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Audi Introduces Great-Looking 2021 A3 Sedan Complete With New Coke-Bottle Shape

A 48-volt mild-hybrid system will be standard in the U.S. on the new 2021 Audi A3 sedan.

Todd LassaWriterManufacturerPhotographer

Audi has given the automotive world its first look at the new 2021 Audi A3 sedan, and the car's Coke-bottle side surfacing makes this four-door potentially the freshest-looking new Audi in many years. We find the look so appealing that we hope it portends a much-needed design language refresh that will make its way up the Audi line all the way to the next A8.

2021 Audi A3 Sedan: Design Highlights

The "very light shoulder" at the beltline of the 2021 Audi A3 sedan contrasts with a deeply concave bodyside, and then a wedge-like "dynamic" rocker panel, says the car's exterior design chief, Jacob Hirzel. We say, based on these official photos just released, the new Audi A3's Coke-bottle side surfacing recalls that of classic Chevrolets from half a century ago. Sloping c-pillars are designed to give the 2021 Audi A3 sedan a coupe-like four-door profile, though like the outgoing model, the new car retains its relatively useful rear seat to make it more of a Mercedes-Benz A-Class sedan competitor than a CLA-Class competitor.

2021 Audi A3 Sedan: Powertrain

The next Audi A3 goes on sale in Europe this summer with a pair of diesel options and a 1.0-liter turbo I-3 that certainly will not come to the North American market. In Europe, the A3's top gasoline engine is a 150-horsepower, 1.5-liter turbo I-4, while the current model's North American engine is a 184-hp 2.0-liter turbo. Audi isn't saying which gas engine will power the North American A3, though the existing 184-hp 2.0-liter turbo, or even the Volkswagen Jetta GLI's 228-hp 2.0-liter turbo, are possibilities. Whichever engine comes to the U.S.-spec A3, it will be combined with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system and standard seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.

North American sales of the new A3 are not scheduled until 2021, and Audi says it hasn't determined whether it will launch as a 2021 or a '22 model. As with the old model, the new A3 will be available with front-wheel drive or Quattro all-wheel drive; expect Audi to unveil new S3 and RS3 sedans in the next year or so.

2021 Audi A3 Sedan: More Precise Suspension

Audi says it has tuned the suspension to be "a touch more precise than in the predecessor model," with a "central dynamic handling system that ensures optimal interaction between all the components." Like the outgoing model, the company will offer the new 2021 Audi A3 sedan with the choice of front-wheel drive or Quattro all-wheel drive, and Audi is expected to unveil S3 and RS3 performance versions later.

2021 Audi A3 Sedan: More Details

This will be the second A3 on Volkswagen Group's flexible MQB compact/midsize transverse-engine platform. The front grille now is a honeycomb design retaining the marque's familiar six-sided "single-frame," flanked by thin headlamp lenses with notches below the outer edges. The upper part of the lens covers a thin horizontal LED headlamp, and the notched portion of the lens covers the daytime running lamps. On top trim levels, the DRLs are pixels with 15 LED segments.

An integrated trunk lid spoiler and familiar Audi-design taillamps contribute to a more "streamlined" body. The manufacturer claims the new 2021 Audi A3 sedan has an 0.25 drag coefficient, 0.04-point better than the outgoing model's figure.  The new car also has a controllable cool-air inlet behind the grille, with electronically activated louvers, a panel-sealed underbody, and redesigned sideview mirrors.

2021 Audi A3 Sedan: New Dashboard Design

Inside, the driver and passenger are separated by a "completely different layout," interior design chief Stefan Vollmer says. The front passenger side vent is thin and horizontal, while the driver's part of the dash is more cockpit-like, with a digital 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster. An optional 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit Plus display comes with three different view choices, with inclined digits and bar diagrams with angular red graphics for the speedometer and tachometer.

The two sides are separated by a 10.1-inch (diagonal) Multi-Media Interface (MMI) touch display, with standard handwriting detection. An optional MMI Navigation Plus has 10 times the computing power of the previous system, Audi says, and includes online traffic information, news, and even user reviews for points of interest—though it is unclear whether all of these European-spec features relate to the North American-spec model. For Europe, at least, there is a new Car-to-X technology that uses swarm intelligence from other Audis to report hazardous roads or speed limits, as well as free parking spaces. Of course, there is Apple CarPlay and Android for Auto, and Audi promises Alexa voice-control capability.

2021 Audi A3 Sedan: Longer, Taller, and Wider

The new 2021 Audi A3 sedan retains the 2020 model's 103.8-inch wheelbase, but its overall length is 1.6-inches longer, to about 177.2 inches, while width is up 0.8-inch, to 72 inches. The car is 0.4-inch taller, to 56.4 inches. The new design adds 0.8-inch of headroom, and trunk capacity is 15 cubic feet.

Considering the headroom increase, it's easy to predict the new A3 will have interior space closer to the Mercedes-Benz A-Class sedan than the sportier, but cramped, CLA-Class. This transverse-engine premium compact segment is also joined this year by the new BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe; if history is a guide, these models tend to do very well in their first model year, often outselling other sedans in their lineups; for the rest of their lifecycles, they drop well below sales of the next-size-up models, the Mercedes C-Class, BMW 3 and 4 Series, and Audi A4 and A5.

Audi will not reveal pricing for the 2021 Audi A3 sedan until just before its U.S. on-sale date, but if the outgoing model is a guide, it should start at less than $35,000, which should put it about $4,000 less than a base A4.