Audi launches the A3 compact luxury sedan in India

Despite being the latest entrant of the fabled German trio, Audi stormed to the top of the luxury car segment in India, riding on the success of its Sport Utility Vehicles. The Q7, Q5 and Q3 are still hot-sellers in their segments and the A4 too seems to be doing well for itself, going by the increasing number of them spotted on roads. The rise to the top might have been a simple affair for Audi, but it knows that there is a tough fight on hand to stay there. If the A3 sedan, launched in New Delhi today at mouth-watering prices, is any indication, Audi is well prepared. 

Launched in four diesel and a sole petrol variant, A3 is the first compact luxury sedan in India. While the base diesel variant, dubbed Attraction, is priced at INR 22.95 Lakhs, the top-end Technology variant costs INR 32.66 Lakhs, a whooping 10 grand higher. There are two variants in between, Premium and Premium Plus retailing at INR 25.95 and 29.95 Lakhs respectively. The petrol variant, in Premium Plus trim, costs INR 28.95 Lakhs. All prices are ex-showroom Delhi. While local assembly at its Aurangabad plant might have helped Audi in pricing the A3 competitively, the killer entry tag shows that it is gunning for big volumes.

Audi has introduced a new badging nomenclature in the A3, with the diesel and petrol variants sporting 35 TDI and 40 TFSI badges. This new nomenclature helps us differentiate high-power variants from the low-power variants sporting the same engine, something that wasn't possible visually before. Volkswagen Group's famous 2.0-liter diesel engine with 143 bhp of maximum power and 320 Nm of peak torque does duty in the A3 too. The petrol variant has a 1.8-liter turbocharged engine under the hood with 180 bhp of maximum power and 250 Nm of peak torque. While the diesel engine is mated to a 6-speed dual-clutch S-Tronic transmission, the petrol variant uses a 7-speed unit.

Externally, the A3 is obviously inspired by all the other sedans in the lineup. Sporting sharp headlights with characteristic kinks, a chrome-garnished hexagonal grille, a strong shoulder line connecting the lights at the front with those at the rear and those stunning scooped-in taillights, the A3 looks extremely impressive. It might not have its own identity in the Audi lineup, but who cares? The interiors are a different ballgame though. The chunky, 4-spoke steering wheel is unmistakably Audi but the minimalist dashboard with circular air-conditioner vents, pop-up Multi Media Interface (MMI) screen and a thin array of buttons look elegant.

The mid and top variants of the car are reasonably loaded with dual-zone climate control, cruise control, electronic parking aid, electrically-adjustable front seats, leather upholstery, xenon headlamps with automatic range adjustment, fog lights and an optional panoramic sun roof among others. The base Attraction variant loses most of these equipment though. Seven airbags and a 7-inch MMI screen are standard across the range but the Touch control with handwriting recognition is exclusive to the flagship Technology variant.

The A3 looks good inside and out, features impressive kit, sports the much-aspired-for 'sedan' body style and, most importantly, boasts an "Audi" badge. Not for nothing then was the A3 crowned the 2014 'World Car of the Year'. Combine all these with killer pricing and the A3 is a definite blockbuster in the making. Do we see Mercedes-Benz scrambling across to bring in the CLA? Until that comes along, its going to be a cakewalk for Audi. What's your move, BMW?

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