Audi has been deliberately rolling out the latest evolution of design chief Walter de'Silva's new style across its models, starting with the A8 flagship sedan, and on down the line to the A6, A5 coupe, and A4. Now it's the 2013 Audi A3's turn to shine at the 2012 Geneva show, and the changes make the all-new A3 look right at home with the rest of Audi's refreshed lineup.
The wheelbase of the 2013 A3 increases less than an inch from 101.5 to 102.4, while overall length remains unchanged on the three-door model (which isn't expected for the U.S.) at 166.9 inches. The most immediately recognizable change is the adoption of Audi's more aggressive, sharper design language, with thinner, more tapered headlights and taillights and a hexagonal grille opening reminiscent of the new A7 and recently updated A4 and A6 models.
European customers get several new powertrains, and the company say a natural gas variant is also in development. For the time being, the U.S.-bound A3 is expected to get the same engines that power the present car: the 2.0-liter direct-injected turbocharged four presumably producing the same 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque, and the 2.0-liter TDI turbodiesel, producing 140 horsepower and 236 lb-ft.
The most notable change to the A3's interior is the movement of the MMI navi/infotainment screen from the upper middle part of the console to a retractable unit on top of the dashboard, creating an airier console that allows placement of the cupholders closer to the front. Audi also went from a mechanical hand-brake to a much more space-efficient electro-mechanical parking brake. Bad news for fans of parking-lot hooning, but more space and practicality for the rest of us.
Adopting technology from its higher-end models, the new A3 features Audi's adaptive cruise control system, which maintains a desired distance between the vehicle ahead at speeds up to 93 mph. By specifying the optional assistance package, maximum speed is increased to 124 mph. (Probably handy for the autobahn, but not likely to keep you from getting cuffed Stateside.)
If you're unfortunate enough to be in an accident, the system employs active braking to prevent secondary car travel after a collision, and if a Bluetooth-paired phone is onboard, it will automatically call emergency services.
Maintaining Audi's reputation for offering cutting-edge technology, the A3's upgraded cabin electronics employs the MMX board (multimedia extension), which includes an Nvidia T 20 Tegra 2 graphic processor. Borrowing from the top-of-the-line A8 luxury sedan, the system includes a touch-sensitive surface on top of the rotary push button, allowing drivers to input letters and numbers by finger gestures.
Still not enough to satisfy your inner geek? Audi offers an optional mobile phone module that connects your phone to the vehicle antenna for improved call and digital audio reception. For true audiophiles, there's an available Bang & Olufsen premium sound system with a 705-watt amplifier, 12 channels, and 14 speakers. Taking a cue from the more mundane Kia Soul, the edge of the door-mounted woofers on the system are illuminated by LEDs.
Technology is all about connectivity now, and the new A3 doesn't disappoint in this area, either. The available Audi Connect system's centerpiece is an on-board Internet connection that accommodates up to eight mobile devices through a built-in WLAN hotspot. And the navigation system employs voice-controlled Google search capability and Google Street View.
The powertrains offered for the European model at launch include one TDI diesel and the familiar 2.0-liter four-cylinder, as well as a 1.4-liter and 1.8-liter version of Audi's TSFI turbocharged, direct-injected gasoline four-cylinders. The 2.0 TDI produces 143 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque in Euro trim, while the 1.4 TFSI produces 122 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque, with the 1.8 producing 180 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque.
The 1.8-liter TSFI will be paired with Audi's seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission, making it the relative hot rod of the bunch, with a 0-62 mph time of 7.2 seconds, and a top speed of 144 miles per hour. Despite the formidable performance figures, Audi claims it delivers the equivalent of 41 miles per gallon on the European test cycle.
Coming later in the year for the European market will be a 1.6-liter TDI that Audi says will achieve the equivalent of 61 miles per gallon in U.S. measurements on the highway. Horsepower and torque figures for the smaller TDI were not announced.
Despite the addition of more sophisticated equipment, the 2013 A3 three-door model is more than 176 pounds lighter than its predecessor, thanks to increased use of aluminum and high-strength steel. It's expected the U.S.-spec models will see a similar weight savings.
Not officially announced at this year's show, but previewed by the concept that made its debut at last year's Geneva show, and quietly confirmed by our source at Audi, is a production version of the A3 sedan bound for the U.S. market. Although the A3 has done relatively well in the U.S. in its five-door-only body style, the addition of a more conventional three-box configuration should only help its sales and popularity on this side of the Atlantic.
Although the sedan concept had an ultra-high-performance 2.5-liter turbo five-cylinder producing a heady 408 horsepower befitting an RS-trim model, it's likely it will get the same drivetrain options as the five-door, at least initially.