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Audi's UK MD Martin Sander told BusinessCar the new A3 will drop to less than 99g/km in this model's lifetime
BusinessCar's recent first test of the all-new Audi A3, with the ultra-clean 99g/km 1.6 TDI engine, took place overseas and proved promising, but the brand is claiming to offer more than just low emissions.
BMW's 1-series will always have the edge when it comes to driver appeal as the Audi's handling is, predictably, a little numb, but this A3 - we drove the 150hp 2.0-litre diesel on UK roads - certainly seems lighter on its feet than its predecessor, which is likely due to the average 80kg weight saving. The SE tested here proved exceptionally comfortable and very refined save for a little, but not much, road noise. It's close to, if not on a par with, Volvo's newcomer to the premium lower medium segment, the V40, which BusinessCar dubbed the class best for ride and refinement.
One thing the firm has promised with this generation is that the softer suspension from the entry-level SE can be specified with the higher-spec Sport and S-line models, so those who like the appearance of the sportier, upmarket versions but aren't keen on the associated and oft-criticised firmer ride can have their cake and eat it.
The 2.0-litre diesel engine is muted during normal driving conditions and pulls well. The cleanest 1.6-litre 105hp TDI may grab the headlines with its 99g/km and 74.3mpg (figures that remain the same regardless of which spec level you choose) but 106g/km and 68.9mpg hardly seem like much of a penalty, especially given the 2.0-litre unit's very obvious extra power. It's no surprise, then, that Audi expects it to make up 40% of the mix - more than any other engine.
Aside from the subtle styling changes - the exterior has evolved to further resemble most other cars in the firm's stable - Audi says the A3 is the fastest, lightest, cleanest and most frugal of the growing number of premium lower medium hatchbacks.
The interior has seen a similar kind of mature development. The dash is cleaner and bears a stronger resemblance to the A1 city car and the A4 upper medium saloon. The company's Multimedia Interface (MMI) system is now standard, the controls for which have been trimmed down in their dimensions. The infotainment screen is also much slimmer, which is part of the company's ethos to make the car familiar to iPad and tablet users. Build, fit and finish are excellent wherever you look.
The five-door Sportback arrives early next year and is likely to remain the default choice for business users - especially because of its longer wheelbase. Audi is also quick to point out that the A3 and the BMW 1-series are the only premium lower medium cars available in both three- and five-door guise. Either way, with the costs, brand appeal and RVs it has, it's a safe bet that the A3 will remain the volume seller in this pocket of the market.