Hatchbacks are king in Europe where compact saloons have struggled, particularly in the more prosperous northern and western markets, but Volkswagen group premium brand Audi believes there is a niche to be opened up, and it now has the ammunition to do so.

Said ammunition is the new A3 saloon which goes into UK showrooms at the end of this week.

Product manager Rob Morris said: "This is a car which we already sell in big numbers in the US and China so we already have the volumes. The market in Europe is not big but one which we think will open up, particularly in the premium compact segment."

Audi claimed the A3 sedan is the first car of its type and size in the UK and hopes demand will grow quickly.

Along with the launch of the S3 Sportback [five-door hatch], the A3 range now extends to four models including the three-door hatchback and cabriolet/convertible. Morris noted the sedan has a full set of unique body panels.

"This is not a case of a boot [trunk] just being added on, this has been specifically designed as a compact saloon with which we will challenge the traditional barriers in this segment."

The car is 11mm wider, 146mm longer and 9mm lower.

The range is priced from GBP24,275 and kicks off with a choice of two petrol engines - 1.4- and 1.8-litre - and a twp-litre diesel. A 1.6 diesel, which emits just 99g/km of CO2, will follow towards the end of the year with quattro 4WD versions arriving from the first quarter of 2014.