From its launch in 1993, the A3 has taken Audi into new sectors across Europe but the arrival of the latest derivative, the four door A3 Saloon, is designed to appeal to US and Chinese markets and boost the brand globally as a result.
Its arrival in the UK this autumn will put the A3 Saloon into uncharted waters for Audi where it’s up against arch-rivals BMW and Mercedes compact saloons so unusually Audi are unwilling to put figures on anticipated sales.
Although it shares the model name with its stablemates, the A3 Saloon is actually visually quite different to them looking from all angles as well as the interior.
Most significantly for the A3 Saloon it gains length and width but it sits lower on the road. With the rear seats in use it provides 45-litres more boot space than the Sportback and the 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 turbodiesel.
The 1.4 with cylinder-on-demand 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. There is a choice of 7-speed S tronic auto on the petrol models and 6-speed manual gearboxes 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 Hatchback three door 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 S3 Sportback five door versions with similar powertrains work 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.
New A3 Saloon first impressions:
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. Cylinder-on-Demand 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.
The ride is characteristically firm from Audi but owners can order softer set ups if preferred.
At the recent media launch I 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 I only managed 50.1mpg on test including urban and motorway roads.
MILESTONES. Audi A3 Saloon 1.4 Sport. Price: £24,305 (anticipated best seller).
Engine/transmission: 1.4-litre, 4-cylinder with cylinder-on-demand function, turbocharged, 140ps, 7sp S tronic auto. Performance: 135mph, 0-62mph 8.4 seconds, 60.1mpg Combined Cycle (on test 45.8mpg), CO2 109g/km, VED road tax £0 First Year rate, £20 Second Year onwards, BIK company car tax 13%. Insurance group: TBC. Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles. For: Appealing for those who are put off owning common-place hatchbacks, usual Audi class and quality, clever cylinder-on-demand engine technology, handles well. Against: Firm ride so take the optional softer settings, real-life fuel economy doesn’t get close to the official EU test figures. Robin Roberts Miles Better News Agency