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20 years, 3 generations... the evolution of Audi's A3

2016-12-09 11:53

THREE GENERATIONS OF A3: Audi is celebrating 20 years of its A3 in 2016. Image: NewsPress

Ingolstadt - Audi is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its A3, which made its debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA).

In 2016, the premium compact is available in a choice of four body styles, four drive systems and a broad selection of trim lines.

20 years, three generations

Audi introduced the A3 at the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA) in 1996. The car was developed from the ground up on the basis of the Golf IV platform, which followed in 1997. Initially, the A3 was available exclusively as a three-door hatchback in three trim lines and with four different petrol and diesel engines.

In September 1998, Audi equipped the A3 with quattro permanent all-wheel drive and in March 1999 a five-door variant joined the model series.

The brand reached a milestone with the first generation of the high-performance Audi S3 in the spring of 1999; the 1.8-litre, in-line four-cylinder engine with turbocharging and five valves per cylinder produced 155kW.

READ: Refreshed Audi A3 arrives in SA: Pics, details, prices

The split grille, still used in the second-generation, was replaced in 2005 by the single-frame unit, which went on to become the brand’s defining design element. Audi has expanded its A3 family to include its first open-topped variant, the A3 Cabriolet, in 2008.

Now in the third generation, the Audi A3 is available for the first time as a saloon. This version of the A3 celebrated its premiere at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show. In 2016, each and every variant in the entire model series received a technology update.

The Audi RS3 Sportback is the spearhead of the model series. The first generation was launched in 2011 with a 255kW, five-cylinder engine. The second edition of the RS3 Sportback with 270kW followed in 2015.

At the 2016 Paris Motor Show, Audi presented the RS3 Saloon powered by a 2.5 TFSI engine with 294kW, making it the most powerful five-cylinder engine on the market.

A photo posted by Wheels24 (@wheels24_sa) on

Cockpit: from analogue to digital

The first and second generation of the Audi A3 rolled off the assembly line with an analogue speedometer and tachometer. The current A3 is available with the optional Audi virtual cockpit. The all-digital cockpit depicts the most important driving-relevant information in high resolution on a TFT screen with a 12.3" diagonal.

READ: Audi's updated sharper, smarter A3 headed for SA

The driver can switch between two views by pressing the “View” button on the multifunction steering wheel. In Classic mode, the instruments are as large as conventional analogue instruments. In Infotainment mode, however, a central window dominates. It provides more space for the navigation map or displays easy-to-read lists from the Telephone, Radio and Audio functions. Tachometer and speedometer are displayed here as small round gauges.

Light: from halogen to Matrix LED

The first Audi A3 was equipped with halogen lights. Today the hatchback comes standard with xenon headlights. Optional Matrix LED headlights illuminate the road with a light very similar to daylight without causing glare for other road users, says Audi.

15 LEDs in each Matrix LED headlight radiate from three reflectors to produce the high beam. Audi explains that a camera on the interior mirror feeds information to the controller. The controller turns individual LEDs on or off as needed, or dims them in 64 steps. The Matrix LED headlights can thus realise several million different light distributions. They specifically illuminate road signs with 30% less power to prevent glare caused by reflections.

Image: NewsPress

Assistance systems

The current generation A3 offers systems such as Audi's active lane assist and pre-sense front including predictive pedestrian protection.

READ: 5 awesome new Audis headed for SA: New R8, Q2 and more!

The optional traffic jam assist in the current A3 maintains distance to the vehicle ahead in traffic. If the customer combines the traffic jam assist and S tronic, the A3 automatically sets off again following brief stops. In slow-moving traffic up to 60km/h on well-paved roads, the traffic jam assist even takes over the steering - a key step toward piloted driving.

Image: NewsPress

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