The fourth-generation Audi A3 made its global debut online with a sharper design and smarter in-car technology. The German firm hopes injecting one of its most popular models with a good dose of brawn and brains will help it fend off an offensive led by the latest Mercedes-Benz A-Class and the newly-front-driven BMW 1 Series.
The visual changes bring the A3 in line with other recent additions to the Audi range, like the second-generation Q3 crossover. The hatchback remains recognizable as an A3, and it's only about 1.2 inches longer than before, but the transformation from the third to the fourth generation model is more drastic than we expected. Sculpted sides and three-dimensional styling cues, like the front air vents and the rear lights, give the car more flair.
Inside, the use of horizontal lines creates a sense of space, though the tall-mounted driver-side air vents are a little puzzling. The A3 inherits tech features, such as Audi's newest MMI infotainment system, from its bigger and more expensive siblings. Even base models come with a 10.1-inch touchscreen and a digital, driver-configurable instrument cluster called virtual cockpit in Audi-speak. The company explained the infotainment software it programs into each A3 boasts 10 times the computing power of the previous model's system.
At launch, the palette of available engines will include a 1.5-liter turbocharged 150 horsepower, and a pair of 2.0-liter turbodiesels rated at 116 and 150 horsepower, respectively. Front-wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission will come standard, and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic will be offered at an extra cost. Audi has announced that additional engines, electrified powertrains, and Quattro all-wheel drive are on their way.
The fourth-generation Audi A3 goes on sale across Europe in March 2020, and deliveries are scheduled to begin in May. Pricing starts at €28,900, a figure that represents about $32,100 and a $2,200 increase over the outgoing A3. There's no indication the model pictured here will be available in the United States, where buyers have historically shunned hatchbacks, but it gives us an accurate preview of the sedan variant we'll undoubtedly see in the coming months. Expect the S3 and the high-performance RS3 to return a little later in the production run. The Cabriolet model retired after the 2019 model year, however, and we wouldn't bet on seeing it make a comeback.