Audi pulled the sheets off the all-new 2015 A3 sedan to select media this week at a private showing ahead of the New York Auto Show, and offered some tantalizing details about what's in store for its compact luxury vehicle.

The biggest news is that, for the first time since its worldwide introduction in 1996 as a hatchback, the A3 will take the form of a sedan. At 175.5 inches in length, the 2015 A3 sedan will slot nicely under the A4, which has been growing larger with each generation. As a compact luxury sedan, the A3 will go head to head with the new Mercedes-Benz CLA and Cadillac ATS, which also aim for the hearts, minds and dollars of Gen X and Gen Y buyers who want to step up to a luxury vehicle.

     Also: 2013 New York Auto Show

Looking at the A3 sedan's exterior, it's easy to see the family resemblance to its slightly bigger brother. Still, the new A3 has striking features that give this luxury compact its own personality. Among its outward aesthetics is a determined front fascia that includes a gaping grille and available LED lights that resemble a furrowed brow. A prominent beltline runs along the side, adding muscular definition to this little sedan, and its snubbed trunklid deftly hides a surprisingly large cargo hold.

For the cabin, Audi's team aimed to give the A3, an "A8-level interior." With that in mind, the A3 receives innovations such as a pop-up 7-inch center display that is said to be the thinnest in the industry, and the next-gen MMI module with touchpad passed down from Audi's flagship sedan. The A3 will also be available with 4G LTE connectivity and Audi's drive select system for varying degrees of comfort or sportiness. Audio lovers will be happy to know they can outfit their A3 with a 705-watt, 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system related to those found in other Audi models.

The news is just as exciting regarding what's under the hood. Here Audi is adding even more variety to powertrains offered in its smallest U.S. vehicle. The 2015 Audi A3 sedan will be available with 1.8-liter and 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engines as well as the highly efficient 4-cylinder turbodiesel. Audi announced it will also bring to America an S3 high-performance version of the car that employs an even more potent version of the 2.0-liter engine that exclusively powers all four wheels via Audi's Quattro system. The 1.8-liter 4-cylinder will churn out 170 horsepower and the torque-rich diesel will put out 150. While exact power figures for the 2.0-liter gasoline models are expected closer to launch, in its most potent S3 form, Audi pegs horsepower at nearly 300, which would make this one ferocious little car. All models will exclusively use an S tronic 6-speed automatic transmission (sorry, manual lovers).

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For those who relished the extra cargo space of the current 5-door Sportback design, there's good news on that front, too. Audi confirmed that it will not only bring a version of the mini wagon to the U.S., but that it will be a highly efficient plug-in hybrid electric vehicle that takes cues from the A3 Sportback e-tron concept that debuted at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show.

The 2015 Audi A3 and S3 sedans are to go on sale in early 2014, with the Sportback plug-in hybrid arriving in late 2014. Pricing for the A3 and S3 will be announced closer to their launch, but we expect the A3's starting price to come in just under $30,000.


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