Just when you think they have every possible base covered, the niche-meisters come up with yet another model to fill another sliver of a market segment that, until yesterday, none of us had even conceived. And the compact premium saloon segment is the newest such slice…

They’re basically sedans spun off an existing B-segment hatch and so far it’s occupied by just two brands. Mercedes-Benz was the first to jam the wedge into the apparent gap with their A-Class-based CLA, and hot on its heels are Audi with the sedan version of their A3 hatch. It’s a car we first saw here in SA showcased at the October’s Johannesburg Motor Show, and we had an opportunity to drive all three engine derivatives at its official launch in Randburg recently.

It’s the third installment of the A3 range after the three-door hatch and the five-door Sportback (there’ll be a cabrio in 2014 Q2 and a S3 Sedan too), and you’ll have the choice of two petrol engines (1,4T FSI and 1,8T FSI) and one diesel engine (2,0 TDI). The latter is the first time this particular oil-burner appears in the A3 range here in SA.

As it’s based on the A3 hatch, it also uses VW/Audi’s MQB platform, which if you’ve read our take on the Golf 7 and A3 hatch, is a very good thing. Dynamically, the sedan is very similar to its hatch siblings, which means we’re talking about a supple, athletic and communicative chassis that manages to deliver plenty of grip without the compromising on comfort. The sedan may be 146 mm longer and 11 mm wider than the Sportback, but it certainly doesn’t feel bulkier in any way.

The 132 kW 1,8T is likely to be the biggest seller in the range and its 250 N.m also provides impressive in-gear acceleration. It’s something the 110 kW 2,0 TDi specialises in with 350 N.m at your beck and call, making it the surprise package here. I suspect it could account for a healthy share of the volume too. As for the 1,4T… look it’s not going to blow your hair back, but featuring the group’s direct fuel injection and turbocharging, it’s a little engine with a big and efficient heart.

All three engines are offered with a choice of a six-speed manual or S tronic seven-speed auto.

From a design perspective, the A3 Sedan is a very handsome car. Unlike the CLA’s boot line that drops away, the A3’s is a higher and visibly shorter, giving the car a more pronounced wedge-like side profile. The effect is a wide shouldered and muscular car that I reckon is Audi’s best looking sedan. Rather than just an A3 with a boot, the Sedan doesn’t share a single panel with the hatch. Look at them side-by-side and you see sharper swage lines on the bonnet that taper into the headlights, more flared wheel arches, and sharper crease along the sides – Audi’s so-called “Tornado line”.

Inside it’s identical to the A3 hatch – at least the front section of the cabin is. You get the same facia and controls. In the back, the leg and headroom is more than comfortable enough for an adult (in reality you’re looking at a car that was the same size as an A4 a couple of generations back and we all thought that was roomy enough). The sizey boot (425 dm3 and 880 dm3 with rear seats folded down) also has an aperture noticeably wider than its CLA competitor.

Overall an impressive sedan then…. the big question though is what other Audi product it will steal customers from. Because it will. My feeling is that it won’t be from the Sportback – people who like hatch/estates and those liking sedans are two different markets. I reckon it’s Audi’s cheaper A4 that’s going to lose some volume to this good-looking newcomer (the A4 is 245 mm longer and 30 mm wider). There’ll be a R30k difference between the A3 Sedan 1,8T FSI and the A4 1,8T FSI… which means that in the A3 Sedan you get a stylish, highly-specced car with excellent interior space for a cheaper price. Click here for the full range with prices.

The Audi A3 Sedan gets the following standard features:

  • MMI Radio with full colour, slide-out LCD screen
  • LED Interior lighting package
  • Front centre armrest
  • Light/rain sensor
  • Bluetooth with voice control and audio streaming
  • Knee airbag
  • 17” 5-spoke cast aluminium alloy wheels
  • Sports suspension
  • Front sports seats
  • Front fog lights
  • Audi Drive Select with Efficiency programme
  • Exterior aluminium package
  • Leather covered multi-function sports steering wheel, 3-spoke, with shift paddles for S tronic models
  • Fully automated, dual zone air-conditioning
  • Driver Information system in colour
  • Audi Sound System

Specifications*

Model: Audi A3 Sedan 1,8T FSI SE manual

Engine: 1 798 cm3, turbopetrol
Transmission: six-speed manual
Power: 132 kW @ 5 100 r/min
Torque: 250 N.m @ 1 250–5 000 r/min
0-100 km/h: 9,3 seconds
Fuel consumption: 7,0 litres/100 km
CO2: 160 g/km
Top speed: 235 km/h
Price: R341 500
Maintenance plan: 5 year/100 000 km
Service intervals: 24 months/30 000 km

*According to the manufacturer