The Audi A3 is a small subcompact executive car available since 1996. It is currently in its fourth generation of design.
Audi A3 Introduction and Design
In 1996, the Audi A3 was released as a small family car based on the Volkswagen Group A (also known as PQ34) platform. It was Audi’s return to the small car market after a long hiatus from the Audi 50 last produced in 1978 and was initially only available as a 3-door hatchback, although a 5-door version would come to market in 1999. The base engine was a 1.6L 8 valve inline-4 with 100 horsepower and 107 lb ft of torque. A 1.8L option was also available in naturally aspirated and turbocharged variations, producing up to 148 horsepower in the turbo version. More powerful engine options became available in 1999, with a 1.8L turbocharged engine producing 178 horsepower and a 1.9L TDI diesel with 89 horsepower and 155 lb ft of torque. The Audi A3 was still a fully capable vehicle, not sharing some of the cost-cutting measure that other cars in the segment tended to have. If one opted to get the higher-end Audi S3, a performance version of the A3, they would find up to 222 horsepower under the hood. Bose sound system, 6-disc changer, large 18 inch wheels, and heated front seats were standard in the S3. The Audi electric stability control, traction control, and brake force distribution computer were standard equipment in most countries, while a four-wheel drive system based on Haldex Traction technology used in the S3 and TT was also available. This system is labeled as Quattro, but doesn’t use the same central-differential system that other Audi Quattros are known for.
Second Generation Modifications
Production of the second generation Audi A3 started in 2003 after its unveiling at the 2003 Geneva Motor Show. It was internally known as the Typ 8P and was designed by Gary Telaak back in 2000. Like the first generation, it was originally launched as a 3-door hatchback with 4-cylinder engines. But now it was on a new PQ35 platform and featured a larger interior with 6-speed transmissions. In 2005, the Audi A3 first hit the North American market. It had taken some time for there to be evidence of a widespread desire for a smaller vehicle that combined luxurious touches with fuel efficiency and smaller vehicle size. It was only released as the Sportback body in North America, with a 2.0L inline-4 engine and a later 3.2L VR6 Quattro soon thereafter. The Sportback is slightly (3 inches) longer than the base and includes extra cargo space.
The High-Performance S3
In 2006, the second generation S3 was released, coming in both 3-door and 5-door variations. It featured a modified 2.0L turbocharged engine that put out 261 horsepower and had a top speed of 155 mph with a 0 to 62 mph (0 to 100 km/h) time of just 5.5 seconds. Pretty respectable figures for such a small, fuel-efficient vehicle. Many changes were made to the engine to produce such performance, including revised mapping, increased turbo/intercooler sizing, and high-performance pistons. Suspension changes to the S3 were also robust, with spring and damper changes added. A body kit helped distinguish the S3 from far away. In 2008, the Audi A3 and S3 received an updated exterior styling with different front end and rear, 7-speed transmissions, and magnetic ride shocks. That year, the convertible cabriolet version was also introduced, finally opening up this little car to the sky above.
Third and Fourth Generation Changes
The third generation Audi A3 came out in 2012. Updates include many driver assistance features like emergency braking, lane assist, adaptive cruise control, and side assist. The new models also featured an updated multimedia interface system, 4G internet, and a slightly revised 1.4L engine as the base. The A3 e-Tron was sold across Europe in 2014. It was the first plug-in hybrid version of the A3 brought to the market, sharing the same powertrain as found in the Volkswagen Golf GTE and Passat GTE. The current and fourth generation of the Audi A3 came out in 2020, with revised interior and exterior styling. The LED headlights take design cues from Lamborghini, while the slightly longer length and increased interior space make it a bit more comfortable for extended trips. The Audi RS 3 is the top-of-the-line specification and has a 2.5L 5-cylinder engine that produces as a whopping 400 horsepower and 369 lb ft of torque.