The Audi A3 has been with us now since 1996 and, although over its three generations it has become renowned for its understated good looks, it styling development has always been a case of evolution rather than revolution.

When the A3 debuted in the European market back in 1996 it marked a return to the small family car sector for Audi for the first time since the 70’s.  That first generation of the A3 remained in production until 2003 and was based on Volkswagen’s Group A platform, which also went on to form the basis of the Audi A3, the Audi TT, the Volkswagen Golf MK4, Volkswagen’s New Beetle, and the first generations of the Seat Leon and Skoda Octavia, to name but a few.  The A3 had an advantage over the Volkswagen Golf with the option of four-wheel drive.  Minor cosmetic revisions were made in 1999, coinciding with the introduction of a 5-door model and more powerful engine options.

The engine options increased further when the second generation Audi A3 was unveiled at the 2003 Geneva Motor Show, with a 247bhp, 3.2-litre VR6-engined version joining the range as the most powerful A3.  Initially the second generation A3 was available only as a 3-door hatchback, but it was soon joined by a larger 5-door Sportback model.  A 2-door Cabriolet joined the A3 range in 2008.  Revisions in both 2004 and 2008 kept the second generation A3 fresh, and the model has sold well for Audi for almost nine years.

The third generation of the A3 was unveiled at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show, sharing the Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform as the latest Seat Leon, Skoda Octavia, and Volkswagen Golf, and is scheduled to go on sale in Europe in September 2012.