New Audi A3 revealed

Audi has unveiled its long awaited new A3 at the Geneva Motor Show. The neatly styled three-door hatchback goes on sale in the UK this June with prices starting at around £19,000 with the five-door Sportback following later in 2012.

When it comes to the styling, the A3 takes inspiration from Audi's current line-up with the front end very similar to the recently revised A4 range while the rear echoes the new A6 saloon. From the side it's still recognisable as an A3 and despite not being exactly a big departure in terms of looks, it's a neat design.

It's almost identical in length and height as the outgoing A3 but has a longer wheelbase and is slightly wider which should mean improved interior space. The cabin has been completely redesigned and Audi says that the new A3 'breaks new ground' in the hatchback market in terms of quality, materials and workmanship.

New design features include a minimalist 'floating' dashboard, a redesigned climate control panel and a neat row of switches along the centre of the dash. The circular air vents are still present, albeit revamped and there is plenty which is new to Audi - forget any ideas you might have about the A3 being merely an enlarged A1.

The traditional handbrake lever (which was always a bugbear in the old A3 as it clashed with the armrest above it) has been replaced by an electric parking brake which frees up space on the central console. All models get an ultra thin colour display that electrically slides out of the dash. Higher spec models come with the MMI (Multi Media Interface) system with a central dial for controlling all the main functions like the stereo, sat nav and Bluetooth.

Top models even get MMI Navigation Plus which was first seen on the luxury A8. This includes a touchpad that allows you to actually write out letters and numbers with your finger which the sat nav will recognise. It can also be upgraded to include a WLAN hotspot which means passengers can access the internet on the move. Other options include a Bang & Olufsen stereo.

The engine line up majors on efficiency with three-newly developed four-cylinder engines. There's a 1.4 TFSI with 122PS and a 1.8 TFSI with 180PS along with the familiar 2.0 TDI 143PS diesel. A six-speed manual comes as standard except on the 1.8 TFSI which gets a seven-speed S tronic gearbox instead. Four-wheel drive quattro models will be introduced later in 2012.

The 2.0 TDI will no doubt be popular among long distance drivers and it's no slouch with a 0-62mph time of 8.6 seconds yet still averages a highly impressive 68.9mpg with CO2 emissions of just 106g/km. After the initial launch a more frugal 1.6 TDI diesel will be introduced which emits just 99g/km of CO2 meaning zero VED. Claimed economy is 74.3mpg.

The 1.4 TFSI looks a good choice too. Despite its small size the turbocharged engine should offer nippy performance with 0-62mph time of 9.3 seconds. Claimed economy is still 54.3mpg and CO2 emissions are 120g/km. Audi is also set to introduce a hybrid version plus there will of course be a new high performance S3 and a Cabriolet version.

One of the criticisms of the outgoing A3 is that it's not especially engaging to drive but Audi is promising an optimum balance between comfort, composure and driver appeal with the new A3. There's a finely tuned eletromechanical power steering system and ESP integrated with an electronic limited slip differential which should mean tidier handling, especially in tight corners.

There is also the optional Audi drive select system that lets the driver vary the characteristics of key components, such as the steering weight, throttle response and the transmission shift points (where S tronic is fitted). 

Audi A3 (5)

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Audi a3    on 10 July 2012

The new A3 has been developed based on the Volkswagen's newest MQB design platform, and it has been most recently revealed at the 2012 Geneva international motor show.

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