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The 2021 Audi A3 Sportback: Forbidden Fruit

Audi's smallest thirst trap has us parched.

It's nonsense to call a four-door car a coupe just because the roofline's a bit lower and rounder, but fortunately, Audi hasn't fallen into that trap, calling its sedans-that-would-be-coupes Sportbacks--a name that's both sensible and more descriptive. Unfortunately for those of us in the United States, Audi only sells the A5/S5/RS5 range of Sportbacks, while Europe and much of the rest of the world get the A3 Sportback. Better yet, the A3 Sportback ditches the sedan-coupe concept entirely in favor of the truncated wagon, or, as its better known, hatchback body style. It's one of the most practical configurations for a car, essentially a crossover minus the off-road pretense and ensuing bulk and inefficiency.

The fourth-generation A3 hatch you see here looks like a bit like a compact version of the E-tron all-electric crossover. The new look doesn't stray far from the A3 mold we're familiar with, but updates it with a fresher, more athletic vibe. Inside gets an optional eco-friendly interior made from recycled bottles, a new shifter, a 10.1-inch touchscreen or optional 12.3-inch one, virtual cockpit, and a head-up display on the windshield is also available.

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Under the hood, the European-spec front-wheel-drive Sportback packs a 148-horsepower 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder, or a choice of 116- or 148-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo diesel inline-fours. Each engine can be mated to a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. American-market A3 sedans will not offer diesel engines, but are likely to one-up their European counterparts with a 228-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engine as the base configuration. OK Europe, you get it first, but we get the faster one.

The Audi A3 Sportback should reach lucky Europeans in May, while we wait for the sedan version and a possible hybrid variant to make their way to U.S. shores later in the year.

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