Audi is poised to take the fight to Mercedes' new CLA with a stylish compact coupé
27 November 2018

Audi is preparing to counter the new Mercedes-Benz CLA with its very own style-led coupé: a new five-door A3 liftback model. The most powerful version, which is set to make more than 400bhp, is described by Audi officials as a spiritual successor to the original Sport Quattro

The secret new Audi was granted production approval by former Audi chairman Rupert Stadler earlier this year and forms part of a future four-model A3 line-up. When it reaches the UK in 2020, it will be sold alongside successors to today’s five-door hatchback, two-door cabriolet and four-door saloon A3s. 

Sources told Autocar the new five-door A3 coupé could use the Sportback name to draw a link between it and the A5 Sportback, although that branding has previously been used for the five-door A3 hatchback. 

As well as rivalling the new Mercedes CLA, the upcoming Audi liftback will face competition from a future BMW 2 Series Gran Coupé in what is shaping up as a potentially lucrative market segment for the three German car makers. 

Our Verdict

Audi A3 Sportback

The Audi A3 Sportback offers the same ownership virtues as the three-door car, but fails to address the small Audi's dynamic shortcomings

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The word from Audi’s Ingolstadt headquarters in Germany suggests that the new A3 model has been drafted into the line-up as a possible replacement for the TT, sales of which have plummeted in recent years as buyers have abandoned compact two-door models in search of more versatile offerings. However, this is denied by highly placed Audi sources in Ingolstadt, who suggest the future of the TT coupé and roadster remains open for the time being. 

Further details about the new A3 model are scarce at this early stage, but insiders have told Autocar that the A3 liftback measures more than 4400mm in length. By comparison, the existing A5 Sportback is 4730mm long. 

More affordable versions of the new Audi are set to run either a 1.4-litre petrol or 2.0-litre diesel engine in combination with a 48V electric system to provide them with mild-hybrid properties. 

However, Autocar has been told that plans have already been drawn up for a more powerful 2.0-litre model in the form of the S3 liftback. Set to rival the Mercedes-AMG CLA35, the four-wheel-drive S3 liftback is expected to offer more than 300bhp. 

The most powerful of Audi’s new five-door models will be an exciting RS3 liftback that’s planned for launch in 2021. Fitted with a revised version of the 2.5-litre five-cylinder petrol engine that powers existing RS3 models, with a particulate filter among the other changes, it will go up against the new Mercedes-AMG CLA45 wielding more than 400bhp. 

In a move that’s intended to link the new liftback with the iconic short-wheelbase Sport Quattro launched in 1983, the RS3 liftback is claimed to receive a number of traditional styling touches, including air vents within the leading edge of the bonnet, flared wheel arches and a pronounced spoiler within the trailing edge of an angled liftback-style tailgate. 

Together with the range-topping S3 and RS3 models, Audi is also planning to provide its upcoming liftback with a newly configured plug-in petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain, which will offer an electric-only range of up to 31 miles, as part of an extended range of new electrified A3 E-tron models

Word on the Ingolstadt rumour mill also suggests that a pure-electric version of the new five-door liftback, based on the Volkswagen Group’s new MEB electric vehicle platform, could also appear as a future Audi rival to the Tesla Model 3.

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Comments
15

27 November 2018

I remember when SAAB switched from a saloon to a hatch and the horrified reaction from SAAB fans, explained away that hatchbacks weren't seen as 'premium' and to compete with BMW and Mercedes they needed a saloon.

The lesson as proved by the success of ' premium' hatchbacks is never follow the customer or competition. Just make a good car.

27 November 2018
SamVimes1972 wrote:

I remember when SAAB switched from a saloon to a hatch and the horrified reaction from SAAB fans, explained away that hatchbacks weren't seen as 'premium' and to compete with BMW and Mercedes they needed a saloon.

The lesson as proved by the success of ' premium' hatchbacks is never follow the customer or competition. Just make a good car.

To be fair it took until recently for hatchbacks to be accepted as premium, with the likes of the A5, A7, and 4 series GT (the old 3 and 5 series GT were a little stylistically challenged).

SAAB switched back from hatches to saloons with the early 2000s 9-3 and 9-5. Even the likes of Ford who had switched their entire car range to hatchbacks by the mid 80s had axed the Granada hatchback in favour of a saloon-only Scorpio (which was an ugly duckling).

I think the premium hatchback movement was actually helped by the Merc CLS, which showed there was a market for a '4 door coupe', something practical but sporting looking. Premium hatchbacks tend to be marketed with the word 'coupe', the likes of Audi and BMW lump them in with the naming of their coupe models (4 series, A5 etc.). Even Hyundai are selling the i30 fastback as a premium coupe based on the i30.

27 November 2018

^ Rover too who had the gorgeous (if a little ropey) SD1, which had hints of Ferrari Daytona about it, switched to a pure saloon by the 75 era.

27 November 2018

My point wasn't that hatchbacks were seen as premium in the days of the 900. My point was that accepted industry wisdom was that you needed a saloon to be seen as premium, something now disproved by premium manufacturers. 

27 November 2018

I just like the fact it's not an suv. Sad times that the TT could disappear, whilst I may not have one, and probably never will, it is one of the audis I do like.

27 November 2018
si73 wrote:

I just like the fact it's not an suv. Sad times that the TT could disappear, whilst I may not have one, and probably never will, it is one of the audis I do like.

I echo this sentiment entirely. I need 4/5 door practicality, do not like the SUV glut, and would love something rakish like a coupe (I've owned an Alfa GTV, Toyota Celica and Accord coupe in the past). Not normally an Audi fan but if it looks as uncluttered as that 4 door TT it could be a winner. Though the leading edge bonnet vent could spoil things, on the new A1 it just looks like the bonnet won't close properly.

27 November 2018

I have to ask why you would agree? If SUVs are popular why would you want manufacturers to ignore customer preferences? I like fast estates and it's frustrating that more people don't buy them this giving me a wider choice of year old used models but thats the market. The A3 / TT sportback aren't something I aspire to you but I wouldn't celebrate you being denied through some weird kind of snobbery.

27 November 2018

Really?? In Europe the sales haven't plummeted.   From a recent high of 22k in 2015 it fell to 16k in 2017 but then most car sales have fallen.

Porsche Cayman only sold around 4,000 in 2017. Boxster 4.8k in 2017, the TT sells over 3 times as many.  

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

27 November 2018

Just make the TT Sportback concept, as it was. Its a cracker! No brainer, surely.

 

 

You're not stuck in traffic - you are traffic!!

27 November 2018

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