Everything. Although this generation of A3 has been on sale in Europe since 2012, this is the first time it's being imported to North America. It will go on sale in early 2014 as the 2015 Audi A3...
The A3 hatchback debuted in Europe in 1996 serving as an entry-level luxury hatchback positioned just below the A4 -- but Audi didn't begin selling the A3 in North America until the second-generation version debuted in 2003. That car, sold only as a four-door hatchback, was fitted with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder as standard equipment, but Audi added the option of a 2.0-liter turbo-diesel four-cylinder -- a.k.a. TDI -- soon afterward. The third-generation A3 debuted overseas in 2012, but Audi waited to launch the car in the U.S. until it could craft a four-door sedan model.
Yes, the new 2015 Audi A3 replaces the discontinued 2013 A3, but Audi execs frequently mention a different car when talking about the A3's successor: the A4. No, Audi's new entry-level A3 isn't going to replace the A4, but it is designed to appeal to the type of first-time luxury buyers who gravitated to the original mid-1990s A4 but may have been put off by its growth and maturation. That's a big reason why the A3, along with its performance-oriented S3 variant, were reworked into a four-door sedan before Audi brought it stateside.
When it first launched in North America, the previous A3 essentially had the premium subcompact market to itself. That isn't the case now, thanks to new entrants from Buick, Mercedes-Benz, and Acura, among others. But despite the added competition, Audi is still looking to carve out some new territory in the segment. A two-door convertible, which debuted at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor show, will be shipped stateside. We'll receive the A3 cabriolet with two engine choices -- a turbocharged 1.8-liter and a 2.0-liter four-cylinder -- paired with front- or all-wheel drive, respectively. Audi has also confirmed that the A3 E-tron, a plug-in-electric hybrid that offers up to 31 miles of pure electric driving, will also be sold in our market.
By and large, the majority of the 2015 Audi A3 models sold stateside will likely boast four doors and a notchback profile. A3 sedans will be sold with a 170-hp, 1.8-liter four-cylinder, a more powerful 2.0-liter, and a 150-hp, 2.0-liter TDI turbo-diesel. Buyers jonesing for more power can always try an S3; its revised turbo 2.0-liter is said to produce more than 300 hp. Pricing has yet to be announced but is expected to be near that of the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class, which stickers at just under $30,000.
We won't have our first taste of the 2015 Audi A3 until early 2014, but for buyers looking for Audi's trademark design, technology, and performance -- yet on a budget -- the A3 may resonate like no other Audi.
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