Audi A3 Sportback: The Design

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July 19, 2004

Even when glanced fleetingly in the rearview mirror, the A3 Sportback is unmistakable: its front end is dominated by the striking single-frame radiator grille with the striking continuous chrome strip. The marked tapering of the sides and the dynamic shape of the clear-glass headlights give the face of the car that self-confident and thoroughly forceful character for which Audi is famous.

The falling line of the silhouette towards the rear of the A3 Sportback, reminiscent of a coupé, picks up on the styling of its three-door counterpart. The roof arching gently to the rear binds the redesigned tail end neatly into the dynamic, road-oriented overall proportions.

As well as the expansive additional rear door, the third side window is a characteristic feature of the new side view. This is where the lower and upper horizontal lines draw closer together, accentuating the coupé-like proportions. The optional roof rails, both subtle and striking, accentuate the styling highly effectively.

With their bold contours, the round wheel arches appear to rest on foundations in the sills, which themselves are highlighted by the dynamic line. Large wheels of 16 or 17 inches in size (also 18-inch as an option) underline the impression of masculine athleticism and make the dynamic potential of the new Audi A3 Sportback clearly visible even when stationary.

The visual centre of gravity of the A3 Sportback is thus to be found at its powerful, trapezoidal rear end, creating the impression that the entire car is about to leap forward. The rear end itself features an entirely new design, with its restrained use of styling lines and the clear, graphic division of surface areas.

The geometry of the rear light units is likewise new. From their decidedly vertical orientation at the transition from the sides to the rear, they taper towards the centre of the vehicle. This emphasises the wide horizontal line below the window area and the low centre of gravity – a further visual indication of the Audi A3 Sportback’s dynamism.

As previously on the three-door model, there are one or two visible exhaust tailpipes hinting at the vehicle’s power, depending on the engine version. And the rear lights high up at the back of the car accentuate the trapezoidal design of the rear end particularly at night, giving the new Audi A3 Sportback its powerful appearance from behind.

The interior

The interior design of the Audi A3 Sportback is distinguished by two features: sportiness and elegance. This impression is conveyed by the low seat position, in typical sports car style, the high centre console and the clear, expansive composition of the dashboard. The attractive appearance of the interior surfaces and of each individual detail is the result of select material quality and a perfect finish of the highest standard.

The flush transition between the instrument panel and the door trim is again typical of Audi. The top shoulder rises subtly, tapering dynamically towards the rear. The trim strips, likewise tapered, emphasise the potent looks. The instrument cluster is housed within an almost round cover, an element that consciously echoes the design of other sporty Audi models such as the TT and the A4 Cabriolet.

The new Audi generation of steering wheels is being introduced in the compact class for the first time with the Sportback. These three or four-spoke steering wheels can be recognised by their trapezoidal central element, the lines of which allude to the design of the single-frame radiator grille.

Once again it is the design of all the details that makes the A3 Sportback a genuine Audi in every respect. To begin with, there are the car’s ergonomics: the perfect position of the gear lever as well as the accelerator pedal in an upright position as on a sports car, and the clear contours of the instruments and controls with all the precision architecture of a chronometer.

Superior ergonomic design is combined with equally outstanding aesthetic qualities throughout the car’s interior: typical examples are the round air vents with aluminium surrounds, the rotary knobs of the automatic air conditioning also with metal edging rings, as well as the generous use of aluminium-look trim on the door and glove box handles, for instance.

The trim inserts high up on the insides of the doors and rising to the rear provide a particularly dynamic note. Connecting the centre tunnel with the vertical plane of the console, two slender bars create an impression of particular lightness. It is no coincidence that this feature is reminiscent of a classic icon in modern automotive design, the Audi TT.

Glancing through to the rear, the L-shaped rear head restraints enlarge the driver’s field of view, a particular advantage when reversing into parking spaces.

Three equipment lines

The Audi A3 Sportback builds on the successful equipment line concept of its three-door counterpart. There are three lines to choose from, each of them composed with engaging thoroughness:

  • The Attraction line full of character,
  • The particularly sporty Ambition line, and
  • The exclusive Ambiente line.

    In addition to the wheels and functional distinguishing features, these lines use different colours, with different types of upholstery, steering wheels and trim inserts. Just one example: whereas the trim inserts on Attraction models are in grain-structure, matt-painted plastic, on the sporty Ambition versions they have a black or blue piano finish; on the Ambiente, they are optionally in Vavona wood.

    Substantially more space

    A significant increase in the amount of space available for all occupants bears clear testimony to the substantial progress offered by the latest addition to the A3 generation. This applies even more to the Sportback than the three-door version, because its body has grown overall by 83 millimetres. The 68-millimetre longer tail end results in both more interior length and more space in the luggage compartment. The wide opening angle of the rear doors and the outstanding amount of leg room for a car in the compact class provide easy access to the rear seats.

    A fundamental comparison with the first-generation Audi A3 reveals that the 65 millimetre longer wheelbase is translated almost in entirety into extra interior length (+55 millimetres). And the greater width of the car (+30 millimetres) results in a significant improvement in interior comfort.

    Compared with the previous five-door A3, the rear passengers in particular benefit from substantially more knee room (+40 millimetres) in the A3 Sportback. And both rows of seats enjoy significantly more shoulder room (rear +29, front +35 millimetres).

    As well as the larger dimensions overall, many improvements in the car’s design economy help to provide more interior space: the space-saving design of the handbrake lever with its Z-shaped mechanism provides sufficient space on the centre console for two additional drinks holders that are also easily accessible from the rear seats.

    All occupants benefit from easily accessible storage options, the driver and front passenger being able to use extra-large trays in the front doors and in the glove box, as well as numerous storage options on the centre console and the large storage area in front of the gear lever.

    The storage package available as an option comprises, inter alia, nets in the front-seat backrests, a storage compartment beneath the driver’s seat, a net in the front passenger’s footwell, and bag hooks with an additional net beneath the luggage compartment cover. A sun blind can be integrated into the load-area cover as an optional extra (standard for the Ambition). The optional sun blinds on the rear door windows are another new feature.

    The optional, folding centre armrest at the rear housing two cupholders and a storage box offers particular versatility. When folded down, it also provides a through-loading aperture with an optional, removable transport bag that can be used for example for carrying up to four pairs of skis or two snowboards.

    The luggage compartment of the Audi A3 Sportback is quite sufficient even for substantial transport requirements, providing a capacity of 370 litres with the rear-seat backrest in place and up to 1120 litres with the backrest folded down.

    Superior seating comfort

    The steering column adjustable for reach and height as well as the driver’s seat with the same adjustment options ensure an optimum seating position for drivers of virtually any build.

    The ergonomic design of the standard front seats in the Audi A3 Sportback incorporates attributes that make for fatigue-free driving even over long distances, combined with good lateral support when taking bends with verve. For an even more overtly sporty form of driving, sports seats are available as an optional extra (standard on the Ambition model).

    The front seats are also available as an option with electric seat adjustment and an electrically adjustable four-way lumbar support for particular comfort around the occupant’s back and effective prevention of any painful back strain.

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