Audi A3 Turns 20, Celebrates Three Generations

With the A3, Audi was the first to enter the premium the compact segment segment back in 1996, before rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Introduced at the 1996 Frankfurt Motor Show, the first generation A3 was developed from the ground up using the Volkswagen Golf Mk4 platform, which followed it the year after.

Available as a three-door hatch, in three trim lines and with four different petrol and diesel engines, it was followed by a Quattro all-wheel drive variant in 1998, and a five-door body style in March 1999. Coming to round the lineup was the sporty S3, in the same year, which used a 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder turbocharged lump producing 210 PS (207 HP).

Over the years, the Audi A3 family expanded with the addition of the first open-topped variant, the A3 Cabriolet, launched in 2008, and for the third generation, the Germans made it available as a sedan. The range-topping four-door RS3 was introduced at this year’s Paris Motor Show and uses the most powerful five-cylinder engine on the market, a 2.5-liter TFSI, for 400 PS (394 HP).

Making sure that the A3 remains competitive against the BMW 1-Series, Mercedes-Benz A-Class and other competitors in the compact segment, the automaker has constantly updated it with features that include the digital cockpit, dual-clutch transmission, optional Matrix LED headlights and a large number of driver assist systems.