Perhaps it’s the same-same looks, or Audi’s ever growing range of models, but this third-generation Audi A3 nearly slipped under our Geneva radar. It is instantly familiar, as if we’ve seen it all before, but put the new A3 side-by-side with the model it replaces, and the evolution becomes obvious.

Apart from a few Sportbacks by Euromobil, the A3 was never really marketed here, but the hatchback is a very important model for Audi. Over its production life to date, the A3 model series has represented over 20% of total Audi sales. The four-ringed premium compact is very popular in its home continent, Europe.

The new A3 appears more dynamic than before. Its length of 4,237 mm and height of 1,421 mm are pretty much unchanged, but the wheelbase is up by 23 mm to 2,601 mm. The front overhang is now shorter, width is increased by 12 mm, and there’s more rake to the C-pillars. The single-frame Audi radiator grille is the current and sharper new version. Xenon plus technology together with LED DRLs are available now, with full LED headlights in the pipeline.

Audi has made the A3 80 kg lighter than before. Components made of form-hardened and hot-formed steels form a strong structure in the underbody, pillars and roof arch. Elsewhere, high-strength and ultra-high-strength steel grades are used. The engine hood and fenders are made of aluminum, which saves over 9 kg. The 1.4 TFSI model, for instance, weighs just 1,175 kg, significantly less than rivals.

Unlike the exterior, Audi chose a new direction for the cabin design. The old A3’s conventional dash with a tall centre stack makes way for a minimalist look also seen on the A1. The reason why it can look so simple is because many functions have been integrated into the MMI system, which projects info on a seven-inch pop up colour display. The screen’s 11 mm thin housing is made from magnesium.

The top spec MMI navigation plus with MMI touch has a touchpad for input of letters and numbers by finger motion. A Bang & Olufsen sound system (705W amplifier, 12 channels, 14 speakers, 5.1 sound) is also available.

The new A3 will launch with three new four-cylinder engines – a 1.4 TFSI (122 hp/200 Nm), a 1.8 TFSI (180 hp/250 Nm) and a 2.0 TDI with 150 hp and 320 Nm. The 1.8 TFSI is mated to a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch gearbox, while the other two come with a six-speed manual gearbox. Compared to the previous model, fuel economy has been improved by about 12% on average.

Audi’s quattro AWD and other engines – including a 1.4 TFSI with cylinder on demand tech – are a few months away. Also coming soon are low-emissions variants, including a CNG version and a 1.6 TDI that consumes just 3.8 liters of diesel per 100 km.

Audi drive select is standard on selected trim levels. With it, the driver can alter steering, accelerator pedal and transmission characteristics. It also incorporates the optional adaptive shock absorbers that utilise magnetic ride technology.

The highlight in the driver assistance systems list is Audi adaptive cruise control. This one helps maintain a desired distance to the car ahead by accelerating and braking – up to 150 km/h. If one orders the assistance package, which combines several systems, the control range is extended up to 200 km/h. Nothing groundbreaking, but in this segment and size of car, it’s unique.