By: Jason Woosey in Dusseldorf, Germany
Just like most humans eventually grow up in one way or another, cars also tend to follow the natural curve of progression by gaining in size and sophistication with every generation. The Audi A4 is a prime example of this and by now it has left more than enough room beneath it for an A3 saloon to slot in.
In fact the new four-door A3, which is set for local launch in December, is just 23mm shorter and a whole 63mm wider than the original 1995 Audi A4.
Though it shares its front end with the latest A3 Sportback, designers have done a lot more than just tack a boot on the back end. Being slightly longer, lower and wider than the Sportback also gives the new sedan a more athletic stance and its lines appear taut and well proportioned, particularly at the rear.
There's a practical advantage too, with the boot offering a very useful 425 litres of luggage space. My co-driver and I stashed four medium-sized bags in there with plenty of room to spare.
Like its siblings, the saloon has an interior that's tastefully appointed and minimalistic, with infotainment functions controlled via the MMI operating system that's linked to a 5.8-inch pop-out screen.
It feels rather spacious up front although rear legroom, while enough for an average-sized adult to sit relatively comfortably, is not exactly class-leading.
GOOD PERFORMANCE, RIDE
I took a spin in the 132kW/250Nm 1.8 TFSI quattro model, which offered satisfying performance and ate up the autobahn miles quietly and quibble-free. The fully independent suspension provides a cosseting ride and the road holding is rather neat. That said, the steering, while accurate enough, felt a tad too light for my liking.
South Africans will be able to opt for the 1.8-litre engine, along with the familiar 90kW/200Nm 1.4-litre turbopetrol, but purely with front-wheel propulsion. The only all-wheel drive model in the range will be the 206kW/380Nm S3.
Whereas the hatch models offer a 1.6-litre TDI, sole turbodiesel option in the saloon will be a 110kW/320Nm 2-litre TDI.
All versions of the A3 saloon will be sold in upmarket SE guise, which brings some flash in the form of 17-inch alloys, exterior sports kit, sports seats and dual-zone climate control.
Exact prices will be released in December, but we're told the booted models will command a premium of around R10 000 over the Sportback, which means a 1.8 TFSI SE should set you back around R340 000.