Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz resume battle in the compact sedan segment, but the names might not be immediately recognisable.
Nope, the A4, 3 Series and C-Class takes a backseat and a new crop of sedans are now flicking their LEDs to garner attention from wealthy millennials or boomers trading down to a smaller, stylish four-door saloon with a badge that makes your friends jealous.
Say hello to the A3 Sedan, the first-ever BMW 2 Series, and the all-new A-Class Sedan. Orders on the latter two can be placed with your nearest dealership, but you'll have to wait until the second quarter of 2021 to see the four-ringed sedan in South Africa.
Because we haven't been able to drive them yet, we'll look at them on paper first. All three bizarrely have their power sent through the front wheels. It's not as expensive and complicated to manufacture and buyers in this segment frankly don't care.
All three offer seating for up to five people, and the BMW boasts the largest boot capacity with 430 litres compared to the Audi's 425 litres, and the Mercedes' 420 litres.
These are sophisticated small luxury cars crammed with digital infotainment systems that appeal to an audience that wants to be 'connected' to the vehicle.
Mercedes offers its model with the MBUX digital assistant and cabin infotainment as standard. The new A3 Sedan features the firm's 26cm virtual cockpit interface and centrally-mounted 25cm MMI touchscreen.
We reported from its local launch that Mercedes offerS the new A-Class Sedan in two engines derivatives, both of which will be familiar to A-Class hatchback owners: a turbocharged 1.33-litre and boosted 2.0-litre. The smaller engine is good for 120kW and 250Nm, whilst the 2.0-litre capacity turbo motor registers 165kW and 350Nm.
A two-litre turbodiesel engine badged 200d is also available with 110kW and 320Nm. All models are offered with an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Pricing starts from the R544 840 for the A200 in Progressive specification.
The Bavarian has a three-model range: 218, 220d and the flagship 235i xDrive. The 218i features a 1.5-litre three-cylinder motor with 103kW and 220Nm.
The 220d features a 2.0-litre diesel mill that produces 140kW and 400Nm of torque. All models use an eight-speed automatic gearbox. The 235i xDrive implements a 2.0-litre petrol motor that pushes out 225kW and 450Nm to all four wheels. 0-100km/h is said to be under five seconds.
Audi's local range is yet to be confirmed but in Europe engine options see two petrol and one diesel (two 1.5-litre TFSI units and one 2.0-litre TDI) offered at launch with a six-speed manual offered on the 35 TFSI model as standard. A seven-speed dual-clutch is also available.
The '35' model is powered by a 1.5-litre turbocharged engine with 110kW, Audi says this engine combines cylinder-on-demand efficiency with a 48-volt mild hybrid system capable of recovering energy during deceleration, supporting the engine with up to 50Nm of additional torque.
As mentioned, the A-Class and BMW are currently on sale with the former priced from R533 500, which gets you an A200, R581 520 for the 200d and R620 000 for the flagship A250.
The new 2 Series Gran Coupe will set you back R515 000 for the 218i, R595 000 for the 220d model and R725 000 for the performance-orientated 235i xDrive.
We'll know more about what local specification and pricing will be for the A3 closer to its local launch.