Currently reading: New Audi A3 Sportback and saloon go on sale from £22,410
Volkswagen Golf sibling promises improved ride comfort and sharper handling, plus a mild-hybrid engine
Rachel Burgess
News
5 mins read
13 July 2020

The new Audi A3, featuring a dramatic overhaul inside and a mild-hybrid powertrain for the first time, is now available to order in the UK, priced from £22,410.

Both the saloon and Sportback variants have arrived on the market at the same time, despite staggered unveilings. The saloon is available in four trim levels, while the Sportback gains an additional Technik entry-level trim, which comes equipped with 16in alloy wheels, LED headlights, Audi's new MMI infotainment system and a 10.25in virtual cockpit as standard.

Sport trim, priced from £26,175, adds electric mirrors, dual-zone climate control, 17in alloy wheels and LED daytime running lights, while the second-from-top S Line package gains privacy glass, sports seats, LED interior lighting and 18in alloys. Vorsprung trim heads up the range from £39,075, bringing with it matrix headlights, a black-themed styling pack, a Bang & Olufsen sound system and additional driver safety aids. 

The tried-and-tested styling of Audi’s best-selling model in Europe remains, although the company has tried to make it look sportier to address the absence of a three-door model, which was culled during the previous generation.

Audi’s new A3 has a nearly identical footprint to its predecessor, at 4.34m long and 1.43m high, but is 3cm wider, at 1.82m, giving more elbow and shoulder room for passengers.

The model receives digital daytime-running lights for the first time, made up of 15 LEDs, allowing each trim derivative to have an individual light signature to set them apart.

The engine line-up at launch is a 148bhp 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol unit (TFSI) and a 2.0-litre diesel (TDI) with 114bhp or 148bhp. Soon after, a 108bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder TFSI will launch alongside the most notable unit: a second version of the 1.5 TFSI with mild-hybrid technology. This will mark the first time the A3 has been offered as a mild hybrid, although a petrol-electric plug-in hybrid (PHEV) entered production in 2014. Two PHEV variants of the new model will go on sale at a later date.

The mild-hybrid A3 uses a belt-driven starter-alternator to feed a 48V system that can recuperate 16bhp during deceleration and gentle braking. It can also glide with its engine off for up to 40 seconds. There are no official plans to add this tech to other engines in the A3, but powertrain engineer Michael Vogl said that it could be integrated into almost any powertrain.

“This system helps us to achieve our goals and helps our customers to save fuel,” said Vogl. “There are low cost increases and low weight increases but an improvement of 10% in consumption.”

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Following the first wave of engines, further TDI and TFSI options will arrive, including some with Audi’s quattro four-wheel drive system.

The flagship S3 and RS3 performance models will be launched later this year. The former, which we have already driven in prototype form, delivers 306bhp from Volkswagen’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine, while the latter will continue with its trademark five-cylinder unit, as found in the new Audi RS Q3.

For those familiar with the A3, the interior is most noticeably changed. Audi has taken the controversial but increasingly popular route of minimising physical controls, ditching the rotary controller for the infotainment system on the centre console.

A new shifter for the dual-clutch automatic gearbox sits in a black gloss surround, close to a round, sensory volume controller that reacts to circular finger movements.

There’s a 10.25in digital instrument display and a 10.1in infotainment touchscreen angled slightly towards the driver, while a new climate control unit below it replaces rotary dials with buttons.

The A3’s electronics project manager, Melanie Limmer, said the decision to remove some physical buttons was made as “more and more people are getting into touch functions with smartphones” and claimed that the new system is as user-friendly as the previous one.

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Digital features include up to six user profiles, a wi-fi hotspot, handwriting recognition and improved natural voice control. For example, ask “Where’s the nearest Italian restaurant?” and the sat-nav system will show those nearby.

As well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant will become available by this summer.

Audi promises that the new A3 offers better comfort and dynamic properties than its predecessor in all of its forms, but particularly when aided by optional adaptive damper control, progressive steering and four driving modes.

Its MQB II architecture, which it shares with the new, eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf, is claimed to be lighter yet also more rigid than the platform it replaces.

The five-door hatchback and four-door saloon won’t be the only A3 bodystyles to hit showrooms. The absence of the three-door hatchback means no A3 Cabriolet will be produced this time, but Audi plans to introduce a high-riding A3 Allroad model in its absence, with crossover-like styling and a chassis tuned around all-season tyres. This is set to challenge the new Mercedes-Benz GLA from the end of 2021.

Autocar understands that there are also plans for a Mercedes-Benz CLA-rivalling five-door liftback, which is expected to arrive next year.

