Audi boss Rupert Stadler has given the production green light to a new saloon version of the A3 — a car Ingolstadt insiders describe as a spiritual successor to the Audi 80.
The premium-priced four-door, slated for a UK launch in 2013, will join newly designed three-door hatchback (pictured), five-door Sportback and two-door cabriolet models in an expanded third-generation line-up.
The A3 saloon is planned as an entry-level model in the world’s two largest car markets: the US and China. But Audi also sees the saloon as a car to slot below the A4, which has grown in length by 220mm since it arrived in 1994.
The A3 saloon’s styling is expected to follow today’s family look, and at 4.51 metres long it will be slightly shorter than the new Volkswagen Jetta.
Under the skin is VW’s new MQB modular platform, which is said to be cheaper and easier to make than today’s PQ35 platform. The suspension layout is the same — front struts and rear multi-link — and both front and four-wheel drive are available.
Petrol engines for the UK are likely to range from a turbocharged 1.4-litre four to a 2.5-litre, five-cylinder turbo powering an RS3 performance flagship. Among the diesels will be 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre four-cylinder units. Also planned is a hybrid based on the 1.4 turbo and lithium ion battery pack shown in VW’s Compact Coupé concept.
The A3 saloon will battle new compact four-doors from BMW and Mercedes: a still-secret booted version of the second-generation 1-series and a production version of Mercedes’ F800 Style concept, based on the new platform of the third-generation A-class.