Audi A3 saloon - reboot brings hybrid technology

Audi has lifted the wraps from its latest-generation A3 saloon. Built on the VW Group’s MQB platform, which supports both the five-door A3 Sportback hatch and the Mk8 VW Golf, the new A3 saloon goes on sale from Thursday, April 23.

At launch, prices start at £26,870 for the entry-level 35 TFSI Sport, rising to £32,220 for the 35 TDI S line S tronic. The UK line-up will consist of Sport, S-Line, Edition 1 and Vorsprung trim level cars. First deliveries are scheduled for the summer.

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Apart from the fact the saloon has a blocky backside which differentiates it from the more stylish —certainly in my eyes — hatchback, the new A3 saloon benefits from Audi’s latest 48-volt mild hybrid drive technology.

It’s also bigger: longer by 40mm — now 4,500mm overall — and marginally wider and taller too, by 20mm and 10mm respectively than its predecessor. Interestingly, the wheelbase remains the same. That means, despite Audi claiming occupants can enjoy a smidge more head- and shoulder-room in the saloon, the legroom is likely to be the same.

As for bootspace, it remains the same — 425-litres with the rear seats in place — but that’s still 45-litres more than found in the rear of the Sportback.

Styling? Not surprisingly, the front is lifted straight from the A3 Sportback. That means another appearance for the big, frowny-mouthed grille. Am I the only person who thinks the grille is too big and unattractive? Oh. Audi does say the saloon, which accounts for one-in-five of A3 sales in the UK, has been fitted with discreet active aero — including electrically adjustable louvres behind the grille — designed to reduce drag. New mirror designs are also intended to boost the saloon’s slipperiness.

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At the rear — the A3 saloon is 15cm longer than the hatchback — Audi has repackaged the new model’s signature tail-lights and bootlid. There’s also an attractive small lip spoiler.

Inside the cabin, the dashboard is identical to that of the Sportback. And that’s no bad thing, as the interior of any Audi is generally head and shoulders above any of its German rivals. Centrally-located above the gear selector is a 10.1-inch touchscreen display angled towards the driver. There’s also a new steering wheel, behind which sits Audi’s excellent 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit. Standard-fit though is a smaller 10.25-inch digital instrument panel.

And don’t be too concerned if you see an A3 saloon driver appearing to wag their finger at you. The central touchscreen includes Audi’s handwriting detection, as seen on the Sportback. This allows users to naturally write instructions and directions straight onto the screen with a finger. If you’re not left-handed, I don’t recommend you try it.

In terms of engines, at launch there’s the choice of two petrol engines and a diesel option. The 148bhp 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged unit in the 35 TFSI petrol — I know, I too still get totally confused by Audi’s bizarre badging system — is available with either a six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed S tronic automatic. The manual returns 48.7mpg and emits 132g/km CO2.

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It’s the automatic equipped version of this engine which features the 48-volt mild hybrid. This technology supports the engine with an additional 50Nm of electrical energy reducing not only engine load, but also tailpipe emissions. This version improves fuel efficiency to 50.4mpg while pegging CO2 back to 128g/km.For diesel lovers, the 147bhp 2.0 TDI in the 35 TDI gets a seven-speed S tronic, and improves consumption to 62.8mpg, with 119g/km CO2.

Later, the range will be further supplemented by a 107bhp 1.0TFSI three-cylinder engine — with either manual transmission or a 48-volt mild hybrid version mated to Audi’s S tronic dual-clutch transmission — plus a 113bhp version of the four-cylinder TDI. This will be linked to a highly efficient new six-speed manual transmission.

We should also expect a range-topping S3, delivering around 305bhp, plus a barnstorming RS3 Saloon, boasting close to 400bhp, will also arrive later.

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