Audi Australia has continued the rollout of its A3 range with a four-door sedan variant joining the A3 and S3 Sportback models that were released in 2013. Surprisingly, despite the A3 being on sale here since 1997, this is the first time that it’s been available in sedan format.

While hatchbacks are traditionally more popular than sedans, with younger Australian buyers, the booted format appeals more to their elders. With most of A3’s main competitors still only available as hatches Audi is looking to close, even overtake the sales gap with its bigger-selling German rivals.

An apparently sub-$40,000 starting price (it doesn’t include on-road costs) brings a prestige German marque within the budget of many family buyers who had previously sourced their larger cars mainly from Asia. However, such buyers should cost out the A3’s long options list to make a true price comparison.

Audi designers have done an excellent job with the new A3 sedan giving it the semi coupe-like appearance that’s growing in popularity. While it shares the same name as the Sportback hatch and most of its engines the four-door uses different visible body panels throughout.

It’s longer and wider than the hatch, however the sedan’s coupe styling makes it marginally lower. Despite this there’s sufficient rear seat width and headroom to fit three moderately sized adults.

At 425 litres, boot capacity is 45 litres larger than the Sportback and has the convenience of a lower loading lip.

The front is dominated by the single-frame grille that Audi pioneered more than a decade ago and which quickly became the company’s design signature.

New Audi A3 sedan offers a good choice of engines, two petrol units with three levels of tune, and one diesel. All are turbocharged.

The entry level A3 Attraction is powered by a 1.4-litre TFSI petrol engine that generates up to 103 kW of power, and 250 Nm of torque between 1500 and 3500 rpm. It also has the Cylinder-on-Demand technology that shuts down two of the four cylinders when minimum power and torque are required such as when the car is cruising on flat rural roads.

The Ambition 1.8-litre TFSI petrol lifts power to 132 kW but with the same torque figure (250 Nm) as the 1.4 but with a wider spread (1250 to 5000 rpm). When linked with the Audi quattro all-wheel drive system torque increases to 280 Nm from 1350 to 4500 revs.

The 2.0-litre diesel TDI Ambition gets 110 kW and 320 Nm from 1750 to 3000 rpm.

All engines are mated to Audi’s S tronic twin-clutch automatic transmissions, six-speed in 1.8 TFSI Ambition quattro and 2.0 TDI Ambititon; seven-speed in the 1.4 TFSI and front-wheel drive 1.8 TFSI. Steering wheel paddle shifts are standard in all models.

Audi A3 sedan achieves the maximum five-star ANCAP rating and comes with seven airbags; Electronic Stabilisation Control; Anti-Slip Regulation (ASR); ABS brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD); Electronic Differential Lock (EDL) and rear parking sensors. An optional ($1800) Assistance Package adds Adaptive cruise control with Emergency City Braking that automatically brakes the car if it detects an obstacle ahead to either prevent or reduce the impact of a collision, as well as lane departure warning and high beam assist.

All variants get 17-inch alloy wheels (18s and 19s are available in option packages); cruise control; leather-trimmed upholstery; dual-zone climate-control air conditioning; and light and rain sensors.

There are five option packages ranging from $1800 to $4200 that add a variety of additional features. In addition to the safety equipment and larger wheels mentioned previously, these include Audi’s S line body kit; satellite navigation; reversing camera; LED daytime running lights; powered front seats; and more. Look on-line at Audi’s website or contact your local dealer for a full list.

Non-package options include a panoramic sunroof ($1950); LED headlights ($2950); and a Bang and Olufsen sound system ($1750).

Standard equipment is limited to Audi’s eight-speaker MMI radio system and Bluetooth phone and audio streaming with information displayed on a retractable 5.8-inch colour monitor mounted on the top of the dashboard. A 7.0-inch screen is part of the Technik option package.

We were able to drive all four variants of the new Audi A3 sedan during its recent media launch in the NSW Southern Highlands. Unfortunately the combination of frequent thick mist and the police getting into holiday-weekend mode prevented us from getting any real driving enjoyment from the cars.

Nevertheless there were sufficient twists and turns to show off the A3 sedan’s excellent driving dynamics. Handling is safe and secure and it pushes through corners with no sign of understeer at the speeds at which we travelled.

Noise and vibration levels are low and more like those of much larger, more expensive luxury cars. With the entire route being on rural roads there was some coarse-chip surface tyre noise but not to any annoying level.

Audi Australia expects the $39,800 1.4 TFSI to comprise almost half of total A3 sedan sales and, following our test drive we see no reason to doubt that prediction. With 250 Nm of torque, 0-100 km acceleration in 8.4 seconds and an official combined fuel usage of 4.7 L/100 km it really does provide the level of performance that will satisfy all but the most demanding of drivers. For the latter the 1.8 TSFI quattro awaits.

As is almost always the case on launch drives our fuel consumption reading from the 1.4 TFSI was well above that official 4.7 L/100 km. We’ll be able to provide a better assessment following our upcoming extended test.

Audi has a busy year ahead with a new model scheduled for release each month. These will include an S3 sedan in April 2014 and A3 cabriolet in the third-quarter 2014. The range will be completed in 2015 with the launch of the fascinating A3 etron plug-in hybrid.

The A3’s combination of classic Audi styling, the convenience of a sedan with a fair-sized boot and an eye-catching price tag should attract many downsizing buyers who have previously felt priced-out of the luxury car market.

The complete Audi A3 sedan range is:
Attraction 1.4-litre TFSI turbo-petrol four-door sedan: $39,800 (automatic) Ambition 1.8-litre TFSI turbo-petrol four-door sedan: $44,800 (automatic) Ambition sedan 2.0-litre TDI turbo-diesel four-door sedan: $44,800 (automatic) Ambition 1.8-litre TFSI turbo-petrol quattro four-door sedan: $47,800 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Audi dealer for driveaway prices.

About Alistair Kennedy

Alistair Kennedy is Automotive News Service and Marque Publishing's business manager and the company's jack-of-all-trades. An accountant by profession, he designs the Marque range of motoring book titles, operates the company's motoring bookshop on the NSW Central Coast and the associated web site, as well as its huge digital and hard copy database. Whenever we can escape from the office he does so to cover new vehicle releases and contributes news stories. Alistair's other interests include cricket and family history on which he has written three books.
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