The Audi A3 and A3 Sportback, the premium compact models from Audi, are raising their profile this summer with a raft of technical and visual improvements. Innovative technologies in such options as the unique S tronic dual-clutch transmission with seven speeds as well as the Audi magnetic ride suspension control system create a mature handling and ride. Its sharper, more striking exterior design lends even greater expression to the A3 family. Additional equipment such as the advanced Audi parking systems also add to the appeal of the latest models. The Audi S3 developing 195 kW (265 hp) now also becomes available as a 5 door Sportback version, a new top model that completes the comprehensive range. The first examples will arrive in the UK this summer.

  • Innovative high-tech advances
  • Updated exterior design
  • New trim line-up for UK
  • S tronic transmission, Audi magnetic ride and efficient engines
  • S3 now also available as a Sportback

The Audi A3 created the entirely new market segment of the premium compact car when the first-generation model made its debut in 1996. The ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ brand has been notably successful in that market segment and has since built 1.9 million units of the Audi A3. After four successive record-breaking years, the one millionth example of the second-generation A3 – which went into production in 2003 – left the assembly line just a few days ago. Audi is now solidifying its lead.

The exterior: even sportier profile

New visual details for the three-door A3 and A3 Sportback emphasise its modern profile. The bonnet lid and front wings are more sculpted, and the bumper and large single-frame radiator grille have been updated to enhance road presence. The new headlamps incorporate a curved trim element, known as the “wing” which accentuates their technical perfection. On S line, Xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lights provide a distinctive optional feature. New exterior mirrors with integral indicators, new door handles and an attractive new alloy wheel range add to the side profile of the new generation A3.

To the rear, the modified bumper and new tail lights create a clean design; the A3 Sportback now has innovative fibre optic rods arranged in a flat, continuous strip that creates an impressive visual effect in the dark. In addition, the three-door A3 has a modified tailgate with a new light edge. As a result of the design modifications, the A3 has grown by 2.5 centimetres (0.98 in) in length to 4.24 metres (166.93 in), while the sporty proportions of the Sportback remain virtually unchanged at 4.29 metres (168.90 in) in length.

Interior elegance

Inside the car, too, the designers fine-tuned the premium feel of the car. Elegant aluminum design elements on the air vents, light switches and center console accentuate the prestige character of the Audi A3 and A3 Sportback. The switches and controls beneath the audio system have been given a new, modern look. The instrument cluster boasts a new sporty feel with black dials and red needles which reinforce the impression of precision and advanced technology, and a shift indicator displays the recommended gear in any given circumstances in the driver information system. Fitted as standard to the SE, Sport and S line the driver information system displays the time, date and distance in a clear, high-resolution white font. The three-spoke leather steering wheel on the Sport and S line has new aluminum trim, with a flat-bottomed design available as an option on S line.

New inlays for the Standard, SE and Sport and a wide selection of upholstery colours and fabrics enhance the interior through design, impressive material quality and meticulous crafting. The upholstery range includes Alcantara/leather and Fine Nappa leather trim for the sport seats.

Split folding rear seats, as standard, offer versatile space for the A3’s luggage bay which is the roomiest in its class, at 350 to 1,080 litres (12.36 to 38.12 cubic ft.), with an even larger 370 to 1,100 litres (13.06 to 38.83 cubic ft.) on the A3 Sportback. On quattro versions the boot floor is a few centimeters higher, to accommodate the special rear axle. A particularly ingenious feature is available for the front-wheel-drive versions – a sturdy, reversible loadliner that is a practical, easy-to-clean tray used, for example, carrying wet items, can also be removed from the car as a carrying tray. As part of the wider option range roof rails and a panoramic sunroof are available for the A3 Sportback.

Powerful drive: the engines

For the UK market, the new generation A3 and A3 Sportback engine range comprises seven different engines – four petrol and three diesel versions. Five of them are pioneering four-cylinder direct injection units with turbocharging. Their abbreviations TFSI and TDI encapsulate the strengths of Audi’s engine technology – performance, high torque, dynamism, refinement and efficiency.

The 1.6 unit develops 75 kW (102 hp), the 1.4 TFSI 92 kW (125 hp), the 1.8 TFSI 118 kW (160 hp) and the 2.0 TFSI 147 kW (200 hp) The 1.9 TDI delivers 77 kW (105 hp) and the 2.0 TDI 103 kW (140 hp). The 2.0 TDI 125 kW (170 hp) version is available later. Both two-litre diesel engines have been extensively re-engineered – a new common rail injection system now assures ultra-refined running, efficiency and excellent acoustics.

The diesel with an output of 77 kW (105 hp) is the power unit of the extremely efficient 1.9 TDI e version which, thanks to special fine-tuning measures, clocks up 100 kilometers on a mere 4.5 liters of diesel (52.27 mpg). Thanks to the efficiency measures, the other engines likewise offer reduced fuel consumption by as much as 15 percent. The 1.8 TFSI and the technically closely related 2.0 TFSI have been frictionally optimised and have new cylinder bores, pistons and oil pumps to increase efficiency.

High tech from Audi: the new transmissions

The range of transmissions has been extended and become even more appealing. Almost all engine versions are supplied as standard with six-speed manual transmission. The 1.6 and 1.9 TDI are fitted with the five-speed manual transmission. The high-tech dual-clutch S tronic transmission, now available on most engines, changes gears with exceptional speed and smoothness. The driver can set it to operate in a fully automatic mode or change gear manually – either at the selector lever or with the standard shift paddles on the leather sport steering wheel.

