The West

Small siblings a stepping stone
Audi A3 Sportback. Supplied picture

Small premium vehicles may still fill a niche market segment, but they are seen as extremely important by manufacturers because they open the brand up to a new group of buyers.

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This is why we have seen a plethora of new products in this category in recent years and why Mercedes-Benz will make a return next year with its second- generation A-Class hatch.

We will also see a new Audi A3 in the first half of next year. It will be the first car to feature the Volkswagen Group's innovative MQB modular platform.

This platform not only helps to considerably reduce the weight of the compact hatch but will provide Audi with the flexibility to fit a variety of engine types, including hybrids and electric.

The replacement for the ageing outgoing model was revealed at the Paris Motor Show last week.

As with the three-door variant (which will not be sold in Australia) unveiled in Geneva in March, the exterior styling is more evolution than revolution, retaining design cues not just from the previous version but also the rest of Audi's larger passenger fleet

The new Sportback is slightly larger than its predecessor, with the extra space creating more legroom for rear-seat passengers and an additional 15 litres of cargo space - 380 litres or 1220 litres with the seats folded.

Initially, Australian buyers are likely to have the option of a 103kW 1.4-litre petrol engine that will come standard with cylinder deactivation, cutting it down to two cylinders when cruising, and 2.0-litre TDI engine that produces 110kW/320Nm.

Both engines will have stop/ start technology and be matched to a seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch automatic with optional paddle shifters.

Audi also used Paris to reveal its new, hot-looking RS5 Cabriolet.

It is not only one of the best- looking convertibles on the market, it is powered by Audi's renowned 4.2-litre naturally aspirated V8, the only model in the German car maker's line-up to retain the engine.

Mated to a seven-speed DSG transmission, it generates 331kW and 430Nm, which propels the soft-top from 0-100km/h in just 4.9 seconds. Despite these lofty figures, Audi claims an impressive combined-cycle fuel consumption figure of 9.1L/100km.

Compared with the regular four-seat convertible the RS5 rides 20mm lower. Its lightweight "acoustic hood" can be locked away in the boot in just 15 seconds and put back up again 17 seconds later. The operation can take place at speeds up to 50km/h.

Equipment highlights include 19-inch alloy wheels, revised front and rear bumpers, a carbon-fibre boot-lid spoiler and LED front and rear indicators. All other equipment, including the full suite of electronic driver aids, is carried over from the A5 range.

The RS5 will go on sale in Europe early next year but Audi is not confirming the timing of its Australian arrival just yet.

The West Australian

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