In the competitive world of premium compact cars, Audi's A3 was beginning to look a bit long in the tooth. The German automaker has now brought its midsize hatch up to date with more efficient downsized engines, a suite of active safety features and bright new LED Matrix lights.

The first step toward improving the A3's showroom appeal is a redesigned exterior. It might look remarkably similar to the current model, but the car's sharp new lights fit more closely with the design language introduced on the lightweight A4. Coupled with new 17,18 and 19-inch wheel options, the redesign takes an attractive shape and makes it even more appealing.

Thanks to the update, there's also a significant technology boost that begins with LED Matrix headlights, which use individually controlled LED units to provide optimum visibility for the driver without blinding oncoming cars. The A3 can also accelerate, brake and steer for you in a traffic jam, as well as providing a warning when there's traffic crossing behind you.

Audi is known for its beautifully wrought interiors, so it's no surprise to see it ring in the changes inside the car. The Virtual Cockpit from the TT makes an appearance, and the A3's MMI infotainment system has been redesigned to more closely mimic the menu structures we see on our smartphones and tablets.

If you're willing to drop some more money by playing around with the options on the order form, your A3 can be fitted with a navigation system that takes advantage of Google Street View and Google Earth for real-time info about traffic, and practical info about parking, weather or attractions at your destination.

Headlining the downsized A3 engine lineup is a 1.0-liter, three-cylinder petrol motor. Despite its tiny displacement the three-pot produces 85 kW (115 hp), and 200 Nm (147 lb.ft) of torque between 2,000 and 3,500 rpm. That's 15 kW (21 hp) and 20 Nm (15 lb.ft) less than the 1.5-liter three-pot from the Mini Cooper and BMW 318i is making, so we'll be interested to see if Audi's motor feels perky enough to challenge BMW's best.

Moving up the range brings a 1.4-liter petrol engine with cylinder deactivation, allowing the motor to run as a miserly two cylinder when you're not asking for the whole 110 kW (150 hp), while there's also a 140 kW (190 hp), 2.0-liter TFSI available. Finally, the range-topping S3's power output has jumped 7 kW (10 hp) to 228 kW (310 hp), and peak torque is up 20 Nm (15 lb.ft) to 400 Nm (295 lb.ft),

If diesel is more your style, the range starts with a 1.6-liter engine producing 81 kW (110 hp) – but we'd ignore that and move straight to the 2.0-liter TDI, which can be had with 110 kW (150 hp) and 340 Nm (280 lb.ft), or 135 kW (184 hp) and a chubby 380 Nm (280 lb.ft) of torque.

Audi is also offering plug-in hybrid and gas options if these petrol and diesel powerplants sound a bit behind the times. The hybrid A3 e-tron combines a 1.4-liter petrol motor with an electric motor for a total system output of 150 kW (204 hp). Electric power comes from an 8.8 kWh lithium-ion battery, which takes just over two hours to charge on a 380-volt, three-phase charger.

Finally, there the gas-powered g-tron option that, as well as running on regular fuel, can use Audi's climate-neutrally produced e-gas, which will only set you back about €4 (US$4.50) per 100 km (62 mi). Based on those figures, a full tank with its 400 km (248 mi) range will cost just €16 (US$18).

The A3 will square up against Mercedes' A-Class and BMW's 1 Series when it goes on sale next month. Pricing starts at €23,300 (US$26,480) for the 1.0-liter petrol engine in Germany.

Source: Audi

View gallery - 23 images