Audi shows off its new A3 saloon

Long-awaited new model due for customer delivery from September

Wed, May 22, 2013, 17:33

Audi is preparing for the launch of its new A3 saloon, due in showrooms this September with prices starting at around €31,500 for the 1.4-litre petrol version and €32,000 for the expected big-selling 1.6-litre TDI diesel.

It has been a long time coming, with a concept version of this car making its public debut back in 2011. Audi has been eager to introduce a smaller saloon for some time, particularly as it seeks to attract more buyers in Asia.

This model seems ideally suited to the pockets of the ever-growing middle classes in China, where the Audi brand has long been associated with the ruling elite but where A6s and A8 are out of reach of all but the select few.

While the bosses in Germany clearly have Asia on their minds, executives at the premium German brand’s Irish operations believe its relatively competitive prices here will lure new consumers to the brand without cannibalising sales of the A4.

With a new managing director, Christian Gussen, at the helm, the priority now seems to be to build on customer loyalty and establish roots at the top of the premium league. “My predecessors have done a great job in revamping the retail network and now it’s time to build on the strong database of contacts and customers we already have.”

Gussen, who previously worked for Audi in Italy before coming to Ireland last month, has no immediate plans to overhaul the current operation. “It’s all about listening and reading the market at present,” he says.

After several years of radical change within the brand, stability and consolidation seems the order of the day, though the A3 saloon will no doubt be pushing to further increase sales volumes.

While some suggest the A3 saloon is a bold move, the reality is that many mainstream hatchbacks offer saloon derivatives that are popular in markets such as Ireland. Take the Ford Focus, Renault Fluence or former Toyota Corolla range to mention just three examples. It’s just a rarity to see a premium brand competing for this customer segment.

The A3 Saloon will start with the 1.4-litre TFSI 140HP engine, which has a combined economy of 3.9l/100km, while CO2 is 109g/km. Performance is respectable with 250Nm torque peak, and the 1.4 TFSI Saloon takes only 8.4 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 100km/h, and can reach 211km/h.

The entry-level diesel offering is the latest 2.0-litre TDI producing 150bhp with 320 Nm of torque. It manages a 0-100km/h time of 8.4 seconds and is capable of returning up to 4.2l/100km, according to Audi, with emissions of 108g/km. Later in the year, a 1.6-litre TDI diesel version with 105bhp and 250Nm of torque will be on offer, claiming fuel economy of 3.9l/100km.

Features inside the car include the option of either a manual six-speed or the S tronic dual-clutch transmission. On the entertainment front you get Audi’s infotainment system and the top of the range MMI Navigation plus with an SSD hard drive offering 64 GB of storage is also available.

Prices are competitive but the real gamble will be in attracting new customers to the brand while justifying to A4 buyers the reason for spending €5,000 or more on the larger saloon when this version is now available.

Time will tell if they get this mix right, but in fairness they have bulked up their range dramatically over the last decade while at the same time buking up profits and sales. There is little reason to believe things will change with the A3 saloon.