Q&A: Juan Carlos Huerta Martinez, A3 exterior designer

What was your goal with the new A3?

“We had a clear goal with this generation: we wanted to bring more typical hot hatch properties. The proportions are much sportier than in the previous generation and the roof line is lower, more dynamic. We don’t have the sporty three-door A3 now, so it was important to bring sportiness to the Sportback.”

What was your inspiration for the new A3?

“One reference point was the Lamborghini Countach. The A3 has the same high shoulder line [on the sides], but it’s obviously more extreme in the Countach. There’s this really dominant line [on both cars] and the surface of the bodyside faces down. It’s the first time we have the bodyside of an RS model in the A3.”

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How much did you have to stay true to the A3’s well-known design?

“It’s always a balance we need to find. This is still an A3, but the car needed to stand out more on the road. The outgoing car is a great car but it needed more character, in my opinion.”

Will anything from this A3’s design carry over to other Audis?

“We returned to a typical shoulder line, but it’s higher than the lower levels of other Audis. We’ve been criticised in the past for using the same elements on too many cars. We want a specific character for each model.”

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Comments
21

3 March 2020

Unsurpisingly no surprises with the new A3's looks but I wouldn't have expected anything else. It's still recognisable as an A3, an Audi and fits in with the current generation of Audis. And its clear Autocar was fooled by the disguised cars, thinking the new A3 was going to have a chrome strip running right around the exterior of the car! The interior is a bit of a step up though alongside other current Audis, making them look even more sobre and austere. Sure, it's not funky or radical but it's eye catching and adventurous (for a German car) and it looks of immense quality, especially for this class of car. Much more appealing looking that the A-Class' interior IMO.

3 March 2020
Pretty boring really, same old same old. Buy a Seat instead Oh i forgot its that badge on the drive comes first , Same chassis same engines , same suspension slightly better inside but thousands more , Can anyone explain why have the Audi

15 July 2020

At least it's cheap.

3 March 2020
I prefer the A-class interior Lanehogger, personally. I agree that the quality of the interior looks good. As for the styling, it's ok, but I'm not a fan. Audi always had an understated look to them, now they seem to be trying too hard.

3 March 2020

Ans: The previous A3, yes it's a good looking car that sold well for 7 years but in another 5 years this will look very dated. Tidy inside and glad it's not all touch screens but boy will the expensive classy pop-up screen and rotary control button be missed. 

Good to see there'll still be a car out there in 6 years time with a proper choice of engines and gearboxes too.

3 March 2020

Yet another sobre and unexciting looking new German car which does nothing on the excitement or desirability front. But then I suppose a German car wouldn't be one without those attributes which have been inherrent for decades. However, while the interior styling is desperately dull looking you can't argue with the the perceived quality which looks pretty damn good and is probably ahead of any other rival. If the Ford Focus felt behind the game when new, it's nowhere compared to this new A3 or indeed any other rival launched since the Ford. When you feel you're getting more for your pound with a more expensive car, it's no wonder we see lots of A3s, A-Classes, Golfs and 1-Series. When the Focus feels as cheap and tacky as it does, I'd think twice about spending over £20k for one, no matter how excellent, and class leading, its chassis might be.

3 March 2020

Simply look elsewhere outside of Germany if you want excitement, appeal, desirability and fun in this class of car. The exterior and interior raises new level of dullnesss. Still, at least you'll pay the privilege for extreme unreliability which is the case with all Audis.

3 March 2020

Looks to be a huge improvement to these eyes and I especially like how the air vents surrounding the instrument cluster are mounter higher. I haven't seen that in any other mainstream car so I'd use the word radical rather than boring. I think the whole dash design is a departure from the norm and looks great. And where many cars have several buttons / functions hidden below the dash line ( as the light switches used to be ), Audi have raised them which is no bad thing. Again, nearly every car on the market has buttons and switches out-of-sight - Audi should be applauded. ( not only has the new Golf positioned a cluster of buttons out of sight, they've made them touch sensitive! What a crazy design ).

Would I buy one? Hell no. I've bought Audi's in the past but they've now taken the idea of 'optional extras' to a new level and I suspect the new A3 will be no different. So once you've specified the car to the level of other manufacturers or your own preference, I'd expect depreciation to be horrendous. But that interior certainly looks to be one of the biggest improvements Audi have ever made on a model and that's saying something.

3 March 2020
Looking at the car from the A pillar backwards, it looks more like a revamped Merc A class than an A3.
At least it seems the silly gap above the grill feature from the R8 has been dropped.

3 March 2020

Anyone else find the angular interior cluttered and cheap looking? Look at those rear inside doors...

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