Audi unveiled the A3 for the first time in 1996, a small family car based on the Volkswagen A platform. There are only two generation of the A3 ever made, one from 1996 to 2003 and the second one from 2003 until now. The third generation A3 will be unveiled in 2010.
First generation: 1996–2003
The first generation A3 made its debut in the compact range as a three-door saloon in 1996. And it immediately established the benchmark in its market segment more than any other car at its time, the proverbial premium quality of the A3, its elegant body design and outstanding dynamic performance establishing a new trend for a new era.
Audi A3 first generation
With the A3, Audi introduced new values and, indeed, a new philosophy. The strategy of success was based on Audi’s self-imposed standards in terms of safety and quality, design and innovation carried over from the brand’s large model series and transferred to the compact segment.
The A3 was powered by a transversally mounted four-cylinder engine. Later Audi unveiled more powerful engines, including a 1.8 Turbo with 180 PS and a 1.9 TDI Diesel with pumpe-düse technology and variable geometry turbocharger.
The sporty version of the A3, the S3 was initially developing 206 hp and then 225 hp.
The second generation A3 was unveiled in 2003 at Frankfurt Motor Show. The new A3 featured both four- and six-cylinder engines with up to 250 bhp, quattro drive and the new, automatic DSG Direct Shift Gearbox.
Audi A3 second generation
The second generation, with its distinct sporting character, highly advanced technologies and the most dynamic design of any car in its class, qualifies again for the pole position that went immediately to the first-generation A3 when it appeared in 1996.
Next to the three-door hatchback model, Audi launched a five-door version in 2004. Called A3 Sportback , the new version was 8 cm (3 in) longer than the base three-door body, and includes improved rear cabin space and a larger luggage compartment (370 litres). It also received the new front grille originally introduced in the A8 W12.
In 2006 Audi launched a more powerful 2.0 TDI with 170 hp.
The S3 is powered by a 2.0 TFSI engine delivering 265 hp and is available with a standard 6-speed manual and Quattro. The second generation S3 is capable of accelerating to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 5.7 seconds.