With the introduction of the 2015 Audi A3, the company hopes to make this model one of its most popular, not just in the U.S. but all around the world. In order to do that in a profitable fashion, the new A3 shares plenty of parts with the redesigned Volkswagen Golf and other members of the Audi/VW family, all wrapped in the signature styling that has come to define vehicles wearing a shiny quad-ringed emblem in the center of their grilles.
If you're wondering what the difference is between the new 2015 Audi A3 and the previous version of the car, it is fairly obvious at a glance, at least for now. The next-generation edition of the A3 Sportback was not among the initial models offered when the new A3 went on sale as an early-release 2015 model, but that will change by the end of the summer of 2014.
What else changes? Plenty, as you'll discover below.
The previous Audi A3 came only as a 5-door hatchback, which likely limited the car's appeal. Audi's not taking a similar approach with the redesigned 2015 A3.
Initially, the A3 was offered only as a 4-door sedan. A new 2-door convertible is joining the lineup, and a performance-tuned S3 Sedan is also coming soon. People who loved the previous A3 Sportback, the 5-door hatchback model, will be happy to know that the new A3 will also be available in that body style, too.
Audi is giving A3 buyers plenty of variety, with each version of the car rendered in the company's distinctively modern, understated design. Audi has also moved the car's front wheels 1.5 inches forward to add interior space and reduce front overhang for a better-balanced look, especially in profile. More paint-color choices and additional wheel options provide consumers with greater choice, as well.
Inside the new 2015 Audi A3, you'll find a simple, austere-yet-elegant cabin that adheres to themes found in the previous A3. Look closely, though, and it's clear that the new A3 enjoys a reduction of clutter and an improvement in controls at the same time that it delivers a broader array of modern technologies.
The highlight is the new thin-screen Audi Multi Media Interface (MMI) screen that deploys from atop the dashboard. It is controlled using a knob on the car's center console, surrounded by buttons. If that setup sounds like it would be difficult to use, the arrangement becomes second nature to the A3's everyday driver.
Better yet, Audi has improved the MMI controls, simplifying them by rendering them in contrasting materials with unique topography for easier operation by touch. Speaking of touch, new MMI touch technology is available, allowing the driver to input information with a fingertip. The MMI controls are moved away from the cupholders, too, reducing the chance of a soda or coffee spill that could cause them to remain sticky well into the future.
All in all, the new A3's interior is an improvement over the old A3, unless you really wanted beige-colored leather (that choice is, so far, unavailable for 2015).
Fans of the previous A3 2.0T hatchback model, which was equipped with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, will lament its discontinuation in the redesigned A3 lineup. The new version of the A3 Sportback is offered only with a turbocharged clean-diesel engine or a plug-in hybrid powertrain.
The turbocharged 2.0-liter engine remains available in other versions of the A3, though, and is required if you want Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system. It serves as the upgrade motor in the A3 Cabriolet and Sedan, and in massaged 290-horsepower format, is the source of propulsion for the performance-oriented S3 model.
The base engine for the A3 Cabriolet and Sedan is a turbocharged 1.8-liter 4-cylinder making 170 hp and 200 lb-ft of torque, decreases of 50 hp and 58 lb-ft compared to the 2.0-liter engine. The turbocharged clean-diesel engine option (or TDI) is available for the A3 Sedan and A3 Sportback, generating 150 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque.
When it goes on sale in 2015, the A3 Sportback e-tron will provide a plug-in hybrid powertrain that pairs a turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, an electric motor and a battery to provide 204 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Because the A3 Sportback e-tron is a plug-in hybrid, it can be driven for short distances on nothing but electricity. Audi says that it will take a little over two hours to charge the e-tron using a 240-volt power outlet.
Given the long list of changes under the 2015 A3's hood, mentioning the newly standard S tronic dual-clutch transmission is rather anticlimactic.
Considering the 2015 Audi A3 Sedan's base price of less than $30,000 (not including the destination charge), you're forgiven for assuming that everything is optional in order for the car to come in at such an affordable price. That's not the case, though.
As was true of the previous A3, the redesigned model includes leather seats and dual-zone automatic climate control as standard equipment. Where it improves upon the old car is with a standard power panoramic sunroof, a 12-way power adjustable driver's seat, bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights, LED taillights, Bluetooth with streaming audio, and Audi's pre sense basic technology that readies the cabin for a collision when sensors determine that a crash cannot be avoided.
Of course, the new A3 is also nearly $3,000 more expensive than the car it replaced, so don't go thinking you're getting something for nothing.
Here's something else you're getting with the new 2015 Audi A3: access to the latest technology. For example, Audi offers a 4G LTE data connection for the new A3, which turns the car into a mobile Wi-Fi hot spot for up to eight different devices. Combine this with Audi connect service, which provides Facebook and Twitter alerts, Internet radio access, RSS news feeds, text-to-speech email transcription, text-message dictation, and even mobile video-conferencing capability with the available smartphone app, and the A3 is one connected car.
Audi is also happy to report that it offers the same upgrades that are available on more expensive models for the entry-level A3. Highlights include an available Bang & Olufsen premium audio system, a navigation system employing Google Maps technology, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, LED headlights and more. Audi drive select technology is also offered, allowing the owner to calibrate the car's driving character using Comfort, Dynamic, Auto and Individual settings.
Audi's new pre sense basic technology, which senses an imminent collision and prepares the car's cabin and occupants for impact, is standard in the redesigned A3.
New options include parking system plus (which features front and rear parking-assist sensors and a reversing camera), an Audi side assist blind spot monitoring system, and an advanced technology package containing an adaptive cruise-control system with stop-and-go capability and active lane assist technology. Pop-up rollbars are included for every A3 Cabriolet.
In addition to these new safety technologies, the redesigned Audi A3 is engineered to take a hit, so to speak. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety calls the new A3 a Top Safety Pick, although to be fair, the outgoing A3 also enjoyed that distinction.
There's just one reason to lament the departure of the previous Audi A3, and that's its 5-door hatchback body style. Once the new 2015 A3 Sportback arrives with its expandable cargo area, the old car will be officially and definitively outclassed by the new A3.