The Big Three of the German automobiles have always been at the forefront of design, engineering and innovation. In recent years, Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have gone on this crusade to enter every single conceivable niche in the automotive industry. Slugging it out in a game of one-ups, the battle for the premium executive subcompact crown has entered a new phase, with Audi’s new A3 Sedan aimed squarely at the current leader, the Mercedes A-Class sedan.
Audi realised that Mercedes was having it too easy with their A-class sedan and decided to join the party early. Now in its second incarnation, the A3 Sedan debuts just two months after its flat-bummed Sportback sibling.
The A3 is now 40mm longer than its predecessor, at 4.5 metres. Wheelbase, however, remains the same as before. It is also 20mm wider and 10mm taller, yielding more interior headroom and legroom. Boot space also remains the same at 425 litres.
Audi’s are known for their understated styling, but someone forgot to mention that to the A3’s designers. With aggressively raked shoulder lines, and Audi’s signature honeycombed grill sitting upfront, the A3 is in-your-face and hides none of its sporty intent. Flanking the massive grill are striking new headlights equipped with Matrix LED technology that take design cues from the Q8 luxury SUV.
The headlights flow harmoniously with the pronounced shoulder lines that extend all the way to the boot and integrate seamlessly into redesigned LED taillights. The sharp body-lines of the A3 Sedan extend up to the rear bumper, further emphasising the length of the sedan over the Sportback. The roofline slopes down from the B-pillar dynamically, giving the car a very coupe-esque silhouette. The boot lip spoiler completes the beautiful rear-end of the baby Audi, and we really do think it’s better looking than the Sportback, don’t you?
This sleek and streamlined body has its aerodynamic benefits. The controllable cooling-air inlet behind the Singleframe grille works together with active brake cooling regulates airflow to minimise air resistance. Moreover, the A3 has underbody panels and a larger rear diffuser aid in managing the air around and under the car, creating an aerodynamically efficient vehicle. As a result, the 2.0-litre TDI A3 Sedan achieves a Cd value of 0.25, 0.04 Cd points better than the previous generation.
The interior of the A3 Sedan, for obvious reasons, is identical to that of the A3 Sportback. The driver-focused cockpit of the A3 is centred around the 10.1-inch MMI touch display, which incorporates handwriting detection as well as natural language control. A 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster comes as standard. It can be upgraded to the top of the line 12.3-inch virtual cockpit system, with better graphics and more intuitive displays. If you’re feeling fancy, heads-up display as an additional option.
Driver assistance and connectivity have been a focal point of the A3’s infotainment system. The MMI Navigation Plus is the top system available on the A3. It now runs off a third-generation modular infotainment platform (MIB 3) that boast LTE Advanced connectivity, and Wi-Fi hotspot functionality for smartphone integration.
Audi goes a step further by introducing Audi connect services that include online traffic information, news and Car-to-X services that utilises swarm intelligence. Basically, the A3 can communicate with other vehicles to identify hazardous areas, speed limits, and even help you find parking spots. Handy especially in densely populated areas around the Klang Valley.
Audi’s smartphone interface now integrates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for seamless smartphone connectivity. Moreover, the A3 can be locked and unlocked via Android smartphones with NFC via the Audi connect key, and comes with up to six personalised settings for the seats, climate and media.
The beating heart of this little Audi comes from a choice of two TFSI petrol and a TDI diesel engine. The 35 TFSI petrol variant comes with a turbocharged direct-injection 1.5-litre four-cylinder making 148hp, which will be mated to either a seven-speed S-tronic dual clutch gearbox or a six-speed manual. Audi estimates combined fuel consumption to be around 4.9-4.7l/100km for the S-tronic and 5.0-4.7l/100km for the manual.
Although the stick shift sounds tempting, the long-awaited mild-hybrid system is only available with the S-tronic gearbox. The 48-volt mild-hybrid system recovers energy during deceleration, allowing the A3 to coast with the engine switched off in a variety of scenarios. When accelerating from a standstill or low speeds, the system supports the engine, providing an additional 50Nm of torque. Overall, Audi claims this system would be able to reduce fuel consumption by up 0.4 litres per 100km.
The TDI variant, on the other hand, comes with a 2.0-litre diesel four-banger that also produces 148hp. This diesel only comes paired with the seven-speed S-tronic gearbox that drives the front wheels, with estimated combined fuel consumption of 3.9-3.6l/100km.
Audi offers the A3 Sedan with sports suspension as an option, that comes integrated with adaptive dampers. The dampers are programmable based on the drive mode selected.
On the safety front, Audi has equipped the A3 sedan Audi pre sense driver-assist system, that comes as standard with collision avoidance assist across all models. Adaptive cruise control, surround-view cameras and cross-traffic alerts will also be available as options later on.
Audi has spared no expense when designing the A3 Sedan, and it highlights Ingolstadt’s intent to dethrone the Mercedes A-class. With Mercedes offering the A200 and A250 sedans in Malaysia, it’s not a matter of if, but when Audi Malaysia brings in the A3.