The original MQB car is finally ready to enter its fourth generation with an evolutionary exterior and a significantly different cabin that some might say has Lamborghini influences. Say hello to the new Audi A3 Sportback that no longer has a three-door cousin as the less practical body style has been phased out due to slow demand. It will be followed likely later this year by the sedan, but for the time being, the peeps from Ingolstadt are focusing on the hatchback.
Even though the A3's teaser campaign included a preview of the hotter S3, we'll have to settle for the regular model for now. Three centimeters longer (at 4.34 meters / 170.8 inches) and wider (at 1.82 meters / 71.6 inches) than its predecessor, the new Mercedes A-Class rival keeps the 2.64-meter (104-inch) wheelbase of its predecessor and has a reworked body with a drag coefficient of 0.28. Cargo volume varies from 380 liters (13.4 cubic feet) with the rear seats in place to 1,200 liters (42.3 cubic feet) once you fold them down, which just so happens to match the BMW 1 Series.
As with just about every Volkswagen Group car out there, the exterior styling takes the evolutionary route and follows Audi's recent design language with those smart-looking headlights and taillights. Interestingly, the daytime running lights will be different depending on the version (S Line, S3, RS3), and buyers will be able to pay extra to get matrix LED headlights that are becoming more common in the compact segment.
With the roof rails in place, the new Audi A3 still looks sort of like a mini wagon even though you'll have to get a Golf, Leon or Octavia for an actual MQB-based compact wagon. The base model will ride on 16-inch wheels, but the fancier ones will have alloys as large as 19 inches. An optional suspension will bring the car closer to the road by 10 millimeters (0.4 inches), while a sports suspension will lower the ride height by 15 mm (0.6 inches) to enable more agile handling also enhanced by the progressive steering with a variable steering ratio.
While the exterior is not much of a surprise, the cabin has been thoroughly modified and now accommodates an angular dashboard hosting a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster that can be optionally bumped to a 12.3-inch size. Ten times more powerful than the old setup, the infotainment system has a 10.1-inch diagonal and is neatly integrated into the center console rather than sticking out from the dashboard like it did on the outgoing model.
The new A3 doesn't get a secondary touchscreen for the climate controls like on the bigger and more expensive models. It has traditional buttons below the MMI infotainment system that provide quick access to the car's most common features rather than having to navigate through the multiple menus of the touchscreen display.
Much like its MQB cousins, the Audi A3 equipped with the automatic transmission benefits from shift-by-wire tech that frees up room between the front seats since there's no mechanical linkage between the gear-shifting lever and the transmission anymore.
The engines are the ones you'd expect after seeing the latest wave of MQB compact cars, with a turbocharged 1.5-liter gasoline unit offered in a traditional version and with a mild-hybrid variant. Both produce 150 horsepower and are joined by smaller three-cylinder 1.0-liter unit with 110 hp. On the TDI side, there's a 2.0-liter with 116 hp and 150 hp for those who are still fans of diesels. Buyers will get to pick from either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic, but the electrified powertrain is an S Tronic-only affair.
Initially, the new Audi A3 will come only with a front-wheel-drive layout, but it won't take long for the Quattro-equipped models to join the lineup. There will also be additional engines, topping out with the 2.5-liter five-cylinder of the RS3 with around 400 horsepower. Two plug-in hybrid versions using the same setup (1.4 TSI + electric motor + six-speed DSG) as the electrified Golf are also on the menu with some electric range suitable for the city.
You're not going to like this, but all cars with engines that have less than 150 horsepower will have a torsion beam suspension at the back whereas the more powerful models will be upgraded to a multi-link arrangement.
Audi is already taking preorders in Germany and will start customer deliveries in May, with early adopters being able to get the Edition One model featuring an assortment of optional equipment.