Audi CEO Rupert Stadler told UK publication AutoExpress at the 2014 Beijing auto show that offering a fuel-sipping three-cylinder engine in the brand's smaller offerings was logical.
"In the A1 and the A3, the three-cylinder will be a standard engine in the future, for sure. It gives a good feeling and plenty of torque," he said, before hinting a three-cylinder would appear first in the A1: "Yes, for sure."
Timing for the rollout of the more efficient, lightweight engines remains unclear, with Stadler suggesting the 1.2-litre and 1.4-litre four-cylinder entry-level engines that are offered in the A1 and A3 respectively may be small enough for now.
"I think for a while, we will stay with the entry-level products [A1 and A3] – I’m not quite sure if the market in the mid to long run responds to three-cylinder tech," Stadler told AutoExpress. "But just look at it 10-15 years ago when six-cylinder was a must and now four-cylinder has taken over."
While details are not yet confirmed, it is highly likely the engines will be sourced from parent company Volkswagen Group, which already fits a three-cylinder engine to its Up! city car, and will do so for the facelifted Volkswagen Polo that will arrive here later this year.
The Volkswagen petrol three-cylinder range includes a turbocharged 66kW 1.0-litre, and a non-turbo 1.0-litre with 44kW or 55kW, while a 1.4-litre turbo diesel three-cylinder is also available, with 66kW of power.
Audi Australia told CarAdvice it had no information on any such rollout of three-cylinder engines across its model lines.