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Geneva show: Audi unveils third-generation A3

Left: Audi AG chairman Rupert Stadler with the new A3 in Geneva.

Lighter, more efficient Audi A3 hatch takes to the stand at Geneva

6 Mar 2012

EFFICIENCY and high-technology are the name of the game for Audi’s third-generation A3 range, unveiled at this week’s Geneva motor show in three-door hatchback body style only, with replacements for the Cabriolet and five-door Sportback still under wraps.

The new A3 is scheduled to go on sale in Australia during the first half of next year.

Underpinned by Volkswagen Group’s groundbreaking new MQB modular platform architecture that is claimed to reduce the weight of each car by at least 40kg, the A3 benefits from Audi’s expertise in weight reduction, including aluminium body parts that help double the overall weight reduction to 80kg compared with the outgoing model.

The lower weight and other efficiency measures mean the entire range is on average 12 per cent more efficient, with the most frugal three-door A3 model, powered by a 1.6-litre diesel engine, claimed to consume a Prius-beating 3.8 litres per 100 kilometres.

A3 accounts for more than 20 per cent of Audi’s global sales and this replacement for the ageing outgoing model first launched in 2003 will provide the ambitious Ingolstadt-based brand with the ammunition to take on the second-generation BMW 1 Series launched in the second half of last year and the all-new Mercedes-Benz A-class also unveiled in Geneva.

Just as Benz has done with its new A-class, Audi will make the new A3 available with plenty of technological innovations for the premium compact segment, including LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping and blind-spot assistance, traffic sign recognition, fatigue detection, self-parking and a collision prediction and mitigation system.

7 center imageIn the event of a collision at speeds under 30km/h, the A3 automatically applies full braking to prevent the car from rolling into other objects. The same system turns on the interior lights and, if a Bluetooth phone is connected, contacts the emergency services.

The A3 will also join the list of Audi models that can be specified with an integrated wi-fi hotspot so that passengers using laptops, tablets and smartphones can access the internet while on the move.

On top of the new A3’s rotary Multi Media Interface (MMI) controller is a version of the touchpad first seen on the A8 limo and A6 sedan that enables the driver to draw letters and numbers with their fingertips when, for example, entering satellite-navigation destinations.

More trickle-down technology comes in the shape of 5.8-inch or 7.0-inch pop-up colour multi-function displays, the larger version available with Google navigation, live traffic information, internet radio streaming, voice control, 60GB hard-drive and DVD player on top of the standard Bluetooth and USB/AUX connectivity.

Audiophiles will be able to specify a 14-speaker, 705-watt Bang & Olufsen premium sound system, which features illuminated woofers located in the doors.

Audi’s Drive Select system provides four modes that affect the A3’s driving character, changing the responsiveness of the steering, throttle, transmission (on automatic variants) and the suspension (on magnetic ride-equipped cars).

In Efficiency mode, the system also reduces the air-conditioning’s energy usage and alters the adaptive cruise control for more economical driving.

There are no surprises in the styling department – previewed at Geneva a year ago in sedan concept form – and the A3 features the current Audi family look with more angular headlights, familiar tail-light design and sharply creased sides that juxtapose the curvy front and rear-end styling.

The front overhang is now shorter thanks to a wheelbase extended by 23mm on a body that is almost unchanged in length and height but is 12mm wider.

Inside, the new A3 bears close resemblance to the concept car, with clean lines, a minimalist layout and circular air vents.

Boot space on the hatchback is 365 litres with the rear seats up, expanding to 1100 litres with them folded flat, while the cabriolet provides 260 litres, extending to 674 litres using the load-through hatch.

From its European launch, the A3 will be offered with one diesel and two petrol engines (all with fuel-saving idle-stop) driving the front wheels through six-speed manual or dual-clutch S-Tronic transmissions.

All-wheel-drive models will follow in Europe later this year.

The 1.4-litre turbo-petrol engine produces 90kW of power and 200Nm of torque, providing 0-100km/h acceleration in 9.3 seconds, combined fuel consumption of 5.2L/100km and CO2 emissions of 120g/km.

The auto-only 1.8-litre turbo-petrol, with 132kW and 250Nm, enables the A3 to reach 100km/h in 7.2 seconds and consume 5.5L/100km while emitting 130g/km.

The 2.0-litre turbo-diesel’s 110kW and 320Nm delivers middling performance with 0-100km/h in 8.6 seconds but its eco figures are just 4.1L/100km and 106g/km.

An entry-level 1.2-litre turbo-petrol producing 77kW and 175Nm and the super-frugal 1.6-litre diesel (producing 66kW or 77kW) mentioned earlier will be launched later, along with a 147kW 2.0-litre petrol variant that will also be available with Quattro all-wheel-drive.

The new A3 will arrive in European dealerships during the northern summer, with further variants added by the end of this year.

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