However, it will be another year before sporting variants of the new fourth-generation Audi model – including a rapid 417bhp RS3 with a new mild-hybrid drivetrain and revised electro-hydraulic four-wheel drive system – challenge rivals from Mercedes-AMG and BMW M.
The arrival of the new A3 has been delayed by more than a year because of fallout from the diesel emissions scandal and Audi’s decision to prioritise development of its pure-electric E-tron models. However, the new A3 has been heavily reworked in a move that, one senior Audi official has suggested to Autocar, will make it the most advanced car in its class and a new benchmark in terms of refinement.
“It is better in every way, especially the interior, which is a real strong point and brings a true premium feel and digital features you otherwise only find in the luxury class,” our source said. “We’ve also spent a lot of time on improving refinement, especially the ride quality, which our latest tests show place it right at the top of its class. With the move towards partial electric propulsion in plug-in hybrids, where there is no influence from mechanical noise developed by the engine, this particular area of development is more important than ever.”
The new A3 sports a bold new look that links it closely with the smaller A1 and higher-riding Q3. The upcoming BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class rival, known under the internal codename AU380, sits on a heavily re-engineered version of the Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform.
The steel and aluminium structure is said to be lighter and more rigid than the platform used by today’s A3 and includes developments that specially target vibration and noise reduction.
The MQB II platform supports a more advanced electrical architecture that will allow the new A3 to offer a wider range of both mild- and plug-in hybrid drivetrains throughout its planned seven-year life cycle. It has also been brought up to date with digital cockpit functions, internet-based communication features and upcoming 5G-enabled autonomous driving innovations.
The new A3 will initially be produced in five-door hatchback and four-door saloon guise only. Production of UK-bound five-doors will continue to take place at Audi’s Ingolstadt factory in Germany, with four-doors built in its Gyor plant in Hungary.
A three-door hatchback A3 will not make production because of the lack of demand in key markets. That decision also means the A3 Cabriolet will disappear from the new line-up. In their absence, Audi plans to introduce a new high-riding A3 Allroad model with a uniquely styled grille and bumpers as well as wheel-arch cladding and a chassis tuned around all-season tyres. Based on the five-door hatchback, it is expected to challenge the Mercedes GLA from the end of 2021. It will sit underneath the Q3 and soon-to-be-revealed Q3 Sportback SUV coupé in the Audi line-up.