Lighter, more powerful, more fuel efficient and cleaner: that just about sums up the all-new Audi A3. And by a strange coincidence, I drove the new Audi on exactly the same day Volkswagen unveiled its new MkVII Golf.
Both from same generic stable, the giant VW Group, both the A3 and Golf will go head-to-head with each other over the next few years.
Audi though prefers to take the view that the A3 is more ‘prestige’ than the Golf, which accounts for more volume sales. Obviously we can’t do any direct comparisons yet but, there looks to be marker differences between the two models on a number of planes.
Today though we’ll concentrate on the Audi. A well-rounded premium hatch, the new A3 delivers an evolutionary new look and revolutionary leaps in quality, technological sophistication and driver appeal.
And just for good measure, it offers an excellent specification across its SE, Sport and S line trim levels.
Prices range from £19,205 to £26,560, and it goes on sale in the UK on September 15.
The new A3′s body is significantly lighter — by around 80kg — than that of the previous model. This has been achieved by extensive use of aluminium and high-strength steels.
That, combined with savings in other areas, means the car is around an average passenger’s weight lighter despite being almost exactly the same size.
Inside the cabin, Audi has further strengthened its reputation for leading the class in terms of trim quality and solidity.
Everywhere your fingers touch, they are met by excellence in terms of materials and finishes. Look around the cabin, and you’ll quickly identify the eye-catching eyeball-style dashboard vents.
Audi designers have increased the interior space by stretching the new A3′s wheelbase, while keeping the car’s overall length the same. It’s also wider.
The result is more elbow room for the driver and front passenger, and access to the rear seats isn’t as clumsy a manoeuvre as experienced in some other cars in its class.
There’s also more storage space in the boot: up 15 litres to 365 litres. The rear seats also flip forward easily for more room.
Audi has also introduced a much slimmer pop-up screen for the optional — must-have — MMI (multimedia interface) system.
As you would expect for a leading car in its class, there are also a number of significant driver assistance systems available, including active lane assist, traffic sign detection and parking assistance.
There are three very convincing four-cylinder petrol and TDI options to choose from at launch, all of which are essentially new developments bringing fuel economy gains of up to 12% over their predecessors.
The 1.4-litre and 1.8TFSI petrol engines and the 2.0TDI have outputs of 122PS, 180PS and 150PS respectively, and all drive the front wheels in this first phase.
The 1.8TFSI is linked as standard to a seven-speed S tronic twin-clutch transmission; the 1.4TFSI and 2.0TDI are paired with a six-speed manual gearbox.
As if that wasn’t comprehensive enough, additional engine and transmission combinations, and new engines such as the 1.4TFSI with innovative cylinder on demand technology, will follow, as will models equipped with quattro permanent all-wheel-drive.
There’s also a much-lauded 105bhp 1.6TDI which will arrive in the UK in November and bring with it CO2 emissions of just 99g/km. Expect it also to deliver fuel consumption 86mpg. Like the rest of the models in the A3 range, it will be available in SE, Sport and S Line spec.
A clever ‘cylinder-on-demand’ 1.4TFSI will also join the ranks, with prices starting at £19,205.
We tested the A3 2.0 TDI 150PS, which returns a very attractive 68.9mpg and emits just 106g/km CO2, thus ensuring you won’t be polluting the countryside as you enjoy your driving. It will also be the big seller in the range, accounting for around 40% of sale. The forthcoming 1.6TDI, which will start at £20,155, will take 30%.
And it’s no slouch: it’ll cover the 0-62mph sprint in 8.6secs and, where legal, carry on to a maximum or 134mph.
Refinement levels on the road are, as you would expect, high, and the power delivery from the turbodiesel is silky smooth and relaxed.
Perfectly at home mixing it with the town centre traffic, the A3 simply gobbles up the miles when faced by long motorway journeys thus ensuring you arrive fresh and relaxed.
Initially the range will consist of a number of three-door hatchbacks, but this will be joined early on by a parallel line-up of five-door Sportback models. And don’t be surprised if a convertible version joins the party as well.
Once again Audi has delivered a car worthy of close inspection. If it’s flawless build quality allied to comfort and class you desire in a car, then the new Audi A3 is certainly worth checking out.