The luxury small car segment has been on fire in 2013, with July sales up 69 per cent on the same time in 2012. Audi says sales are on track to reach 15,000 for the year, compared with just 6781 sales in 2009.
Mercedes-Benz has been the chief catalyst after it introduced the new, hatchback-style A-Class (below) earlier this year with a $35,600 starting price that even caused BMW Australia to question it publicly.
Audi and BMW were both forced to match the entry-level price exactly with the A3, which launched in May 2013, and the 1 Series, which was released in second-generation form in late 2011.
The MPV derivative of the A-Class, the B-Class, is the star of the luxury small cars over $40,000, with year-to-date sales of 2389.
In the hatch battle, the A-Class leads with 1964 (18 per cent market share), followed by the 1 Series (1309 sales; 12% share), A3 (1183; 11%), Volvo V40 (688; 6%) and Lexus CT200h (592; 5.5%).
Audi A3 sales are already outperforming those of the previous model, and an expanded range gives the brand an opportunity to close the gap to Benz.
The latest A3 models here now are the 1.4 TFSI COD and 1.8 TFSI quattro.
Both engines are already available on the A3 but the new variants each adds a key item of technology for an extra premium.
The Audi A3 1.4 TFSI COD brings cylinder-on-demand technology that can shut down two of the A3’s four cylinders for improved fuel economy – 4.7L/100km versus 5.0L/100km for the regular 1.4 TFSI. The COD engine also brings an extra 13kW of power (to 103kW) and an extra 50Nm of torque (to 250Nm) to boost performance.
Those benefits cost an extra $2300 over the regular 1.4 TFSI priced from $35,600.
The Audi A3 1.8 TFSI quattro brings all-wheel drive to the company’s five-door hatchback.
There’s a $3000 premium over the front-wheel-drive A3 1.8 TFSI, though in addition to all-paw grip there’s also a torque boost from 250Nm to 280Nm.
Combined with extra traction off the line, it’s enough to cut half a second off the A3 1.8’s 0-100km/h acceleration – 6.8 v 7.3 seconds.
It’s status as the quickest A3 will be shortlived, though, once the S3 (above) arrives with its 5.0 second capability.
There’s also a fuel consumption penalty. Where the FWD 1.8 TFSI officially consumes 5.6 litres of fuel per 100km, the quattro version uses an extra litre.
Audi A3 range
1.4 TFSI Attraction $35,600
1.6 TDI Attraction $36,500
1.4 TFSI COD Attraction $37,900
1.8 TFSI Ambition $42,500
2.0 TDI Ambition $42,500
1.8 TFSI quattro Ambition $45,500
S3 $59,900 (from December 2013)