The Audi S3 was one of the first premium hot hatches when the first-generation car hit the scene before the turn of the millennium.
Since then, some 10,000 examples have been sold in Australia. Audi says over three generations, particularly the most recent iteration, the all-paw turbocharged S3 accounts for around a quarter of all A3 sales.
Now, there’s a new one. Taking on all the design and technology developments of the latest A3, the 2022 Audi S3 features the full-on European engine tune for the first time – no longer does our ‘hot climate’ warrant a detuned powertrain.
Is it worth your hard-earned dollars, considering competition from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and even its Volkswagen parent is so fierce?
How much does the Audi S3 cost?
Pricing for the latest S3 kicks off at $70,700 before on-road costs for the five-door Sportback hatch, and $73,200 before on-roads for the S3 Sedan. These stickers are $800 up on the original price and specs announcement.
That’s a price rise of around $6500 and $7400 respectively over the previous model, though the new generation offsets the markups with a more powerful engine and more standard equipment. More on that in a bit.
It’s worth noting that rivals have increased in price too. The BMW M135i lists for $71,900 before on-roads, while the Mercedes-AMG A35 is priced from $77,869 as a hatch and $79,169 as a sedan.
Even the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R – which shares much of the S3’s running gear – has jumped up in price. Due in Australia within months, the new R will be priced from $65,990 before on-roads after a recent price cut that saw the Harman Kardon premium sound system removed as a result of the global semiconductor shortage.
2022 Audi S3 pricing:
- Audi S3 Sportback: $70,700
- Audi S3 Sedan: $73,200
All prices exclude on-road costs.
What do you get?
Audi S3 highlights:
- 19-inch alloy wheels
- Matrix LED headlights
- Adaptive dampers
- 10.1-inch MMI touch infotainment system
- Satellite navigation
- Wireless Apple CarPlay
- Wired Android Auto
- 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit cluster
- Qi wireless phone charging
- 15-speaker 680W Bang & Olufsen sound system
- DAB+ digital radio
- Keyless entry and start
- Dual-zone climate control
- Fine Nappa leather upholstery
- Power front seats with four-way power lumbar
- Heated front seats
- Colour-adjustable ambient lighting
- Hands-free power boot release (sedan)
- Rain-sensing wipers
- Leather-wrapped steering wheel
- Stainless steel pedals
- Semi-autonomous parking assist
The Premium Plus ($3990) package adds:
- Panoramic sunroof
- Head-up display
- Surround-view camera
- Power driver’s seat with memory
- Heated, power-folding exterior mirrors with memory
Standalone options include:
- Privacy glass
- Panoramic sunroof
- Hands-free power tailgate (Sportback)
A black exterior styling package is also available for $1500.
Is the Audi S3 safe?
ANCAP has only rated front-wheel drive versions of the Audi A3 – five stars, naturally. The 40 TFSI quattro and S3 versions remain unrated.
The 2020-dated safety rating for the A3 35 TFSI was based on category scores of 89 per cent for adult occupant protection, 81 per cent for child occupant protection, 68 per cent for vulnerable road users and 73 per cent for safety assist.
The S3 comes standard with:
- AEB with pedestrian/cyclist detection
- Lane-keep assist
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Adaptive cruise control with stop/go
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Safe exit warning
- Front, front-side and curtain airbags
- Reversing camera
- Front and rear parking sensors
In addition to the above safety equipment, there’s dual frontal side chest and side curtain airbags as standard, as well as a front-centre airbag in line with the latest ANCAP and Euro NCAP criteria.
What is the Audi S3 like on the inside?
Having spent a bit of time with the previous A3 – regarded as having one of the best compact interiors – this generational overhaul brings some tangible improvements, as well as some steps back.
First up, the good. I absolutely love the look of the fine Nappa leather-trimmed front sports seats, featuring diamond quilting and available with black or grey hide – the former offered with either grey or red contrast stitching. They’re electrically adjustable (new with this generation) with four-way lumbar as well as heated, though memory for the seat and mirrors is part of a package.
Likewise, the perforated leather steering wheel feels excellent and is just gorgeous to look at. Audi augments high-quality touch points with some of the best displays in the business, and the S3’s 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit and 10.1-inch MMI touch screens are top-notch.
