The Audi A3 range was expanded to include a four-door sedan early in 2014. A sub-$40,000 starting price is attractive though on-road costs will push it over that physiological barrier but it does put this prestige German marque within the budget of many who had previously only considered less prestigious cars. 

The A3 sedan joins hatchbacks and the recently introduced convertible to really give a wide spread of choice.

STYLING

Audi designers have done an excellent job with their new A3 sedan giving it a semi-coupe appearance. Mercedes has taken the same coupe tack with its new A-Class sedan, it will be interesting to see what BMW does with its 1 Series. The big three German marques are certainly making life interesting with their continued push into lower cost models, often at the expense of top-end models from more affordable marques.

The Audi sedan's front is dominated by the single-frame grille that Audi pioneered more than a decade ago and which quickly became the company's design signature. 

The interior is very Audi in having not only a neat and functional design, but also being fitted with high quality materials.

INFOTAINMENT 

Audi A3 sedan has an eight-speaker radio system and Bluetooth phone and audio streaming with information displayed on a retractable 5.8-inch colour monitor mounted on the top of the dashboard. A 7.0-inch screen is part of the Technik option package. 

ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS

The entry level A3 Attraction we reviewed was powered by a 1.4-litre turbo-petrol engine that generates up to 103 kW of power. There's 250 Nm of torque between 1500 and 3500 rpm. It shuts down two of the four cylinders when minimum power and torque are required such as when the car is cruising on flat country roads and motorways. 

There are other powertrain combinations: Audi A3 Ambition 1.8-litre TFSI petrol lifts power to 132 kW but with the same torque figure (250 Nm) as the 1.4 but with a wider spread (1250 to 5000 rpm). When linked with the Audi quattro all-wheel drive system torque increases to 280 Nm from 1350 to 4500 revs. The 2.0-litre diesel TDI Ambition makes 110 kW, and 320 Nm from 1750 to 3000 rpm.

All engines are mated to Audi's S tronic twin-clutch automatic transmissions, six-speed in 1.8 TFSI Ambition quattro and 2.0 TDI Ambition; seven-speed in the 1.4 TFSI and front-wheel drive 1.8 TFSI. Steering wheel paddle shifts are standard in all models.

SAFETY

It comes as no surprise that the Audi A3 sedan achieves the maximum five-star ANCAP rating, it has seven airbags, including a knee-bag for the driver. 

Crash prevention and/or minimisation features include Electronic Stabilisation Control; Anti-Slip Regulation (ASR); ABS brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD); Electronic Differential Lock (EDL) and rear parking sensors. 

The optional $1800 Assistance Package fitted to our test car added adaptive cruise control with Emergency City Braking that automatically brakes the car if it detects an obstacle ahead to either prevent or reduce the impact of a collision. There's lane departure warning and high beam assist.

DRIVING

While the Audi A3 sedan is longer than the hatch, its coupe styling means it's marginally lower. There's sufficient rear seat width and headroom to fit three moderately sized adults if they don't mind a bit of squeezing. At 425 litres, boot capacity is 45 litres larger than the hatchback's and has the convenience of a lower loading lip.

Handling is safe and secure and it pushes through corners with no sign of understeer until you really push it at speeds that are unlikely to be attempted by most owners. 

Ride comfort is very good and, thanks to an all-new platform, noise and vibration levels are low. Indeed the levels of quietness and comfort are more like those of much larger, more expensive luxury cars.

There is some coarse-chip surface tyre noise on Australian backroads but we feel it isn't to annoying levels. Nevertheless, if you do a lot of country driving it might be wise to try out that sort of roads for yourself during your pre-purchase test drive.

Official combined fuel usage is 4.7 litres per hundred kilometres. In real life driving we found it sitting in the mid fives to low sixes during motorways and in country driving, rising to seven to eight litres per hundred around town.