Motoring: Audi A3 sedan in premium compact market

This new sedan is being introduced to appeal to two particular markets—China and North America.

Audi has a new entry in the premium compact class — the four-door A3 sedan

Audi has a new entry in the premium compact class — the four-door A3 sedan

BUDAPEST, Hungary—Audi is looking to grow its small car sales in Canada when the new A3 sedan arrives here next April as a 2015 model.

Now in its third generation, the A3 sedan will replace the A3 hatchback currently on sale in Canada and go head-to-head against the new Mercedes-Benz CLA in a growing compact luxury segment of the market.

This new sedan is being introduced to appeal to two particular markets—China and North America.

China will have its own production plant, while the rest of the world will get vehicles built in Hungary at a factory in Gyor, which is also the largest engine-production plant in the world. This facility currently builds 1.9 million engines a year for both Volkswagen and Audi.

Although no prices have been announced, look for the A3 sedan to start in the $32,000 range and become the new entry-level vehicle in the Audi Canada lineup.

Currently, the A3 makes up about 20 per cent of worldwide sales for Audi and the aim with the new sedan is to grow those numbers significantly.

Size-wise, the new A3 sedan is 24 cm shorter than the current A4 model. It is 4,456 mm in length, sitting on a wheelbase of 2,637 mm. Unless you’re a true ‘Audi-ophile’, you would be hard pressed to tell the two models apart at a quick glance.

Nevertheless, Audi thinks there will be a growing market for the new A3 sedan, in the 3,000 units per year range, as value-conscious buyers look at the starting price of the A4 (currently $37,800 for the 2013 model) and compare the two.

Power for the A3 sedan will be in the form of three turbocharged four-cylinder engine choices—a 1.8-litre TFSI, a 2.0-litre TFSI and a 2.0-litre turbodiesel.

The 1.8-litre TFSI and 2.0-litre diesel will be front-drive models, while the 2.0-litre TFSI with quattro all-wheel drive is expected to be the bulk model for Canada.

At the launch in Budapest, we sampled a couple of vehicles with six-speed manual transmissions, but Canadian vehicles. will come only with a six-speed S tronic double-clutch gearbox.

Although it wasn’t available for test drives, Audi will also offer a high-performance S3 model in Canada, which will feature a 300 hp 2.0 TFSI gasoline engine.

Designed by Quebec native Dany Garand, the A3 sedan is every bit an Audi with its signature grille making it instantly recognizable. However, it is a totally new car, built on a new lightweight platform and doesn’t have one single piece of sheet metal in common with the current A3 hatchback.

Audi engineers have worked long and hard on weight reduction for improved handling and fuel efficiency and the car comes in at a sleek 2,755 lb).

With a drag coefficient of 0.29 and the lightweight body, fuel economy and handling are first rate, although we’ll have to wait for a S3 to get our hands on a true sports sedan rather than a premium compact family car.

Inside, the interior lives up to Audi’s reputation as the builder of one of the finest cabins in the world. I drove both a 1.8-litre TFSI and a 2.0-litre TDI along with a couple of other models and all exhibited refined, polished-looking interiors that would not be out of place in the luxury class.

Seating is comfortable up front, less so in the cramped rear seat area, but one must remember this is a compact car, not a mid-size. Cargo capacity in the trunk is 425 litres and 880 litres with the rear seats folded.

The leather seats are comfortable and supportive. Our test vehicles had the optional seven-inch touch screens with navigation and they worked flawlessly, getting us to pre-arranged destinations without a hitch.

Production of the 2.0-litre TFSI engine has not yet begun so we weren’t able to sample that model.

The 1.8 TFSI produces 180 hp and powers from 0-100 km/h in a quick 7.3 seconds, according to Audi. Meanwhile, fuel consumption is rated at 5.6L/100 km using European test results.

Audi says the 150 hp 2.0-litre TDI does the 0-100 km/h run in 8.4 seconds, while sipping diesel fuel at a rate of 4.1L/100 km.

We drove a mix of urban and rural roads in and around Budapest and the cars ate up the kilometers with no fuss or muss.

The diesel and gasoline models with the S tronic transmission shifted smoothly, either automatically or with the optional steering-wheel mounted paddles. Steering is electrically assisted and a bit too light for my liking.

An optional feature will be Audi’s magnetic ride system that offers Auto, Comfort or Sport mode depending upon the driving situation.

Audi is packing a lot of other high-tech features into the A3 sedan including available LED headlights, a first in the premium compact class, according to Audi.

Blind spot warning, active lane assist and adaptive cruise control will also be available as well as a new emergency braking system that Audi calls City Emergency Braking.

The system operates automatically below 30 km/h when a radar sensor indicates the driver isn’t reacting to an imminent collision.

Most controls will be operated via a MMI controller on the centre console. In Europe, Audi Connect will allow passengers to connect up to eight mobile devices like iPhones and laptops to a WiFi hotspot so they can surf the web or send emails. For audiophiles, a 705-watt, 15-speaker Bang and Olufsen sound system is optional.

When it arrives next spring, the 2015 A3 sedan will be Audi’s entry-level vehicle in the North American marketplace. While it will start in the $32K range, it doesn’t take long for the price to escalate when you tick off several of the option boxes.

Nevertheless, this sedan should appeal to more buyers than the current hatchback model and will help grow Audi sales in our market.

Audi A3 sedan 2015

Body Style: four-door premium compact sedan.

Drive Method: front- or quattro all-wheel drive.

Engine: 1.8-litre TFSI (180 hp, 184 lb/ft), 2.0-litre TDI (150 hp, 236 lb/ft), 2.0-litre TFSI  (211 hp, 258 lb/ft).

Cargo Capacity: 425 litres, 880 with rear seats folded.

Fuel Economy: NA

Price: NA.



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