Now that production of the Mk8 Volkswagen Golf is in full swing, we’re starting to see its various derivatives come out of the woodwork. We’ve already witnessed the unveiling of the new Skoda Octavia and SEAT/Cupra León, and now it’s the turn of the most upmarket (read: expensive) of them all – the fourth-generation Audi A3, only available in five-door Sportback form this time around.

To the uninitiated, not much has changed, but look closer and you’ll notice that the exterior design has had a substantial rework. The most noticeable difference is that the bodyside has been tucked inwards in the middle to give the illusion of heavily blistered front and rear fenders, while the “singleframe” grille is now lower and wider than before, sitting under the bonnet shutline for the first time.

It is flanked by inverted L-shaped headlights (the matrix LED versions have “digital” daytime running lights with 15 LEDs on either side, creating different patterns depending on the variant you purchase) and large fake air intakes nestled within ornate nacelles. At the rear you’ll find slim tail lights that carry the same segmented graphic as the front, along with more fake vents.

The interior is an even bigger departure from the outgoing model, with a driver-centric design that places high-mounted air vents on either side of the standard digital instrument display; the front passenger gets another pair of vents right in front of them. Elsewhere, there’s lots of gloss black trim to blur the line between decor and display – a standard-fit 10.1-inch touchscreen, to be precise.

Powering that screen is the latest Multi Media Interface (MMI) system, based on Volkswagen’s third-generation Modular Infotainment Matrix (MIB). Boasting ten times the processing power of the previous unit, it is available with a WiFi hotspot, DAB+ digital radio (online/hybrid radio optional), Google Earth imagery for navigation, car-to-X connectivity with on-street parking and traffic light information, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, wireless smartphone charging and connectivity with the myAudi smartphone app.

Later on, the A3 will also be offered with the Audi connect key to enable Android smartphones to unlock and start the car, as well as compatibility with Amazon’s Alexa personal assistant. Buyers will also be able to specify either a higher-grade Audi virtual cockpit instrument display or a plus version that measures 12.3 inches across. A head-up display is also on the options list.

Audi says there’s more interior space than before despite the minimal size increase. Measuring 4.34 metres long and 1.82 metres wide, the new A3 is only three centimetres larger in either dimension, and its 1.43-metre height and 2.64-metre wheelbase remain unchanged. The boot contains 380 litres (1,200 litres with the rear seats folded) and comes with a dual-level floor and an optional handsfree powered tailgate.

All European-market A3s will come with autonomous emergency braking, emergency steering assist and lane departure warning, with blind spot monitoring, door opening warning, cross traffic alert and park assist also available – as is adaptive cruise control and lane centring assist.

From launch, the A3 will be offered with three turbocharged engine variants, including a 150 PS 1.5 litre TSI petrol and a 2.0 litre TDI diesel with either 116 PS or 150 PS. Transmission choices are a six-speed manual and a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission with a new electronic gearlever, and all models initially come with front-wheel drive. Coming later are variants with quattro all-wheel drive, as well as mild hybrid, plug-in hybrid and the inevitable S and RS models.

Just like the latest Mercedes-Benz A-Class, the base A3 will be fitted with a torsion beam rear axle, with four-link suspension added to cars with 150 PS or more. On top of the standard setup, you can also get the car with sports suspension (standard with the S line trim) with a 15 mm lower ride height, plus adaptive dampers that also drop the car by 10 mm.