Audi S3 review: a happy middle ground?
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2022 Audi S3
- Impressive performance
- Great new interior
- Looks like an RS3
- Starts from $90k
- A lot of artificial engine noise
- Not crazy fast
In modern times, it seems that almost all performance cars can be boiled down into two engine categories.
You’ve got the large performance vehicles such as SUVs and sedans with a twin-turbo V8, and at the other end of the spectrum are the smaller vehicles with a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-banger. Obviously, there are a few exceptions to this such as Audi’s RS3 with its five-cylinder turbo, but these two power plants seem to dominate the automotive segment.
One vehicle that fits perfectly into this mold, and has done for all its life is the Audi S3, which serves as the mid-point performance-wise in the brand’s hatchback line-up.
For the latest iteration, the S3 has gotten even more defined in the line-up, now wearing bespoke body panels and packing more of a punch than ever.
Powered by the same 2.0-litre turbocharged engine as the standard A3 40, the S3 ups the ante by pumping out 228kW and 310Nm. A seven-speed dual-clutch transmission sends this to all four wheels via Audi’s iconic Quattro all-wheel drive system.
In terms of performance, it will hit 100km/h in just 4.8-seconds before topping out at an electronically limited 250km/h. Audi claims an average fuel economy of 8.2L/100km, but you might struggle to hit that considering how eager the S3 is to perform.
On the road, I was first surprised by how accommodating the ride is. Unlike other European hot hatches, comfort mode does exactly what it says on the tin, and the electronic dampers do a fantastic job of numbing even the harshest New Zealand back road bumps. As you’d expect, once Dynamic mode is selected, things get a whole lot stiffer, but the compromise here offers a much more direct drive.
Though it might not be the range-topping RS3, the performance offered by this S3 is more than enough for a modern hot hatch in my opinion. The 310Nm gives a noticeable shove off the line, and the engine will keep pulling at a significant rate past the three-figure mark. A launch control function is also included in the S3, allowing for even more shove off the line.
One element of the S3 that slightly lets in down on this front is the engine noise. As a modern car, it’s obviously heavily noise-deadened, and it seems that a lot of what makes it into the cabin is artificial noise. It’s not that I was expecting it to sound as good as an RS3, but with closed eyes, even the most hardcore Audi enthusiast would have a hard time distinguishing the note from other hot hatches.
A massive highlight of this new S3 is the interior. Audi seems to have nailed this new cabin across the A3 range, and unlike Volkswagen, has retained a few buttons. The 12.3-inch virtual cockpit is great to use, and comes with wireless Apple Carplay as well as Android Auto. The sports seats that come standard in the S3 are some of the most comfortable of their kind on the market, and although they don’t offer the same bolstering as other more track-focused seats, they’re all that’s needed.
In terms safety and assists, the S3 gets all the active modern tech that you’d want. Adaptive cruise control does come as standard, which comes as a surprise considering that it’s a $700 option in the lower two A3 models.
On the topic of price, this is where things get a bit prickly for the S3. In New Zealand, the S3 starts at $89,500, which is a lot of money for a hatchback. This is even more apparent when you consider that an A3 starts from $57,900. At the other end of the range is the RS3, which starts from north of $110,000, but ups the ante with almost 300kW from its 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine. With this in mind, working out the sweet spot of the A3 range is no easy task, but I’d say that this S3 takes the title.
In terms of other options on the hot hatch market, the options are plentiful. Just within the VW Group there are things like the Volkswagen Golf R or the Cupra Leon VZ. The obvious rivals such as the Mercedes-AMG A35 and BMW M135i are also on the table, but neither seem to be as well-rounded as the Audi.
2022 Audi S3
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo
Gearbox: 7-speed automatic, AWD