Audi's A3 sedan, which debuts on the eve of the New York auto show this week, will compete with the forthcoming Mercedes-Benz CLA for young luxury buyers.
Journalists will get a preview of the A3 on Tuesday, March 26, in New York, but the car will not appear on the show floor. Technically, its public debut will be at the Shanghai auto show, three weeks later.
The A3, which is scheduled to go on sale early in 2014, will be smaller and less expensive than the A4 sedan.
It succeeds the A3 Sportback, a five-door pulled from the U.S. market after the 2012 model year.
A redesigned A3 hatchback has gone on sale in Europe but not in the United States, where hatchbacks are less popular than sedans.
"The sedan body shape is in high demand in the U.S. market, and we are pleased to satisfy this customer preference," Audi CEO Rupert Stadler told U.S. reporters during a phone conference this month.
The A3 Sportback was Audi's least expensive model in 2012, starting at $28,165, including shipping. But just 7,205 units were sold in the United States last year, compared with 35,415 units of the A4 and its high-performance S4 variant.
Audi, which aims to sell 200,000 cars in the United States by 2018 -- up from about 140,000 last year -- wants more from its entry-level offering. Scott Keogh, president of Audi of America, said he expects the A3 sedan to become one of three volume models at Audi, along with the A4 and the Q5 crossover.
The small luxury car segment is one "we clearly want to own and will be aggressive with," Keogh said.
Audi's archrivals, Mercedes-Benz and BMW, are chasing the same young customers. Mercedes has said it plans to set the price of the CLA below $30,000.
Audi has not announced a price for the A3 sedan, but, Keogh said, "We will make it competitive, and we will make it successful."
A concept version of the A3 sedan debuted at the Geneva auto show two years ago with a sloping rear roofline, though the rake was not as dramatic as that of Audi's A7 four-door sedan.
Spy shots of the A3 sedan on the Internet suggest Audi has kept a coupelike silhouette.
The car will be built in Gyor, Hungary. A second production site is likely to follow in China, which Audi sees as the other key market besides the United States.