The S tronic on the 2.0 TFSI and both 2.0 TDI diesel versions has six speeds, whereas the 1.6, the 1.4 TFSI and the 1.8 TFSI petrol engines feature a newly developed seven-speed S tronic. Both its clutches are dry-running – an innovative approach. This means that they do not need a separate oil supply, further adding to their already impressive efficiency. The seven gears are closely spaced for a rapid response, though the top ratio is sufficiently high-geared to reduce the engine speed, cutting fuel consumption as a result.

The quattro versions, which put the A3 in a different league to the other players in the premium compact class, likewise have even more to offer. The all-wheel-drive system is available for two engine versions – for the 2.0 TFSI and the 2.0 TDI (170PS). In its latest technical form the central hydraulic multi-plate clutch responds even faster when the engine’s power needs to be redistributed between the front and rear wheels. This increases stability, traction and driving pleasure for the driver.

The standard-fit dynamic suspension, too, provides safety, precise handling and comfort all rolled into one. The well-balanced chassis characteristics of the Audi A3 and A3 Sportback are attributable to the elaborate engineering elements such as the four-link rear suspension and the efficient electromechanical power steering. The Sport models are fitted as standard with sport suspension that supports the body 15 millimeters (0.59 in) lower; in conjunction with 17-inch alloy wheels.

Way ahead of the competition: Audi magnetic ride

There is another new feature that puts the A3 and A3 Sportback ranges streets ahead of their rivals. The adaptive-action shock absorber control system by the name of Audi magnetic ride. This system overcomes the age-old conflict between sound handling behavior and ride comfort. The driver can choose between “Normal” and “Sport” programs by flipping a switch. A magneto-rheological fluid circulating in the shock absorbers changes its flow properties within milliseconds when a voltage is applied; this affects the damping characteristic, which can be varied from comfortably supple to crisply firm. Magnetic ride is available as an option on the 1.8 TFSI and 2.0 TFSI petrol engines as well as both versions of the 2.0 TDI diesel models.

Strong and clear equipment choice for UK models

The equipment range for the Audi A3 and A3 Sportback has been re-structured to offer even greater competitiveness. There are four trim levels to choose from, each offering additional key equipment for a relative price upgrade.

As ‘Standard’ the A3 and A3 Sportback has a comprehensive level of specification and is now fitted with manual air conditioning on all models. As an upgrade the re-defined ‘SE’ trim offers a range of convenient features including the driver information system, multi-function steering wheel, front fog lamps and a different alloy wheel design.

With further stylistic features the ‘Sport’ raises the bar with sport seats, aluminium medial inlays, sport suspension and 17-inch alloy wheels. Whilst the top of the range S line can be distinguished by its 18″ twin spoke alloy wheels, S line body-styling and black cloth/leather upholstery.

For even greater customisation, the deluxe Audi exclusive line and the Audi exclusive range provide the opportunity to add further individuality.

All models are fitted with chorus radio system with four speakers as standard, with Concert radio including an Aux-in socket standard on Sport and S line There are also modern infotainment options available, including the Bose Sound System and iPod and USB connections.

The array of other new options demonstrates the high technological standard of the A3 model range. These include deluxe automatic air conditioning, adaptive light – the dynamic cornering light system (S line only) – and the Audi parking system for front and rear, displaying the distance from an obstruction via the frequency of the signal emitted. There is also the new parking assistant – a first for the Audi range. Its pioneering ultrasound sensors scan the parking spaces by the roadside as the car is driven slowly past; the driver is informed in the instrument cluster if one of them is sufficiently large to back into. If the reverse gear is engaged and the accelerator pressed, the system manipulates the electromechanical steering to guide the car automatically into the space. All the driver need do is control the accelerator, clutch and brakes.

Pure performance: the new S3 Sportback

At the top of the latest A3 range is a second top model on the market – the S3 Sportback now joins the three-door Audi S3. Both versions are equipped with the same engine, the re-engineered 2.0 TFSI with an output of 195 kW (265 hp). With an increased torque output of 350 Nm (258.15 lb-ft) available constantly from 2,500 to 5,000 rpm, the direct-injection, two-liter turbo catapults the three-door model from 0 to 100 km/h (62.14 mph) in 5.7 seconds (Sportback: 5.8 seconds); the top speed is limited electronically to 250 km/h (155.34 mph). Yet the fuel consumption of the new S3 is astonishingly low, at an average of 8.5 liters per 100 km (27.67 mpg).

A six-speed manual transmission efficiently handles the power from the engine to the standard quattro driveline while 18-inch wheels provide the appropriate traction with the road. The sport suspension holds the body 25 millimeters (0.98 in) lower and uses advanced, lightweight aluminum components. Black brake calipers act on 17-inch disk brakes. Audi’s compact premium sports model offers the exceptional responsiveness to driver inputs. It reacts spontaneously to the steering and its handling remains very stable, precise and almost neutral right up to its physical limits. When emerging form a bend for example, traction and grip levels are remarkably high, enabling the driver to deploy the car’s power very early on exit.

Like the A3, the S3 has been visually revised and is clearly distinguished by a number of updated exterior design elements, for example the radiator grille, the bumpers and the roof spoiler, as well as by the aluminum-look exterior mirrors. Inside, the driver and front passenger are greeted by laterally supportive sports seats; Audi exclusive bucket seats are available as an option. Aluminum pedals, three different styles of inlay and a black or silver headlining create an exclusively premium look. In addition, automatic air conditioning, multi-function steering wheel and xenon plus headlamps with LED daytime running lights extend the range of standard features.

The enhanced Audi A3, A3 Sportback and the two S3 versions are set to arrive in the UK market; this summer.