Perhaps the quintessential example of a premium compact, the Audi A3 has been completely redesigned for the 2013 model year. The car debuts at the 2012 Geneva auto show as a three-door hatchback, which we likely won’t get in the U.S. It does, however, provide a good preview of the sedan that will arrive here as a 2014 model. This third-generation car will compete directly with the all-new Mercedes-Benz A-class, the BMW 1-series, and the upcoming Volvo V40.
The outgoing model was launched in 2003 before arriving in the U.S. as a 2006 model. That’s a long life cycle, and the A3 looks to catapult back to the top of the segment with a new platform and a heaping helping of gadgets.
Stylistically, it’s modern but familiar. The greenhouse appears to be similar to those of the first and second generations; the C-pillar is steeply raked for a coupe-like appearance. The window line forms a subtle arc, while Audi has added a sharp, rising character line on the lower flanks. The A3′s front end presents a reshaped, A6-like grille and new headlights with angled daytime running lights. The rear view features wide, horizontal taillights. There is an available S-line package that adds the usual rear pseudo diffuser plus large (and largely nonfunctional) front air intakes. Full-LED headlights are an option heretofore not offered in this segment.
My, What Rich Content You Have
The interior appears to deliver on Audi’s sterling reputation for quality. (We previewed the interior and its technology at CES in January.) The round air vents recall the preceding model and air flowing from them can be adjusted from a wide dispersion to a focused stream. The philosophy—at least in Europe—used in creating the options list seems to be “the more, the merrier.” There is an ultra-thin screen that displays the navigation map (including Google Earth integration) or the MMI menu; the MMI knob, in its most sophisticated form, features a touch-sensitive pad on top to input letters and numbers by writing with your fingertip or swipe through music selections. Inputs also can be made by voice, and there are new toggle switches for MMI controls. There is more to the Euro A3: An optional Bang & Olufsen stereo system features LED-illuminated speaker surrounds in the doors; the car can be turned into a Wi-Fi hot spot; and there are numerous assistance systems, including traffic-sign recognition, blind-spot warning, and lane-keeping assist.
More important than styling and gimmicks, however, is the vehicle’s platform. The A3 is now lighter; according to Audi, the 1.4 TFSI model weighs just 2590 pounds, 176 fewer than its predecessor. There is a strut-type front suspension and a multilink rear; magnetorheological shocks are optional. This new A3 uses the Volkswagen Group’s modular transversal “MQB” platform, which stands for “Modularer Querbaukasten.” (Head here for a deep dive on MQB.) It will underpin a vast number of models by VW, Škoda, Audi, and SEAT, which gives the VW Group remarkable economies of scale. Audi says that its cars won’t get cheaper, however, instead pouring savings into offering a lot more content.
Engines and Transmissions
In Europe, the A3 will first launch with a 122-hp, 1.4-liter TFSI four; a 180-hp, 1.8-liter TFSI four; and a 143-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder TDI diesel. Audi already announced an entry-level 1.6 TDI with fuel consumption of 62 mpg in the European cycle. There will be a hybrid as well, and the other side of the performance spectrum will be occupied by an S3. The S3 is confirmed to offer a 2.0-liter turbo four making close to 300 hp, and there is reason for optimism concerning another beastly RS3. The latter would pack a 2.5-liter turbo five-cylinder making around 400 hp. Audi states that the fuel economy of the new A3 improves by about 12 percent on average, with even better fuel economy on some engines, although that’s on the Euro cycle. (We’ll have to wait until U.S.-spec cars are announced to see what gains we might expect.) A six-speed manual is offered, as well as a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. As in other contemporary Audis, you can adjust the steering, automatic-gearbox shift program, and throttle sensitivity via an available Drive Select system that incorporates Comfort, Automatic, Dynamic, and Efficiency settings.
Besides the three-door hatchback, Audi will again produce a ragtop convertible and a five-door hatchback. The first two cars will stay in Europe; we may again see a five-door hatch in addition to the confirmed sedan. (The sedan was previewed by a 408-hp concept at last year’s Geneva show.) When the sedan launches here for the 2014 model year, it will be expected to produce large numbers of conquest customers. We won’t get the small engines in the States, but the 2.0-liter TDI and a 2.0-liter TFSI gasoline engine with around 200 hp are a given. We could also see the gasoline hybrid and perhaps a fully electric version, as well as the S3. The latter is, of course, what we’re most looking forward to—as well as seeing how it stacks up to the forthcoming AMG version of the A-class.
Trackback from your site.