EVER since it first appeared in 1996, the Audi A3 has rightly been considered THE small family car to be seen driving around in.
Whether in three-door hatch, five-door Sportback, open-top cabriolet, or latterly four-door saloon guise, the German marque's best-sellingmodel in the UK has over the years built a solid reputation for being a much-desirable yet sensibly-priced, practical workhorse that is suitable for most family's everyday needs.
Over its 20 years of existence, the car's overall quality has been supplemented by a range of excellent economical petrol and diesel engines, which have added to the A3's desirability.
Now, the latest A3 range, due to go on sale later this summer, will raise an already high bar even further, with cleaner, greener and more economical engines and a host of the latest high-tech goodies available throughout the range.
The engine line-up for the revised A3 consists of three petrol andthree diesel power plants, ranging from 108bhp to 187bhp, all supercharged and conforming to EU6 emission standards.
Along with a new 187bhp two-litre TFSI petrol engine and the 148bhp1.4-litre TFSI cylinder-on-demand ultra petrol power plant, a new kidon the block comes in the shape of the brand new highly-economical 999cc, 113bhp, three-cylinder engine, which is remarkably quiet, yet silky smooth on the hoof.
Diesel options consist of the highly-recommended 108bhp, 124mph,1.6-litre TDI which can sprint from standing to 62mph in just 10.5 seconds. A pair of powerful two-litre turbo diesels, good for 148bhp and 182bhp, make up the range.
The latest A3 incarnations take all their good looks from the previous model, so it will be difficult for those other than Audi aficionadosuo tell them apart from the outside.
A new-style, wider A4-esque grille, tweaked bumper and LED headlamps, along with new tail lamp clusters and rear diffuser, are pretty muchall the exterior differences, but inside it is all change.
All models are kitted out with a seven-inch infotainment screen which doubles up as a Wi-Fi hot spot.
However, available as an option and certainly worth forking out the extra cash for, is Audi's virtual cockpit, made available on the A3for the first time.
With all the important information shown in high res on a 12.3-inch touch screen, the driver can switch between a standard classic modewhich shows a digital readout of the speedo and rev counter as theywould appear on normal analogue dials.
Switch to infotainment mode, and the central window turns into a full-sized sat nav display, with the speedo and rev counter appearingas small round dials at each side of the screen. It also showsnavigation instructions, telephone details along with audio andeconomy information.
A host of other driver assistance systems are also available, including traffic jam assistance, in which the car will take complete control of speed and steering in heavy traffic up to speeds of 40mph.
Lane assist is also available, as is auto parking system, side assist,adaptive cruise control, and recognition of traffic signs with speedwarning.
Prices for the entry-level three-cylinder cars have still to beconfirmed, but are expected to start at around the £19,000 mark.
The three-door 1.4-litre 148bhp TFSI six-speed manual model in SE trimstarts at £21,515, with the seven-speed S tronic version coming in at£23,065.
The two-litre 187bhp TFSI is available in Sport and S line trim onlywith the manual starting at £24,845.
While the price for the 1.6-litre 108bhp TDI manual diesel has stillto be confirmed, the seven-speed S tronic starts at £23,165. The more powerful 148bhp two-litre TDI in SE trim comes in at £22,965, whilethe four-wheel-drive quattro version in Sport trim is available for £25,945.
To simplify pricing, Sport models, which add new MMI navigation withfree three-month Audi Connect trial, 17-inch five-spoke alloy wheels,dual-zone climate control, sports seats and exterior styling, alloyand chrome styling cues, Audi drive select and the option of Sports suspension carry a £1,550 premium over the already well-equipped SE models.
Add another £2150 for S line models and you get LED headlights andrear lights, LED interior lighting pack, sports suspension, flat-bottomed multi-function steering wheel, storage pack, 18-inchalloys, S line styling, brushed aluminium inlays and sports seats incloth/Nappa upholstery.
While picking the right model from so much choice will be a hardenough task for any prospective owner to get right, the addition ofSportback, cabriolet and saloon models complicate things even further.
And that's not to mention the range of 305bhp S3 quattro models starting at Â£32,330 which are also included in the new line up.