Digital features include up to six user profiles, a wi-fi hotspot, handwriting recognition and improved natural voice control. For example, ask “Where’s the nearest Italian restaurant?” and the sat-nav system will show those nearby.

As well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant will become available by this summer.

Audi promises that the new A3 offers better comfort and dynamic properties than its predecessor in all of its forms, but particularly when aided by optional adaptive damper control, progressive steering and four driving modes.

Its MQB II architecture, which it shares with the new, eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf, is claimed to be lighter yet also more rigid than the platform it replaces.

Customer deliveries of the new A3 will start in May, with the starting price expected to rise above today’s £23,560.

The five-door hatchback and forthcoming four-door saloon (also due later this year) won’t be the only A3 bodystyles to hit showrooms. The absence of the three-door hatchback means no A3 Cabriolet will be produced this time, but Audi plans to introduce a high-riding A3 Allroad model in its absence, with crossover-like styling and a chassis tuned around all-season tyres. This is set to challenge the new Mercedes-Benz GLA from the end of 2021.

Autocar understands that there are also plans for a Mercedes-Benz CLA-rivalling five-door liftback, which is expected to arrive next year.

Q&A: Juan Carlos Huerta Martinez, A3 exterior designer

What was your goal with the new A3?

“We had a clear goal with this generation: we wanted to bring more typical hot hatch properties. The proportions are much sportier than in the previous generation and the roof line is lower, more dynamic. We don’t have the sporty three-door A3 now, so it was important to bring sportiness to the Sportback.”

What was your inspiration for the new A3?

“One reference point was the Lamborghini Countach. The A3 has the same high shoulder line [on the sides], but it’s obviously more extreme in the Countach. There’s this really dominant line [on both cars] and the surface of the bodyside faces down. It’s the first time we have the bodyside of an RS model in the A3.”

How much did you have to stay true to the A3’s well-known design?