As standard, the interior is accented with real aluminium inserts, with lovely exposed carbon elements optional. There’s a bit of flair in the shape and operation of the interior air vents, and speaking of the ventilation, Audi has kept physical switchgear for the climate controls. They’re far more intuitive than the related Golf’s screen-based digitised touch inputs.
Something that might take a bit of getting used to is the teeny-tiny shifter that seems to be rolling out across the Volkswagen Group at the moment. My take is that it’s not as nice to look at or use as a physical shifter, but it does the job fine.
Now, the other not-so-good parts.
There’s a higher ratio of hard, scratchy plastics throughout the mid- and lower tiers of the cabin. While it’s easy to palm it off as “not what you touch”, there’s a difference visually in contrast to the nicer soft-touch bits, and it just doesn’t feel as good as the old one.
We’re seeing this trend across the industry, so Audi isn’t alone. Plus, there’s still a premium ambience and the cockpit feels built to last even in the more hard-wearing areas – though less gloss black would be nice so the dashboard and console don’t get covered in fingerprints and dust.
The rear seats are decent for the class, though the front sports seats eat into knee room and limit frontward visibility.
Amenities include a fold-down centre armrest with cupholders, rear air vents and a 12V power outlet. The rear seats also split 40:20:40 in both the S3 Sportback and S3 Sedan.
ISOFIX anchor points feature on the outboard seats too, and there’s net-type map pockets behind both front seats.
Floor mats are standard in all versions of the A3 and S3, with the S model getting units featuring contrast stitching.
One of the key differences between the Sportback and Sedan body styles is the boot area, with each offering their own advantages and drawbacks depending on how you look at it.
The S3 Sportback features 325 litres with all five seats in place, down some 60L on the front-drive A3 Sportback due to the all-wheel drive hardware under the boot floor. The S3 Sedan features the same 325L, which is down 100L on the FWD A3 Sedan.
Both models get luggage compartment nets to hold loose items down, while the sedan has a power-opening bootlid with gesture control as standard – though no electric closing. Optionally available on the S3 Sportback is a full power tailgate with gesture control.
In place of a spare wheel under the boot floor, all versions of the Audi A3 and S3 have a tyre repair kit.
What’s under the bonnet?
The 2.0 TFSI four-cylinder turbo petrol in the Audi S3 has received a power bump in this latest generation.
Outputs are quoted at 228kW (+15kW) and 400Nm (+20Nm), meaning Australia now gets the same tune as the European market.
Peak power comes on tap between 5450 and 6500rpm, while all 400Nm of torque is available from 2000rpm through 5450rpm.
We also now get the latest EU6 emissions technology meaning a petrol particulate filter (PPF) is fitted.
Drive is sent to a front-biased quattro all-wheel drive system via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission as standard, the former claimed to be more predictive and quicker to react than before. The S3 also features torque vectoring via braking.
Audi says the new S3 Sportback and S3 Sedan will dash from 0 to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds, and hit a top speed of 250km/h.
Fuel use, meanwhile, is rated at 7.3-7.4L/100km on the combined cycle (Sedan-Sportback). CO2 emissions are quoted at 166-170g/km.
The Audi S3 features a 55-litre fuel tank in both body styles, with strictly premium unleaded fuel required – otherwise you run the risk of causing costly repairs to the exhaust treatment systems.
How does the Audi S3 drive?
The drive route for the media launch took us out of Hobart and through some of the twisty forest roads used for stages of Targa Tasmania. I was piloting the bright Turbo Blue sedan pictured – there’s a weight penalty of 5kg in the sedan, there’s little differentiating the two body styles.
While most S3 owners will likely spend most of their time driving from home to work, S models, particularly more compact nameplates like the S3, have a bit of fun factor dialled in on top of the straight-line performance.
Almost as soon as we left Hobart we were climbing Mount Wellington and navigating high-speed, twisty roads in the Tasmanian high country.
The S3 felt right at home. Here the quattro all-wheel drive system grips hard and inspires heaps of confidence even when rain starts to fall, and the taut chassis turns in sharply before you plant your right foot and shoot out of corners with all 400Nm.
