It's like a spaceship: New Audi A3 brings proper luxury to the hatchback game
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Ever since the all-new Mercedes-Benz A-Class hit the shelves in 2018 (it's a former AA Driven New Zealand Car of the Year winner, don't you know?), interior quality in its class has become a significant talking point.
Not just in terms of materials and fit and finish, of course, but also in terms of technology. It's not good enough to simply line everything above the waist in soft touch surface and to throw radar cruise control at the issue. Nowadays even the littlest cars from the world's premium and luxury brands are expected to pack some serious heat.
And overnight, Audi underlined the fact with the unveiling of its new fourth-gen A3.
Now, Volkswagen AG has done an excellent job of the interiors in all of its recent small-car projects, including the Seat Leon, Mk8 Volkswagen Golf and electric ID.3. But the A3's new cockpit appears to take things to new heights. There are plenty of large-car features like quilted leather, configurable ambient lighting, and a 'digital cockpit' information cluster.
The dash's overall layout protrudes forwards in an attempt to envelope front occupants in a fitted fashion — proper luxury car stuff. And in a curious move, the primary touchscreen has shifted from being planted on top of the dashboard to instead be integrated into the guts of the dashboard proper. it features the requisite combination of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and, praise be, the air conditioning functions aren't buried inside it.
On first glance the exterior of the A3 (depicted here in S-Line trim) may not look too wildly different from the current model, but it doesn't take long to notice additional change. It appears that numerous elements from the sportier RS models are set to become standard visual fare on the S-Line models, including the increased amount of contrasting silver trimmings. Much of the rest of the changes echo what we've seen on the funky little A1, which launched in New Zealand last year.
At the A3's core practicality remains a strength, and there's no change here. Boot space is an ample 380L with the second row of seats up and 1200L with them down.
I suppose we should also touch on engines and power. Audi has confirmed three launch engines for the European market; a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol four making 110kW, a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel making 85kW, and a more powerful version of the same diesel TDI unit making 110kW. Each can be had with either a 7-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual.
That doesn't make for terribly riveting reading, and is compounded by the fact that all three engines will be exclusively front-wheel drive to start. But, more extravagant models (including some with big 'S' and 'RS' references in their names) are in the pipeline. Kiwi-specific details like pricing, range, and expected arrival haven't been confirmed, but we'll keep our eyes peeled.