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by Tim Beissmann

The all-new Audi A3 – the next evolution of the premium German manufacturer’s small car – has been unveiled in Geneva.

Revealed in three-door hatchback form, the new A3 will take on the BMW 1-Series and the recently revealed Mercedes-Benz A-Class in the competitive luxury compact segment.

While the styling takes a predictable, evolutionary step forward, the Audi says the new third-generation A3 has made revolutionary leaps in driver appeal, technological sophistication and quality.

The 4.2m A3 has almost identical dimensions to the outgoing model, although it features a longer wheelbase and is up to 80kg lighter thanks to the use of lightweight construction methods and aluminium components.

One diesel engine and two petrols will be available when the Audi A3 launches in Europe in September. All three incorporate direct injection, turbocharging and stop-start technology, contributing to average fuel consumption improvements of 12 per cent.

The A3 2.0 TDI produces 105kW of power and 320Nm of torque, accelerating from 0-100km/h in 8.6 seconds and using 4.0 litres of diesel per 100km on the combined cycle. A more efficient 1.6 TDI will debut later in 2012, with consumption of just 3.8L/100km.

The entry-level petrol is the 90kW/200Nm 1.4 TFSI. It completes the sprint in 9.3 seconds and uses 5.2L/100km according to European standards.

The more powerful 132kW/250Nm 1.8 TFSI slashes 2.1 seconds off the 1.4’s acceleration time, yet its average fuel use creeps up just four tenths to 5.6L/100km.

The 2.0 TDI and 1.4 TFSI will come with a six-speed manual transmission as standard from launch, while the 1.8 TFSI gets an advanced seven-speed dual-clutch S tronic gearbox, sending drive to the front wheels.

Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system will become available later in conjunction with a number of more powerful engines, with an all-new S3 also confirmed for production.

For the first time, the A3 will be available with Audi Drive Select vehicle dynamics system, allowing drivers to customise the throttle, steering and S tronic transmission responsiveness according to one of five pre-set modes: Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, Individual and Efficiency.

The MMI system is the heart of the interior, bringing together the latest in voice control, online, media, navigation and telephone functions. Depending on the specification level, the display screens come in 5.8- and 7.0-inch sizes, both of which are just 11mm thick and rise up automatically from the dashboard.

A new adaptive cruise control system can initiate partial braking to reduce the A3’s speed in the event of a collision. If a crash does occur, the system aims to prevent uncontrolled secondary car travel, and, if activated at speeds below 30km/h, the system applies full braking in emergency situations.

Other driver assist features include side assist, active lane assist and traffic sign recognition, which use radars and cameras to read the road and surroundings. Automatic park assist and surround view cameras with bird’s eye view function increase safety and convenience when parking.

Customisation will be a focus of the new Audi A3, with an unprecedented range of interior surfaces, colours and materials able to be optioned in. The S line package will also be available, incorporating revised suspension, lowered ride height, power steering tweaks and a number of sports styling enhancements inside and out.

The Audi A3 hatch will go on sale in Australia early in 2013, and will be priced to go head to head with the 1-Series and the A-Class.

Check out the gallery for more images.




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