Back in the mid-noughties, what are now the previous generations of the Audi A3, BMW 1-Series and Mercedes A-Class (in 5 door format) were starkly different. Of course, the Audi and BMW had a degree of similarity, but the 1-Series was more compact than many would have liked in the rear and the trunk. Volvo’s C30 felt like a car from half a segment below and was hurt by its 3-door only format and tiny trunk.
Consequently, the Audi A3 Sportback (5dr) did extremely well in the market – and with a new generation of these products being present at the show, it’s notable how – give or take a few millimeters – BMW, Mercedes and now Volvo have all decided that where the Audi A3 Sportback was positioned, is a very good place for their new generation products to sit.
Essentially, that means a C-segment 5-door hatch, adopting a slightly ‘wagon’-esque rear end and/or roofline. We should probably add the Lexus CT200h to the list of cars in this space too, although in many aspects of design it lags behind.
Of course, Audi are only showing the 3-door A3 here, so we’ll have to wait to find out whether it plans to repositioning the next A3 Sportback. But we wouldn’t bet on that happening. For customers in the market, there are now several very competent and apparently very similar in format cars to choose from.
That’s probably good for sales, but from a design point of view, there’s arguably less variety of format choice now than there was before. The biggest surprise though is how close the V40 feels in terms of quality and premium-ness, to both the A-Class and 1-Series. It’s far from perfect, but it’s easy to see how this car could be a hit for Volvo in the market. It hits the market sweetspot – a quality that many recent Volvos have been missing.