The inventor of the premium hatchback is back in focus. A new-generation Audi A3 launched in Mzansi recently, in two body styles; Sportback and sedan. Remember they don’t produce the 3-door hatchback and the Cabriolet anymore. With over 63 000 units sold since the first A3 landed here in 1998, Audi is confident that the new car will do just as well in this generation.

The new face follows recent Audi design philosophy with that strong, singleframe grille and LED headlights dropping on either side. Between that and the bonnet is the classic ur quattro element with three intakes, something probably only true Audi enthusiasts will notice. It is a feature in the current A1 as well. The S3 of the range adds that lettering on the left side. Side profiles are different of course, with the Sportback featuring a sweeping line from the bonnet to the rear roof end, a strong shoulder line and a third kinked line at the bottom.

With the sedan this third line is pretty straight but accentuated by a concave slant. Standard wheels are 16-inch in diameter but can go up to 19-inches depending on the model. The rear LED lights, like their front counterparts, form a downward-facing 7 shape. Sedan fans will like the trapezoidal exhaust tailpipes in chrome frame, while the S3 sports four familiar ones. It also adds specific details like red brake calipers, S suspension, quattro AWD and other details.

Interestingly the sedan is some 15cm longer than its Sportback sibling, at 4.49 metres, while the width (1.82m) and wheelbase (2.64m) are the same. The Sportback can carry between 380 and 1200 litres of luggage, depending on the rear seats. At the same time the sedan swallows up to 425 litres.

When it came to the interior, Audi stayed with the familiar. If you look at the dashboard you will notice that it is slightly angled towards the driver in order for them to reach everything more easily. Lots of angular design elements in there too, recalling those 7 shapes on the headlights. The main visible changes are to the centre console, instrument panel and the MMI infotainment system. The centre console features Audi’s new miniature transmission lever with the engine Start/Stop button nearby.

MMI – now with ten times its predecessor’s computing power – operates all the infotainment functions one can expect and is the same system found in the likes of Q8 and RS 7, with a handful of differences. It measures 25.7cm across, while the optional Audi Virtual Cockpit instrument display is some 31.2cm wide. Features are vast and include the likes of Android Auto, Apple Carplay, satellite navigation, Bluetooth, Voice Control, Audi Connect with LTE Advanced speed, DAB+ digital radio and others.

Audi is launching the new A3 with three models for the Mzansi market. At the entry-level is the 35 TFSI with a 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine developing 110kW and 250Nm of torque. It sends power to the front wheels via an 8-speed Tiptronic transmission, a 0 – 100km/h time of 8.2 seconds and top speed of 219km/h. This model is available immediately. Later in the year the 40 TFSI will launch with its 140kW and 320Nm, 0 – 100km/h sprint time of 7.4 seconds and a 241km/h top end.

Then the S3 performance models, which pack 213kW and 400Nm of torque for all four wheels using the S Tronic transmission and quattro AWD system. Audi says S3 will run off from standstill to 100km/h in 4.9 seconds, reaching a top speed of 250km/h.

In a tough market that has seen a lot of down-buying by customers who used to buy the big premium cars, the Audi A3 is positioned to capitalise on this by offering all the trimmings found in bigger, more expensive cars. The two body styles have proved popular in that segment and should see a good number of buyers.

Audi A3 Prices

Sportback 35 TFSI – R561 000

Sportback 35 TFSI Advanced – R586 000

Sportback 35 TFSI S line – R601 000

Sportback 40 TFSI S line – R641 000

S3 Sportback TFSI quattro – R795 000

Sedan 35 TFSI – R576 000

Sedan 35 TFSI Advanced – R601 000

Sedan 35 TFSI S line – R616 000

Sedan 40 TFSI S line – R656 000 S3 Sedan TFSI quattro – R810 000

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