Currently reading: Geneva motor show 2011: Audi A3 saloon
New saloon model designed to boost the A3's sales in US and China

Audi is aiming the production version of its A3 saloon concept squarely at the US and China — but it hopes that the new model could nurture a market for premium small saloons in Europe, too.

The A3, revealed in the metal in Geneva after sketches were issued last week, is shorter than the VW Jetta (by 188mm) and existing A4 saloon (260mm). It previews a new four-door variant for the next-gen A3 that will join the three-door and five-door hatchbacks and the cabriolet.

See official pics of the Audi A3 saloon - now updated with Geneva show pics

The saloon is due on sale in 2013. It will join the A3 drop-top in being built at Audi’s plant in Gyor, Hungary.

Audi isn’t alone in identifying potential sales in the small premium four-door market. Mercedes is developing the replacement for its CLC as a baby saloon. BMW is said to have given a four-door version of the next 1-series serious consideration, but ultimately decided against it.

A new 'etron' electrically powered version of this A3 concept will be shown later at the Shangahi motor show in April. China and the US are seen as the primary markets for the A3 saloon. However, some within Audi think the car could tap into a latent demand in Europe, especially among city-dwelling female drivers who find conventional premium saloons too large.

Design boss Stefan Sielaff says that the new MBQ platform has been engineered from scratch allowing, for example, a less volumous dash thanks to shrunken electrical systems and a more compact climate control unit. The design department also had engineering input into the MBQ platform in terms of the sizes of the overhangs and overall proportions.

MBQ is also likely to come in four wheelbases covering everything from the TT to the next generation Octavia.Greg Kable and Hilton Holloway

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