Today's crop of 3-Series, C-Class and A4s has experienced the same growth spurt as other segments over the last few decades, meaning each has lost the 'compact' appeal associated with their 1980s and early 1990s predecessors.
But now the small executive saloon, it seems, has returned. Hurrah! Audi is latest to display its wares, following the Mercedes-Benz CLA's unveiling last year, and the new A3 Saloon will hit the UK market in Autumn.
Audi is far too wise to simply tack an ungainly boot onto its A3 hatchback, and the A3 and S3 saloon's slick shape is testament to this. Audi calls it a "cross between the classic three-box concept and the coup philosophy. What they actually mean is it's like a slightly truncated Audi A4, but none the worse for it.
On the A3 Sportback platform the slightly squat stance and defined shoulder line - a tornado line in Audi-speak - work a treat, as does the subtle kick to the trailing edge of the boot lid. The car you see in the pictures is the S3 variant so more basic models are unlikely to look quite as aggressive - though many Audi buyers tick the 'S Line' box anyway, so the S3's styling bodes well for others.
There's also the option of fully-LED headlights from launch. Clever in the extreme, they don't just offer adaptive high and low beam, but can also optimise the beam pattern based on route data.
Launch engines include a 140 PS 1.4-litre TFSI petrol unit, a 180 PS 1.8-litre TFSI, and a 150 PS 2.0-litre TDI diesel.
The entry 1.4 features Audi's clever 'Cylinder on Demand' technology, deactivating two cylinders on low throttle loads to improve fuel efficiency when cruising. And on paper at least, it works brilliantly - the 1.4 touts an impressive 60.1 mpg average and a mere 109 g/km of CO2.
The diesel only just beats these figures with 67.3 mpg and 108 g/km, while the more powerful petrol unit still returns a respectable 49.6 mpg combined and 135 g/km - with the option of reaching 62 mph in just 7.3 seconds and topping 144 mph. As ever, a dual-clutch S Tronic gearbox is an option on some models, with a six-speed manual standard on others.
High-performance S3 models join the range in 2014, with 300 PS and 380 Nm of torque at the driver's disposal. With the S Tronic dual-clutch it'll hit 62 mph in under 5 seconds and nudge the limiter at 155 mph. Over 40 mpg is on the cards if you're not driving like a nutter, and magnetic dampers let you choose how rough or smooth your commute will be.
Cabin design will be familiar to current A3 owners - minimalist, but built like Westminster Cathedral. Technology is high up the priority list, with an infotainment system offering voice control and a touch-sensitive interface, an optional Bang Olufsen sound system, and more.
Priced from:Just out, check our Audi A3 Saloon Price Guide
Available from: Third quarter 2013
Nice though it is, are the A3 and S3 saloons interesting enough in a market kick-started by the Mercedes-Benz CLA and upcoming CLA 45 AMG? Perhaps not, though that's never bothered Audi's customers before, more swayed by the brand's subtle styling and immaculate cabins than the glitzy mini-CLS appeal of the new Mercedes.
Pricing and full specification details will be announced closer to the A3 Saloon's launch.
Update: Reviews of the A3 Saloon are out. Check out our full A3 Saloon guide. With reviews, photos, stats, videos and everything you need to know.