Stylistically, the second-generation A3 saloon is only subtly updated over its predecessor but it is intended to have a more coupé-like appearance.
Although the saloon accounts for only a fifth of overall A3 sales in the UK, the bodystyle is popular in other markets, such as China, as proven by the recent flurry of new introductions in the segment, including the BMW 2 Series Gran Coupé and Mercedes-Benz A-Class saloon.
The booted A3 is longer, wider and taller than before, creating an extra 2cm of head room in the front and more elbow room, while boot space remains unchanged, at 425 litres. The car sits on the same updated MQB platform as the new Volkswagen Golf. The platform is claimed to be lighter yet also more rigid than the one it replaces.
It receives digital daytime running lights, made up of 15 LEDs, for the first time. Certain trim derivatives have an individual light signature to set them apart.
Aerodynamics are better than the outgoing model’s thanks to a higher rear end and large diffuser. The car achieves a Cd value of 0.25, 0.04 better than previously. A controllable cooling-air inlet with two electrically actuated louvre modules behind the grille regulates the flow of air according to the situation.
The standout engine is a 148bhp 1.5-litre TFSI petrol unit with 48V mild-hybrid technology, first announced in the A3 Sportback. Available only when paired with Audi’s S tronic seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, it can recover 16bhp during deceleration, supports the engine with up to 37lb ft of torque when driving off and can coast with its engine off for up to 40sec. It promises a 10% improvement in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions as low as 107g/km.
There are two other engine choices at launch: the same 35 TFSI with 148bhp but with a six-speed manual transmission and a 2.0-litre TDI diesel delivering 148bhp and paired with a seven-speed S tronic.
Later, a 114bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesel will arrive alongside a 108bhp 1.0-litre 30 TFSI three-cylinder petrol. The 30 TFSI engine will be available as a 48V mild hybrid in dual-clutch guise. Two plug-in hybrid variants will go on sale further down the line.
Audi claims the new saloon has been tuned to be sporty and “a touch more precise” than the first-generation saloon. This is largely attributed to a new, centralised dynamic handling system that ensures optimal interaction between all components. Alongside the standard set-up, there is a sport suspension option and a suspension with adaptive dampers, which promises a breadth between highly comfortable roll motion and agile handling.