The third generation Audi A3 has docked on South African shores and though what you see on the outside follows Audi's familiar evolutionary path, it has taken a good few technological strides.
Built on the VW Group's new MQB platform that also underpins the imminent Golf 7, the A3 is up to 80kg lighter than before with the base model tipping the scales at just 1175kg. This, together with new engine technologies, makes the new hatch around 12 percent more efficient than before.
Far from stripped out though, it does have a bit more standard equipment than before and the range is available in S, SE and quattro trim lines.
Starting with the most basic, S comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, MMI radio with pop-up LCD colour screen, Bluetooth, driver information system, leather-covered multi-function steering wheel and an LED interior lighting system.
SE models add a racier theme with sports suspension and sports seats as standard, as well as 17-inch five-arm alloys, exterior aluminium package and luxuries like dual zone climate control and active speaker system.
In addition to all this, the quattro model comes with Alcantara/leather combination seat covering, Audi Music Interface and aluminium-look interior.
There's a glut of extra stuff to be had on the optional extras list, of course, including Audi's MMI navigation plus with MMI touch.
The range kicks off with VW's 77kW 1.2-litre TSI turbopetrol motor, although this engine will only be available in February next year.
It's hardly worth waiting for though, as for very little extra you can have a 90kW/200Nm 1.4-litre turbopetrol and even the 132kW/250Nm 1.8-litre turbopetrol is not priced too far off the scale. This is the only model available with the option of quattro all-wheel drive.
On the diesel front there's a 1.6-litre TDI on offer with 77kW/250Nm and a claimed combined consumption figure of 4.4 l/100km. The 1.4T petrol model is hardly a guzzler by comparison though, Audi claiming an average consumption of just 5.2 l/100km.
Diesel-heads disappointed by the sole 1.6-litre option can take heed that Audi will soon expand the range with a 135kW 2-litre TDI quattro model.
BUT WHAT'S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
Our correspondent John Simister described the A3 as something of a revelation after taking a good spin:
“The suspension is calibrated beautifully, making the car feel fluently precise through corners while soaking up bumps with a nonchalance few drivers of current Audis would recognise.
“And that's true even in the versions with bigger wheels, although the cars I drove at launch all had the 'standard' suspension. So don't spoil your new A3 with a sportified suspension option.
“But any car from the new range is a desirable object, with a 'drive me' character the old A3 never had. Even if the new one does look uncannily like its father.”
Desirable, of course, means premium pricing and the range does not start too far south of the 300k mark. And that's before you've started playing with the options list.
(Includes 5-year/100 000km Freeway Plan)
1.2T FSI manual S: R267 000
1.4T FSI manual S: R274 500
1.4T FSI S tronic S: R291 500
1.6 TDI S tronic S: R302 500
1.8T FSI manual SE: R305 000
1.8T FSI S tronic SE: R322 000
1.8T FSI quattro S tronic: R351 500
See more of the new A3 in the video below: