This extremely cute Audi A3 saloon makes its debut in New York today, the smallest Audi on sale there. It's the third in what will be a four-model A3 line-up when the new convertible arrives and will be something like the 45th different Audi body-style available in the UK when it goes on sale in the UK in the summer.
But what might seem like yet another example of Audi ticking every box in its vast model-planning matrix is actually the over-fertile brand's first entry in to the world's biggest market segment - little saloons.
The sales of stuff like four door Civics and Corollas and Chevy Cruzes in the US, plus local market cars from GM and VW in China, prove that, as a planet, we are still a deeply conservative bunch. We like our family cars to look like how we drew them at nursery; little box for the engine, bigger box for mum and dad and the kids and another little box for the shopping.
Not that the A3 saloon is anything other than extremely dashing, especially in these pictures, which show the tricked-up S3 version complete with full-on LED lamps and what look like 19 inch wheels, which are available. Audi's design story on the A3 is something it calls ‘The Tornado Line' - the heavy feature below the windows (and onwards and backwards) that throws an immediate shadow and consequent light flare on the bodyside below. With a lower roof and wider-arches than the Sportback, the feature works especially well on the saloon; it gives it something of the look of an old RS4.
Along with the Merc CLA, which manages to look so much better than the somewhat anonymous A-Class, the A3 saloon might just be the car to re-invigorate what has become a largely forgotten market in the UK, blighted by the big-bummed Fords and Vauxhalls of old. Call us old-fashioned, but we reckon you'd look a lot classier turning up in a CLA or a A3 saloon than you would in their five and three-door siblings.
Inside Audi has not messed with what's one of the best interiors around today. The minimal palette and simple theme (‘slab with two bloody great circular vents') pioneered all those years ago on the first TT continues to evolve. The news on the saloon - like the three-door and Sportback - is the ‘iPad' that elevates out of its slot in the middle of the dash. What you can do on it - and there are options that will allow you to do most everything including finding somewhere to park - depends, as before, on how much you are prepared to spend. Tricking-up the infotainment is to Gen Y-ers what wheels and tyres were to Gen X-ers.
There are three engines at launch, one diesel and two petrol FSIs with up to 180bhp at launch, with the four-wheel drive 300bhp S3 quattro coming along a few months later to do battle with the CLA AMG 45. Audi UK won't talk about prices, won't even say whether it will be more or less than equivalent Sportback models (£19,825 - £27,180). On looks alone however, we reckon it could command a premium. But we suspect that will have a lot to do with what Mercedes does with the CLA...