Matthew Jones06 March 2012

Geneva 2012: the new Audi A3

Svelte new hatchback packs A8 limo technology

Audi A3

Say guttentag to the latest, lightest, tech-stuffed Audi A3 ever, which has just lunged onto the launch pad at the 2012 Geneva motor show.

So, what's the deal? First, the weight loss. Audi has carved 80kg from the previous generation by fitting an aluminium front bumper and wings (saving nine kilos alone) and experimenting with lots of exciting new spacey composite metals. It has also, predictably, swollen. At 1777mm it's 12mm wider than before and the wheelbase is up 23mm. The boot has grown from 350 to 365 litres, too.

See more pics of the Audi A3

When the A3 launches in September this year it'll be offered with two TFSI lumps (in 121bhp 1.4-litre and 178bhp 1.8-litre flavours) and a 141bhp 2.0 TDI. The fruitiest of the petrol engines - which goes from 0-62mph in 7.2secs - gets a seven-speed, twin-clutch S-tronic ‘box while the rest are offered with a more ordinary six-speed manual. And good news if you're heavy of foot - Audi says fuel consumption's reduced by 12 per cent across the entire A3 range. Later, Audi will also offer a 1.6-litre diesel that promises 74.3mpg and just 99g/km of CO2.

Any exciting S versions, then? Not yet. There aren't any quattros either (the launch models are all front-wheel drive) but Audi's promised us that work's underway on a super-fast S3 version and a four-wheel driver. We've also heard from Audi R&D gaffer, Michael Dick, that an A3 Sportback (which is a sort of estate) is coming in mid-2012 - it'll have a longer wheelbase than the three-door to "increase differentiation" (industry speak for "make it look a bit different from the other one"). He also confirmed a cabriolet will follow, plus a slightly wider four-door, which Audi's already shown as a concept.

In terms of tech, Audi has grafted some of the trick bits from its portlier models like the A8 into the A3. You get a 11mm thick 7-inch sat-nav screen, the MMI twiddley knob thing to control it and that fancy little touchpad that you draw letters and numbers onto with your fingers for the sat-nav.

There's some appealing (and no doubt reassuringly expensive) stuff on the options list as well, which includes the ENTIRE INTERNET. There's a UMTS module, which lets up to eight devices go online via an integrated WLAN hotspot. There's all the other usual premium stuff too, like a 705W surround sound Bang & Olufsen hi fi, adaptive cruise control and a safety system that detects unstable driving, tenses the front seat belts and closes the sunroof and doors. Possibly not one for the Stig.

Outside, it's par for the Ingolstadt course. It's sharp and sleek and a bit evil, which has a lot to do with the new stepped front headlights that you may recognise from the facelifted Audi A4 and Audi A5. You also get LED daytime running lights and LED rear lamps.

Prices will start from £19,000 when the order books open this spring. Tempted?

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