Audi A3 concept (2011) at 2011 Geneva motor show

Published: 01 March 2011

Strip away the big wheels, give it a few numberplates and you’re looking at the next Audi A3. Audi unveiled this thinly veiled production car at the 2011 Geneva motor show this morning.

So this is the next Audi A3?

Pretty much, although while it is undoubtedly a sharp looking saloon, from the front three-quarter angle you’d be hard pushed to work out whether this was an A3 or A6. Nevertheless, it’s good looking with great proportions, and shows us what the next A3 will look like – there will be three- and five-door hatchback bodies, plus another Cabriolet and a ‘Slantback’, a ‘four-door coupe’ much like the concept unveiled today.

The A3 concept also features a few lightweight solutions that Audi is currently readying for production. The new Audi RS3 has carbonfibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) front wings, and on the A3 concept the frame for the big front grille, the front spoiler, rear diffuser and door mirrors are all CFRP. Aluminium is also used in the construction of the door mirrors, and the five-spoke, 20in wheels are CFRP and aluminum. The A3 concept also has aluminium body panels (for the doors, bonnet and bootlid), so it tips the scales at 1540kg.

What’s under the bonnet? Anything special?

Powering the Audi A3 concept is a turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine, in the same 402bhp/369lb ft guise as featured in last year’s Quattro concept. And with so much power the A3 is, of course, four-wheel drive, with a seven-speed, dual-clutch S-tronic transmission to send the grunt to all the wheels. The claimed performance figures are 0-62mph in 4.1 seconds (thanks to launch control electronics), a 155mph limited top speed, 31mpg and 212g/km CO2. Audi’s throttle/steering/gearbox-adjusting Drive Select system also features, now with a fifth Efficiency setting beyond the Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual modes already available.

Audis has infamously good interiors – what about the A3 concept?

As good as ever. The uncluttered dash design with four circular air vents is influenced by the A1 supermini. There are two screens, one which sits between the analogue dials ahead of the driver, and another which glides from the dash – the latter is controlled by an MMI rotary controller on the transmission tunnel, and Audi’s intuitive touch-sensitive touchpad is now built into the top of the controller. We hear it’ll be on production Audis very soon.

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By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy