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Bodystyle, dimensions and technical details

The Audi A3 is underpinned by the Volkswagen MQB platform which will underpin every car in the VW group of Golf size or above with a transverse engine mounted in its nose. The key to the structure is not just its light weight (the Sportback is over 100kg lighter than even its BMW equivalent) but its extreme versatility.

Extending the wheelbase of a mass-produced car whose platform was not designed to be pushed and pulled in every direction would be a prohibitively expensive business: for Audi it’s sufficiently cheap to make business sense just to provide a little extra differentiation between three and five door versions of the same car.

The Sportback has a 35mm longer wheelbase than the A3

Like all other MQB-based cars, the A3 has strut-type front suspension, but all versions carry the more sophisticated multi-link rear end denied those who buy the cheapest VW Golfs.

All the engines are either new to the A3 or substantially renewed but the lion’s share of sales will be split between the 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel and 1.4-litre petrol motor. Which to choose is not as simple as figuring out whether you are a diesel or petrol kind of guy or girl.

For a start Audi charges a substantial premium for the diesel engine, steep by any standard, which in cold financial terms would take even a very high mileage driver a couple of years to recoup. We suspect that, to most people, it will likely be longer than they hold the car, although much will be recouped in superior residual value.

But you have still to factor insurance for the diesel in, which is substantially greater than for the petrol, as well as the 85kg weight penalty that undoubtedly affects the car’s handling.

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The alternative engine choices – the smaller three-cylinder petrol and diesel units – may not command as many sales, but broadly follow that same pattern.