The all-new A3 Sportback may be a compact hatch, but it’s big news for Audi. Here’s everything you need to know about it
UPDATE MAY 2021: The A3 has launched in Singapore, read our launch story and watch our preview above!
SINGAPORE — This is the all-new Audi A3 Sportback, a car that sweeps aside the clean, uncluttered looks of the third-generation model for a design that’s more overtly sporty and aggressive.
It’s similar in size to the outgoing model, but there’s no missing the 2020 A3 Sportback’s wide front grille and large air intakes (many of which are fake, alas), along with its slim, LED-stuffed headlights and fetchingly bulged wheelarches.
Audi likes to say it invented the premium compact hatchback segment — the first A3 came out in 1996, a year before the original Mercedes A-Class and way before the first BMW 1 Series — but the fourth-gen model obviously has a much more crowded playing field to deal with.
Don’t expect to see the new Audi A3 Sportback in Singapore this year, however. Audi has a habit of announcing its line-up here for a given year good and early, and the A3 Sportback wasn’t mentioned.
CarBuyer also caught up with the brand’s dapper managing director, Markus Schuster, for a quick chat online yesterday, and he mentioned these as the upcoming new Audis for the rest of 2020: the new A5 Sportback (which Audi is launching online, thanks to the ongoing circuit breaker measures) and a clutch of seriously fast models in the form of the RS 4 Avant, the RS 5, the RS 6 Avant and RS 7 Sportback.
Given the above, a 2021 launch for the new A3 Sportback in Singapore seems plausible, and the same applies to its four-door sibling, the new A3 Sedan (below).
Audi intended to start European deliveries of the 2020 A3 Sportback in May, but with Covid-19 shutting factories down and putting entire countries in lockdown, the timeline for the car’s physical rollout is likely up in the air — yet another reason to think of 2021 as the first time you’ll be able to see the new Audi A3 Sportback in Singapore.
Meanwhile, the five-door, five-seat A3 Sportback borrows heavily from the eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf, so expect more than a few similarities between the two. Here are six things you need to know about the all-new Audi A3 Sportback.
It’s pretty much the same size as the previous A3 Sportback
The new A3 Sportback is 4.34 metres long and 1.82 metres wide (without the wing mirrors), which makes it roughly 3cm longer than the third-generation model. At 1.43m and 2.64m respectively, the height and wheelbase stay the same.
Audi says the boot holds 380 litres (with a variable boot floor position) but the car can take up to 1,200 litres if you flop the rear seats down.
It’s a premium car, so an electric tailgate is available, giving you something to show off to your pals.
It’s gone digital
Audi is now as averse to needles as a recovering junkie, so analogue gauges are out. Instead, the cabin is filled with digital screens. The excellent Audi Virtual Cockpit system is standard across the range, with the “plus” version measuring 12.3 inches. There’s also a 10.1-inch touchscreen in the middle of the dash, which comes with the ability to recognise words spelt out by finger.
You can also control the system using “natural language”, says Audi, and a colour head-up display system is optional (or at least, it is in Europe).
Meanwhile the S tronic transmission’s selector is now a stubby lever that you tap forward and back. It’s a nice little detail, don’t you think?
It’s 10 times faster
Well, the infotainment system’s processor is. The MMI (for Multi Media Interface) system works with 4G connectivity to allow all sorts of stuff, like active navigation guidance — if there’s a jam on your route somewhere it will find you a time-saving detour.
High-res maps from Google Earth are available, and you can pair your smartphone with the car via the myAudi app, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Audi says it will roll out a system that will let you start the car using an Android phone soon.
It’ll come with driver aids galore
Like the upcoming new Golf, the A3 Sportback features plenty of driver aids — active cruise control will let the car latch onto the car ahead to follow its speed, and a lane-keep assist system enables it to steer itself between lane markings.
Audi calls the above “adaptive cruise assist”, and from our experience using it in the bigger Audis, it’s a genuinely useful feature that takes much of the effort out of driving, especially in horrible rush hour traffic. It’s also particularly suited to the Audi’s small-premium-car positioning; when it’s start-stop out there, the most comfy car isn’t the biggest one, but the one that does most of the work for you.
It has more than one suspension system
Interestingly, Audi is giving the A3 Sportback more than one rear suspension setup: a simpler, lower-cost torsion beam arrangement, and a multi-link setup. The latter should give better ride quality on bad roads, along with finer control when you put the car through its paces around corners.
That’s why the multi-link rear (below) is only for the A3 Sportbacks with 150 horsepower and above.
On cars with the optional adaptive dampers (which are controlled by the Audi drive select system), the car is lowered by 10mm. Most likely, the wider range of settings offered by electronic shock absorbers means that they can be soft enough to accommodate a slight increase in stiffness from the lowered springs.
Incidentally, there’s also a sport suspension setup, which has even lower (15mm) and stiffer springs. It’s paired with the S line styling package, meaning your A3 Sportback will ride sportily if it looks the part
We don’t know what engines are on the way
At launch, Audi made the new A3 Sportback available with just three engines: a 1.5 TFSI petrol with 150 horsepower and a mild hybrid system (above), and two 2.0-litre turbodiesels.
With the current model, our market’s choices are a 1.0 TFSI with 116 hp and the S3 quattro, which has a jolly 290 hp under the bonnet.
Audi says it will roll out more engines for the new A3 Sportback, but given that the new Golf has a 1.0 TSI engine (with either 90hp or 110hp) paired with a seven-speed twin-clutch auto, it looks safe to bet that an A3 1.0 TFSI will be making its way to Singapore. Chances are, you’ll find out in 2021.