The Audi S3 saloon
The new Audi A3 - seen here in sporty S3 form - will go head to head with the Mercedes CLA in the battle to win over company car drivers
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The Audi S3 saloon
The new Audi A3 – seen here in sporty S3 form – will go head-to-head with the Mercedes CLA in the battle to win over company car drivers

AUDI will for the first time offer its A3 and S3 models with a saloon body shell this summer.

Small saloon cars tend not to be big sellers in the UK market, where hatches are favoured, but are popular in Eastern Europe, Asia and North America.

This makes two premium coupe/saloons to tempt business buyers

Now though, there are signs that things may be changing, at least for the premium manufacturers.

Mercedes has already launched the new CLA, a ‘baby CLS’ based on the front-wheel drive platform of the latest A-Class (read our car review here), and now Audi is joining in, so company car drivers will have to choose.

UK order books for the A3 saloon will open this summer, with the first deliveries taking place in the autumn, while the sporty 300PS S3 will arrive early in 2014.

Audi is saying that the new car lies somewhere “between the classic three-box concept and the coupe philosophy”, an indication that the company is aiming squarely at the CLA, which, like the CLS, is described by its maker as a four-door coupe.

The A3 saloon shares its extended wheelbase with the four-door Sportback version of the A3 hatch, rather than being based on the shorter three-door model.

The saloon’s engine line-up is similar to that of the hatch, and includes the option of fuel-saving Cylinder-on-Demand technology.

Like the A3 hatches, the saloon also benefits from the weight-saving advantages of the new Volkswagen group MQB platform and weighs in at as little as 1205kg. So expect those crucial business car numbers to be competitive.

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