The next-generation Audi S3 has made an outing in prototype guise, previewing an eleven-strong next-generation A3 model line-up due before 2022.
Spotted here in five-door hatchback form, using the current car's MFA platform, the A3 will also have four-door saloon and five-door liftback variants. The latter is expected to take the Sportback name from the five-door hatchback, while that variant will be simply badged A3, as the three-door A3 was discontinued last year. Regular and S3-badged convertible models will complete the line-up, although, as is currently the case, there will be noRS3 drop-top.
The other variants will also gain S3 and RS3-badged models, meaning eleven cars will make up the A3 range. With competition from the BMW M140i and upcoming Mercedes-AMG A35 covering the 300-335bhp bracket, the S3 is expected to stay within these limits, with 325bhp mooted by sources.
If it follows the example set by the TTS, with which the current S3 shares an engine, it will get a petrol particulate filter. This has reduced power slightly to 302bhp, but a boost of 15lb ft has taken torque up to 295lb ft. The TTS ditched its six-speed manual gearbox for a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, too.
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The RS3, meanwhile, will likely increase in power, with 400bhp-plus opposition from the Mercedes-AMG A45 on the way. Audi remains tight-lipped on its future plans, but it's expected to keep the 2.5-litre five-cylinder unit from the current car.
The styling of the new A3, as seen on the spied development car, will follow the rest of the Audi range with a more geometric front-end treatment and sharper tail-lights. Inside, there'll be Audi's Virtual Cockpit as standard, with a choice of two infotainment screen sizes.
The five-door hatchback will be the first new A3 to arrive next year, replacing the model that was introduced at the 2012 Geneva motor show. The final new A3 variant to arrive will be the five-door liftback, which isn’t expected until 2021 – the third year of the fourth-generation A3’s lifespan. The regular hatchback will be longer and wider than the current car. It has the same track width, but wider wheel arches and carriers to give extra width.
Facing fresh competition from the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class Saloon, the A3 Saloon will be introduced in 2020.
The new A3's engine range will include 1.0-litre, 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre TFSI petrol units, as well a 2.0-litre TDI unit in three different states of tune. An e-tron plug-in hybrid model will continue, but it will be upgraded to use the same driveline as the Volkswagen Passat GTE. There won't be an electric version, though; Audi is saving the EV hatchback market for a dedicated model, which it will release in 2021. Until its arrival, an electric version of the forthcoming Q4 SUV will be the brand's smallest EV.
The A3 Cabriolet, a small-seller within the Audi range, is the least certain for replacement, given the state of the convertible market and the discontinuation of C-segment Volkswagen Group products following the Beetle’s axing. However, it's likely to arrive shortly after the hatchback.