Compared to the previous-generation A3/S3 – as well as my own Golf GTI – the new S3 feels a little lower and wider, lending it a more hunkered-down feel as well as making you feel like you’re in a larger vehicle.
Performance from the 2.0-litre turbo is impressive. There’s a really meaty mid-range that pulls right through to the top end, and burbly engine note, while partly synthesised, is joined by real cracks from the exhaust on upshifts as well as some fun pops and crackles on overrun in its ‘Dynamic’ setting.
Even though peak torque comes in at 2000rpm, there’s plenty of grunt further down so you don’t get that laggy sensation between throttle input and engine response. The seven-speed transmission does a good job snapping into the right gear when you need it, and quickly upshifting when you want it – courtesy of the paddles.
The standard progressive steering system does a reasonable job weighting up as the speed and intensity climbs, though while it’s accurate and direct in feel, in typical Audi fashion it’s not super communicative. I don’t mind it given the fluidity, but for those wanting a real hardcore hot hatch may not be so forgiving.
Audi’s drive select system offers a range of modes, including Efficiency, Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual. Each mode adjusts throttle response, steering weight, damper rate and engine sound intensity, showcasing the breadth of ability and personality available in the S3.
Comfort mode, for example, is genuinely comfortable and pliant even with the Aus-market S3’s standard 19-inch wheels and 235/35 Bridgestone S005 low-profile performance tyres.
This wheel and tyre package does transmit a bit of noise into the cabin on coarse-chip roads, but it’s far from what we would call unrefined. In fact, it’s arguably better insulated than the BMW M135i and the AMG A35.
Once on the highway between Tasmanian country towns, it was easy to sit back and relax as the S3’s adaptive cruise assist system did the bulk of the work, combining adaptive cruise and lane centring functions to facilitate Level 2 autonomous highway driving.
Particularly at higher speeds, the S3’s ride settles nicely and it’s a perfectly capable long distance tourer.
We’ll have to spend more time with the S3 (and the A3) to get a better idea of how it handles CBD life, but first impressions are quite good off the back of this country-focused drive.
One complaint from me would is that the adaptive cruise control only adjusts in increments of 10km/h at highway speeds, and adjusting the Audi Drive Select modes on the fly is a little awkward given the button is positioned low on the centre stack and on the side further from the driver.
I’d also like to get a clearer sound from the exhaust when it’s in Dynamic popping and cracking on overrun. Some of the sounds would have been genuinely loud and smile-inducing in the moment but the cabin is quite insulated from the back of the car – at least in the sedan I was driving. More theatre please, Audi.
How much does the Audi S3 cost to run?
As of January 1, 2022, Audi Australia covers all its vehicles with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty – including S, RS an e-tron models.
There’s also five years warranty cover for body and paintwork, as well as 12 years of bodywork corrosion cover.
Scheduled maintenance can be covered by an Audi Genuine Care Service Plan, which spans five years or 75,000km – whichever comes first. For the new S3, this package is advertised at $2580.
The trip computer in our test car was showing fuel economy figures in the nines at the conclusion of the launch drive, which is pretty darn good considering a significant portion was spirited driving on mountain roads.
CarExpert’s Take on the Audi S3
While the new S3 isn’t a game changer for the premium compact performance segment, it further refines the already capable foundations laid by its predecessor.
By being consistently good across just about every metric, the 2022 Audi S3 presents as one of the more compelling products in the class while also being one of the more affordable.
It’s a great daily performance car, with great long-distance potential, a reasonably practical cabin, and a willing drivetrain that’s as effortless as it is muscular. There’s also just about every bit of tech you could ask for.
Where it could be caught out is against its Golf R sibling, which gets a more powerful version of the same engine as well as a trick new rear axle with clutch-actuated torque vectoring and a drift mode – features that in Audi’s case are reserved for the flagship RS3 with its five-cylinder engine.
The Golf will also be around $4000-5000 cheaper, which in the minds of many buyers will present better bang-for-buck from a performance perspective, though the extra spend for the Audi brings a more sophisticated look and feel, and a wider range of personalisation options.
If you appreciate the understated nature the S3 nameplate brings, this latest iteration truly is the thinking man or woman’s hot hatch (or sedan). It barely puts a foot wrong.
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