2021 Audi A3 Sedan Preview

Jack R. Nerad | Apr 30, 2020
FAST FACTS
  • Completely redesigned subcompact luxury sedan
  • Front-wheel and all-wheel-drive powertrains
  • Sophisticated exterior design with boldly sculpted fenders
  • Upscale interior reminiscent of larger, more expensive Audi models
  • Standard touchscreen infotainment system
  • 48-volt electrical system with “mild hybrid” capabilities
  • On sale in U.S. in the second half of 2020

Introduction

Since its introduction, the Audi A3 has made the favorites list of many an enthusiast driver, and the all-new 2021 Audi A3 sedan expected to arrive later this year is virtually certain to continue in that tradition. 

2021 Audi A3 Sedan front view

From its more sophisticated exterior styling to its advanced driver-assist features to its willing engine and performance-tuned suspension, the 2021 Audi A3 promises to deliver exactly what buyers in the entry-level luxury segment are looking for. When it comes to market it will have an estimated base price of around $35,000 with more expensive versions topping out close to $50,000.

    Exterior Features

    In terms of overall exterior design, the A3 could be said to have grown up. Its coupe-inspired silhouette and heavily sculpted flanks give the car a bolder appearance, but the A3 keeps the handy size that enhances its fun-to-drive nature.

    Like all recent Audis, the 2021 A3's front end is dominated by the automaker’s signature "Singleframe" grille, which in this interpretation is rendered in a honeycomb pattern. In contrast to the substantial grille, the headlights are cat's eye slits, and in the top trim level they feature 15 LED segments to create their own distinctive look. 

    Bold front and rear fenders are met in the middle by wasp-waist body sides that have expressive sculpting of their own. The roofline hints at a coupe while managing to maintain rear-seat headroom, while the trunk lid is topped by a discreet spoiler that in some iterations is made of carbon fiber. The most aerodynamic version of the A3 has a coefficient of drag measuring 0.25 Cd, 0.04 Cd better than the first generation car.

    Interior Features

    The interior continues the theme promised by the exterior. The 2021 Audi A3 is grown-up and sophisticated in both its design and materials, but it still manages to be more expressive and "fun" than the interior of the recently introduced A4. 

    2021 Audi A3 Sedan interior and dashboard

    Audi asserts that the cockpit of the A3 sedan is "entirely focused on the driver." To give credence to that assertion the central MMI touchscreen display is canted toward the driver for greater ease of use.

    Optional Features

    Like most European luxury marques, Audi models don’t feature many stand-alone options. Instead various added features are typically purchased by trim level. 

    Initially, you can expect the 2021 Audi A3 to come in three trim levels: Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige. The Premium grade is the most basic both from a powertrain and interior feature point of view. The Premium Plus includes features most buyers want, while the Prestige is a fully equipped vehicle with virtually all the creature comforts, driver-assistance, and safety equipment available.

    Under the Hood

    The A3 will almost certainly be sold in both front-wheel drive and Quattro all-wheel-drive versions here in the United States. The most interesting speculation about the American-spec 2021 A3 Sedan revolves around the powertrains that will be available. 

    In the just-introduced European version of the car, three powertrains are offered — two turbocharged 4-cylinder gasoline engines and a turbodiesel. It is virtually certain the U.S. will not get the 2.0-liter diesel engine, and it is most likely the standard U.S. powertrain will be the 1.5-liter gas engine with Audi’s S-tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission. It remains to be seen if Audi will choose to offer American buyers the 6-speed manual transmission, an option available in Europe. 

    Of particular interest with the 1.5-liter gas engine is the use of a 48-volt mild-hybrid system in concert with the dual-clutch transmission. It captures energy that would otherwise be lost via regeneration during deceleration and is able to give a 37 lb.-ft. boost of torque when accelerating from a stop, effectively serving as a small electric supercharger.

    Audi suggests the suspension settings of the new A3 will be a tad bit sportier than the previous version. Upgrades include a sport-tuned suspension and an adaptive damping suspension. Additionally, Audi Drive Select allows the driver to choose different modes that adjust powertrain behavior, steering feel and response, and in models with adaptive dampers, the suspension tuning. Settings range from fuel-efficient to comfort- or dynamic-oriented.

    Safety

    Audi typically offers a comprehensive array of safety and drive-assist technology, and we expect that to be the case in the all-new 2021 A3. It is likely the sedan will include standard Audi Pre Sense Front (automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection) and Audi Pre Sense Basic (prepare cabin and occupants for an impending collision). We also expect that lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assistance, blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic warning, and adaptive cruise control will be available.

    Technology

    Despite being Audi’s entry-level car in the U.S., the 2021 A3 will be filled with technology, including Audi Connect Key, which turns the owner’s smartphone into a digital key used to unlock and start the car. 

    The A3’s standard infotainment system will feature a 10.1-inch touchscreen display that accommodates handwriting inputs, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a natural language voice control system. 

    The top infotainment system in the new A3, MMI Navigation Plus, is Audi’s MIB 3 third-generation system that has 10 times more computing power than its predecessor. It offers Audi Connect services, including a Wi-Fi hotspot. An Audi Phone Box wireless inductive charging system is also available, and the navigation system offers a “door-to-door” function via smartphone app, helping you reach your destination even if you’re on foot.

    In the U.S., the base model A3 is likely to be equipped with a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster. Uplevel models will get the Audi Virtual Cockpit instrument array, a screen measuring a sizable 12.3 inches across that offers three different configurations. A head-up display that projects important information onto the windshield in the driver's direct field of vision is also expected in the higher-level U.S.-spec versions of the A3.

    Car-to-X communication technology will also be aboard the new A3, allowing it to communicate with other vehicles regarding road, weather, and other conditions on the route ahead.

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