If you’re not already used to the acronym ‘MQB’. Volkswagen’s ultra-flexible, lightweight, part aluminium, part high strength steel modular platform is rolling out across all VW’s mainstream brands. It’s light, it’s strong and as easy to turn into a large saloon as a small hatchback.

For Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda and Seat it brings unprecedented economies of scale. It will save them vast amounts of money over the lifetime of the platform as its engineering costs are amortised over so much time and so many other products.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior

Editor-at-large
One tester said the cabin reminded him of his iPod, in that it combines technical sophistication with simpler control logic — fewer buttons and dials, not more. It’s rare in that regard — unique, even

For you, the quality hatchback prospector, compared to the old Audi A3, MQB removes 80kg from the weight of the structure, improves crash safety and liberates more interior space.

Over it, Audi has draped a shape so utterly familiar you can park a new Audi A3 next to the old and not only struggle to tell one from the other but, once your eyes have picked out the myriad differences, still not be entirely sure which is the new car. The 2016 facelift certainly makes that process slightly easier - although only when you look from the front - as the bonnet has sharper crease lines and the headlights have gained an unfortunate looking extension.

Top 5 Family hatchbacks

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Audi range

Driven this week

The three-door A3 engine line-up is a mix of turbocharged petrols and diesel engines. The range kicks off with a 114bhp, three-cylinder, 1.0-litre petrol, and is topped with a 2.0 TFSI unit pushing out 197bhp, partnered with Audi's four-wheel drive quattro system. The 1.4 TFSI engine has been dropped in favour of a higher capacity 1.5 with lower internal friction and the ability to switch off when you are on the throttle, all to help improve efficiency but not at the expense of performance.

Those after a hot version of the three-door A3 will be pleased to know the S3 remains an option - powered by a 305bhp 2.0 TFSI unit capable of flinging the premium hatch to 62mph in just over five seconds with a manual gearbox (expect that time to be in the 4.5sec area with the auto 'box), while Audi claim it can breach 40mpg on a combined cycle. Stepping up further takes you into true hot hatch territory, with the 394bhp, turbocharged 2.5 five-cylinder RS3 capable of sub 4.0 second 0-62 times.

The diesel line-up is entirely more conventional. A single, 114bhp 1.6 TDI starts the range off, while the crux of the oilburners sold will come from two 2.0 TDI units producing 148bhp and 181bhp respectively, both of which are available with quattro. The A3 range is driven through either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed automatic.

Predictably enough, suspension is by McPherson struts at the front and a fully independent multi-link rear axle for all versions, rather than just the expensive models like the Golf upon which it is based. There are three states of suspension tune: standard, sport and S-Line, though the last of these is available only with the top of the range S-Line trim.

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Audi range

Driven this week