Audi has plugged the slender gap between the five-door Audi A3 Sportback and A4 saloon with this new model: the A3 Saloon. Available in the full range of A3 powertrain and trim options, a 296bhp S3 version will follow in a few months, as seen in these first official pictures.
How do I pigeonhole the Audi A3 Saloon?
It's a premium small saloon that'll be priced above other family cars like the Skoda Octavia and VW Jetta. Although something of a curiosity in Europe, small saloons are big business in China (the A3 Saloon's biggest market) and the USA, where saloons continue to carry a more desirable image status than normal hatchbacks or estates. Still, UK Audi fans will be able to buy one later in 2013.
The A3 Saloon measures 30mm longer than an A3 Sportback at 4.46m long – but 20mm shorter than notchbacks like the VW Jetta or Skoda Octavia.
The styling is no great surprise – this is an Audi, after all – but the shape is familiar thanks to the A3 e-tron saloon concept we saw last year. Click here for the full story on Audi’s electric car plans, including a starring role for the new A3 Saloon.
Is everything under the skin regular Audi A3?
Yes, which is no bad thing – the new A3 is a fine car. Engine options? Petrols come in 1.4- or 1.8-litre TFSI form, or diesel fans can have a 2.0-litre TDI. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard, but there’s the option of an S-tronic automatic, as seen in these pictures of the hot S3 version.
The S3 Saloon boats a 296bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, and Quattro all-wheel drive. It’ll hit 62mph in 4.9sec using S-tronic (5.3sec in the manual) and tops out at 155mph. Audi has confirmed the S3 Saloon be available to order in the UK later this year, with first deliveries in early 2014. Cooking models will reach UK shores sooner, though there’s no official word on dates just yet.
Inside, the A3 Saloon family seats five, and carries over the excellent A3 cabin lock, stock and knurled metal knobs from the A3 hatchback range. Infotainment options like the Audi MMI interface, and the optional auto-braking/adaptive cruise control safety gadgets are also shared with the familiar A3.
>> Is Audi right to offer a saloon A3 in the UK, or should they concentrate on hatchback versions? Click ‘Add your comment’ to discuss the A3 Saloon below.