From inception to the latest design, a concise history of the Audi A3.
First released in 1996, the Audi A3 marked the German manufacturer’s return to producing smaller vehicles and was the first model to be produced on the ‘PQ34′ platform – this meant it bore more than a passing resemblance to the Mark 4 VW Golf. Initially only available in a three door format, the Audi A3 was the second Audi model to use five valves per cylinder and came with an inline four cylinder configuration.
In 1999, Audi updated the A3 line up with the introduction of two more powerful engines, including the 1.8 Turbo rated 180 PS and the 1.9 TDI diesel engine, and a five door format. A year later the Audi A3 was given a facelift and was treated to new headlights, an optional six speed manual gearbox and a number of minor cosmetics changes such as an updated and improved interior.
Although commended on most aspects, the Mark 1 Audi A3 received less than glowing reviews from the Euro NCAP tests. The three door Audi A3 received 25 points for adult occupation and just 12 points for pedestrians, with the body quick to criticise the model’s lack of protection and design.
The second generation Audi A3 was launched at the Geneva Motor Show in 2003. Designed by iconic designer Walter de’Silva, the new and improved three door A3 featured a redesigned and roomier interior, four cylinder engines and a new platform (PQ35). By mid 2003 the line up had been expanded to include two new sports-styled models; the 2.0 Turbo-FSI version rated 200 PS and the 3.2 L VR6 engine.
The Audi A3 also went on sale in the North American market in 2005 and a new “S Line” trim level was added to the line up which offered new decorative elements to motorists. Despite offering more protection than the original A3, the second generation didn’t fare much better in the Euro NCAP tests and scored just one star out of a possible four for pedestrian safety.
Audi introduced a number of key changes to the second generation A3 in 2008 which included new nose and tail styling and the inclusion of the iconic daytime running lights.