The manufacturer is trying to get away from the idea of superimposing a couple of extra apertures onto a coupe body by launching a new shape and a new name – Sportback sounds better than ‘sort of small estate that can’t quite make up its mind’.
Styled as a mini estate it will appeal to people who want an Avant and to traditional hatchback buyers. It’s also arrived at a critical time for Audi, with the much-lauded BMW 1-series being launched in the same month.
The new rear look works well and distinguishes it from the standard A3. There are also changes at the front where the new one-piece grille, first seen on the A6, brings it in line with the new Audi family face.
The interior look is clean and modern with quality plastics and stylish details. But while the Sportback may be 8cm longer than the three-door, there is only a small increase in interior and luggage space (an extra 20 litres but the rear seats don’t fold flat) and rear leg room is not overly generous.
There’s a choice of seven engines including the top of the range 250bhp 3.2-litre V6, already used in the VW Golf R32, but as with the BMW 1-series, the pick of the engines is one of the smaller units. The 1.6-litre FSI may be at entry level, but it doesn’t feel second best. Prices start at £16,010 for the basic 1.6-litre, climbing to £24,625 for the 3.2 quattro.
Strengths: Great handling, wide choice of petrol and diesel engines and trims
Weaknesses: Slightly cramped rear cabin
Opportunity: New ‘estate’ look for 5dr version set to appeal to family buyers
Threat: Will have to fight it out with the excellent BMW 1-series
The USP: 5-door practicality with coupe agility
£16,010 - £24,625
1.6 , 1.6 FSI, 2.0 FSI, 2.0 T FSI, 3.2 FSI, 1.9 TDI, 2.0 TDI
Transmission: 5spd/6spd manual, 6spd tiptronic auto, DSG, fwd/4wd
Performance: 0-62mph 13.2-6.5s; top 114-155mph
Rivals: 1-series, Golf, 147, C-class coupe