What is it? The next iteration of Audi’s smallest car for the United States, the A3, will hit the showrooms this spring as a four-door, compact luxury sedan starting at $29,900. It will be followed in the fall of 2014 by a convertible, a diesel sedan, and a high-performance sedan. In early 2015, a plug-in hybrid hatchback will hit the shores.
What's new or notable? Much different than the outgoing A3 hatchback, the A3 sedan has coupe-like styling. It measures six inches longer than the outgoing hatchback, with a wheelbase that’s about two inches longer. Those dimensions could translate into some badly needed rear-seat legroom. Still, it’s a small car, again distinguished with abundant luxury features and optional Quattro all-wheel drive. It will compete against the growing small, luxury car class that includes the new BMW 2 Series and Mercedes-Benz CLA.
Power comes from newly reworked four-cylinder engines, two gasoline-powered and the other a diesel. The base engine is a turbocharged 170-hp, 1.8-liter direct-injection four-cylinder, while higher-trim versions will use a turbocharged 220-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder. The 2.0-liter diesel version, called TDI in Audi/VW speak, will put out 150-hp, while the top-level performance S3 version will feature a 290-hp, 2.0-liter gas engine. Audi’s first plug-in hybrid, the A3 sportback e-tron, will put out a combined 201 hp from the 1.4-liter turbo engine and 100 hp e-motor.
The driver information display and optional navigation system use high-resolution 3D graphics, with the latter on a seven-inch screen.
The A3 will also offer Audi’s latest MMI (multimedia interface) infotainment system and Audi Connect, which provides Internet-based navigation, weather and gas prices, and a WiFi hotspot so passengers can go online with their own devices. Audi’s biggest news out of the LA Auto Show for the A3 is that the small car will be the first vehicle to ever feature 4G LTE high-speed connectivity. This should improve renderings of the Google maps featured in Audi’s MMI navigation plus, and it will allow for video streaming for up to eight devices at one time. Other automakers are likely to follow.
Optional safety gear will include active lane assist and adaptive cruise control.
The A3 cabriolet will use a soft top that is said to raise or lower in 18 seconds, even when the vehicle is moving at speeds up to 31 mph. Luggage capacity with the top folded is claimed to be just over 10 cubic feet.
CR’s take: A small, all-wheel-drive luxury car with and sporty handling certainly has appeal, and the diesel version should get terrific fuel economy. Prices haven’t been announced but we estimate that they’ll start in the $30,000 range. What is unclear is how three passengers can handle eight WiFi-enabled devices in this small car!
When will it be available? Spring 2014.