Fourth-gen Audi A3 small luxury sedan/hatch debuts in Singapore and pushes the small car tech boundary with the first 48V mild hybrid system in the class, sharp styling, and numerous improvements
Updated: May 12, 2021 with Walkthrough Video
First published: May 11, 2021
Audi Singapore has launched its fourth-generation A3 small luxury car here in Singapore. Click here check out the Audi’s official video presentation, where CarBuyer’s Chief Ed Derryn Wong pops up in a guest appearance to talk about the car.
The new Audi A3 Sportback is priced at S$166,140 and the Sedan at S$167,890. Both prices include COE and VES.
The A3 is best known for condensing the Big Audi experience into a more manageable, less expensive package, and this new version looks to continue that with some class leading tech.
The car is the first machine running on the VW Group’s MQB EVO platform to debut here, with the Volkswagen Golf Mark 8 set to launch in June 2021. As a result, the A3 has lots of mature features for a small car, and it’s also the only small car to pack a 48V mild hybrid system.
At launch, the car is only available with a 150hp 1.5-litre turbo engine, but with the hybrid bits, that makes it efficient enough to garner a VES A2 rebate of S$15,000.
As always, we have full details in our initial coverage of the A3 sedan and Sportback (hatchback) at their international debuts if you want the full skinny.
The car hasn’t grown hugely, which is a good thing. The sedan at 4,500mm long, 1,820mm wide, and 1,430mm tall, is 40mm longer, 20mm wider, and 10mm taller, while the wheelbase of 2,637mm remains the same.
But attention is likely to centre on the sedan, and for good reason: The previous A3 Sedan was a big hit for Audi here in Singapore. The new model should continue that trend, especially since it looks a fair bit sexier this time around.
Besides the now-typical Singleframe grille and full LED (non-Matrix as standard) headlights, the lines are more angular and aggressive (such as the increased rake of the windscreen, the bonnet’s figure lines), giving the front end a more focused appearance.
There’s also more of the ‘quattro’ influence going on, with the car gaining contoured fenders and ‘scooped’ doors/flanks which make it appear more sporty. CarBuyer had a hands-on look at the A3 before launch, and the effect is much more pronounced in real-life than in photos.
Anorak alert: Unlike before, the sedan and hatchback share the same taillight units. They have dynamic indicators, while the front lights do not.
The shift to the MQB Evo platform (although Audi doesn’t term is specifically as such) brings numerous benefits thanks to access to the VW Group’s latest tech.
48V mild hybrid tech isn’t new, but has until now only been found on larger cars such as the A6, A7, A8 models, or Mercedes-Benz’s new S-Class for a big example. Compared to a 12V mild hybrid system (such as the new Suzuki Swift Sport) a 48V system can remain with its engine off for longer, coast further, and run an electric air-con compressor so occupants don’t get hot at stops.
Audi says the system recuperates up to 12kW of energy from stops alone, and contributes 0.4L/100km to overall efficiency. An active air intake also contributes to efficiency, with overall drag reduced 0.04 points to 0.25cD.
The improvement in fuel efficiency from 5.0L/100km on the old 1.4 to 4.7L/100km on the new car seems incremental, but the new car is larger, heavier, and more powerful (150hp against 122hp).
The crucial thing here is that the mild hybrid tech helps the A3 bag a VES A2 rebate of S$15k, which improves cost effectiveness tremendously and it’s something all cars must contend with in 2021.
That aside, the A3 looks sprightly on paper. With 150hp and 250Nm and a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, it does 0-100km/h in 8.4 seconds, almost a whole second faster than the old 1.4 sedan. That’s because the hybrid motor adds 12hp and 50Nm to the engine’s torque when moving off. The new platform also boasts new multilink rear suspension setup Audi says will improve handling and ride further.
The cockpit layout differs significantly from previous, with a driver focused design that brings bigger Audis to mind. The driver’s side is quite exciting, with a 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit now flanked by twin air con vents.
To the right is a 10.1 inch touchscreen with the latest Audi MMI (Multimedia Infotainment) system, again the same as found on larger Audis.
It’s conveniently placed and easy to use, unlike the facelifted A4’s touchscreen. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay feature here too. Wireless mode isn’t available yet, but without a wireless device charger this is also slightly less useful anyway.
Audi has lost the MMI control dial but have kept one button at least: there’s a touch-sensitive volume/track navigation button/dial next to the gearshifter.
There’s more interior room and storage, thanks to the gearshifter now shrinking to a nub, made possible as it’s completely shift by wire now.
The A3 does have lane-departure warning now, though notably there is an absence of forward collision warning/mitigation and a full suite of active safety systems.
The car’s interior room seems improved this time around, despite the wheelbase staying the same, as it seems Audi has packaged the car a little better with legroom feeling a tad bit more spacious, and no headroom issues despite the sporty sedan styling. The Sportback has better headroom and accordingly an easier-to-load boot, though it’s smaller than the sedans – 380-litres against 425-litres.
The A3 first appeared in 1996 solely as a hatchback, and was one of the first, if not the first, premium small cars around, preceding the A-Class (1997) and 1 Series (2004). However it only became a regular sight on the roads with the third-gen which debuted in 2014 since that’s when it was first offered as a four-door.
We rated the third-gen Audi A3 one of the best small luxury sedans here, primarily because in 1.4-litre TFSI trim it was very frugal, decently equipped, and relatively affordable – having a Cat A COE – compared to its rivals.
Back in 2014, the only other small sedan was the first-gen Mercedes-Benz CLA, but we preferred the A3 for its better rear space and more comfortable driving experience.
Speaking of the competition, it’s certainly heated up in 2021: BMW now has its 1 Series hatch and also the 2 Series Gran Coupe as a four-door, while Mercedes-Benz has the A-Class in both hatchback and sedan forms now. Hit the links to read all our reviews of those cars.
We have a review of the third-gen 2014 Audi A3 Sedan 1.4 in its 122hp Cat A COE form, with Ju-Len proclaiming: “If a bigger car fits your needs better, there are plenty around for similar money or less. Buy the A3 Sedan if what you want is not a big car, but a nice one.”
It was also available as the fun drop-top Cabriolet with the 1.4-litre engine as well, while those who demanded more power could opt for the 280hp all-wheel drive S3, which impressed us in Sportback mode.
The true king of the A3 lineup has always been the RS 3 of course, which could be pretty much all the car a driver could want thanks to its dramatic, intense five-cylinder turbo engine.