IN a car market dominated by hatchbacks launching a new small saloon could be considered reckless.
But German car maker Audi has dramatically increased its model line up in recent years and barely put a foot wrong with any of them so there is little doubt it is taking any chances with its latest creation.
Despite its obvious relationship to the ubiquitous Audi A3 hatch the dramatic new Audi A3 saloon with its conventional boot looks a totally different car thanks to some very sharp design work. In fact at first glance it appears to have a stronger relationship to the A4, its bigger brother.
And the observation is not as wild as it sounds as the A3 saloon is some six inches longer than the hatch and lower. Add to that the capacious boot with its discreet built-in spoiler and it's easy to see why hatchback and saloon appear so different.
While there are obvious similarities there are also marked differences both visually and under the skin. This is not just a hatchback with a boot added, as numerous mechanical changes have also been made.
The newcomer is certainly a car with plenty of style and will appeal to buyers looking for a more traditional "three box" design of car.
And while hatchbacks might be easier to load the extra length of the saloon means that the luggage area is more than 10 per cent larger with a capacity of 425 litres, rising to 800 litres with the rear seatbacks folded down.
The saloon is available in either Sport or S Line trim levels but both come with the same lowered sports suspension and sporting front seats.
In the case of this Sport model those seats were in stylish black alcantara leather. And although this option package costs almost £800 extra it‘s certainly nice to have such a warm, suede-like material on cold days, helped by the fact that they were also heated.
With a 150bhp diesel engine under the bonnet mated to a slick six-speed manual gearbox the four-door saloon offers an abundance of punchy performance and instant response.
A stop/start system and a gear change recommendation indicator makes it easy to achieve around 50mpg even around town.
The saloon comes with an electric rather than conventional handbrake but there is a hill holder clutch to ensure you don't roll backwards when starting off on a hill while fumbling for it.
And the nice thing about this car is you can personalise it to your style of driving with Audi's Drive Select button on the dashboard, which allows you to key in the set up you prefer, such as eco, comfort or dynamic.
Get behind the wheel and the steering is pin sharp as is the handling. And even with five up this powerful 2.0-litre engines delivers the goods. It's quiet, refined, offers a comfortable ride yet has an underlying sporting persona.
The A3 saloon might never overtake the hatchback in the sales race in the UK but there is little doubt it looks a crisper, more up-market vehicle and as such is bound to do well.