How’s this for an example of the motor car’s inexorable growth over the years? The new Audi A3 saloon is 40mm longer, 20mm wider and 10mm taller than the old one, which means it’s just 20mm shorter than the original A4 and quite a bit broader. We can probably call that even.
But we’ll let that slide - with all the technology plus active and passive safety features that have to be stuffed inside a modern car, the upsizing is inevitable. Also, the A3 saloon’s spurt means there’s more elbow and headroom in the front than before (the latter element also aided by lower-mounted seats). Handy.
At the front end with the huge ‘single frame’ grille and E-Tron-style headlights, it’s all as-per the new five-door Sportback. From the B pillar backwards the saloon starts to deviate, with a coupe-esque roofline sloping down to the saloon boot. All told, it’s 150mm longer than the hatchback.
Inside, it’s the usual 2020-spec screen-fest. There’s a 10.1-inch infotainment display, a 10.25-inch ‘Virtual Cockpit’ digital instrument cluster (which can be optioned to 12.3 inches) and an optional head-up display. Unlike the setup in some of its larger cars, Audi hasn’t - thankfully - dumped all the climate controls in an additional lower display. Here, they’re all physical.
One thing it does borrow from its spendier siblings is the new adaptive cruise control system, which includes lane guidance. Also on the tech front, there’s an Android smartphone companion app with which you can lock and unlock the car, plus store six driver profiles for the climate, seat and media settings. Handy if you share the car with someone who likes to run the heating on full and crank the bass on the audio system way too high.
From launch, it’ll be possible to choose from a 2.0-litre TDI or a ‘35’ 1.5-litre TFSI petrol, each producing 148bhp. Both can be specced with either a six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed ‘S Tronic’ dual-clutch transmission. Go for the latter with the petrol engine, and the inline-four will be supplemented by a 48-volt mild hybrid system.
A few weeks on, there’ll be a 115bhp diesel engine plus a 109bhp 1.0-litre inline-three petrol joining the range. Again, manual and automatic gearboxes are available in each case, with the latter including the 48-volt setup on the petrol. Eventually, Audi will slot in a circa-330bhp 2.0-litre to create an S3 saloon, and a 2.5-litre inline-five for the RS3 saloon.
The suspension has been tweaked “to be sporty and harmonious,” Audi says, although the company hasn’t gone into specifics about the changes. A stiffer ‘sport’ suspension setup is on the menu, as are adaptive dampers.
UK pricing for the car isn’t available just yet, but we do know that the 35 TFSI starts at €29,800 when it goes on sale in Germany at the end of the month. The 30 TFSI three-pot meanwhile will be €27,700.