 derivatives get an all new 300ps turbo-charged 2.0 petrol engine which lifts output by 35ps over the previous generation and takes the 0-62mph time down to 4.8seconds with the manual gearbox and 5.2 seconds in automatic form, with both limited to 155mph. The A3 Sportback is marginally slower accelerating.
The best selling version of the new series is expected to be the 1.4 with its clever cylinder on demand mode and automatic box.
This cuts out the 2nd and 3rd pots when the computer senses they are unnecessary and effectively halves consumption while making the 1st and 4th cylinders work more effectively as well.
It brings a new green factor into the A3 Saloon buyer’s motoring and it does so without demanding any special driving skills, tricks or compromises. CoD works very well, almost imperceptively, and you are never lacking for power should it be needed.
The mechanical refinement is what we have come to expect from Audi and its precision, responses, ride and handling are good.
It is characteristically firm under-neath but owners can order softer set ups if preferred.
We also briefly tested the 150ps 2.0 diesel with manual box and this was noticeably more unsettled on the road but just as slick to drive and it lacked little in performance terms when overtaking.
This has a stated figure of 68.9mpg but we managed 50.1mpg on test including urban and motorway roads.
Audi A3 Saloon 1.4 Sport £24,305 (anticipated best seller)
Insurance group: TBC
Mechanical: Four cyl turbo 140ps 1395cc, 7sp S tronic
Performance: Max 135mph, 0-62mph 8.4 secs
Combined fuel: 60.1mpg (on test 45.8mpg)
Emissions & tax: 109gkm/ 13%
Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles
For: Very refined powertrain, steering and handling with decent capacity boot and quality interior
Against: Small boot opening, constant noisy road roar and firm ride.
© ROBIN ROBERTS and Images by Matt Vosper