Audi’s new small performance sedan is impressively comfortable and refined, while also being clinically fast.
- It’s fast in a straight line
- It’s fast around corners
- At the same time, it’s very comfortable and refined
- It could use a little more aural theatre
- Pricing has gone up since the last generation
- Out-powered by the Golf R
There’s an even more hardcore variant coming soon, but one could easily argue that this 2022 Audi S3 is all of the fast, small sedan you could ever need. Using bones and a powertrain that have also recently debuted on the corporate cousin Volkswagen Golf, the Audi returns to Australian showrooms after a short hiatus.
The exterior of this might look similar in passing, but it has been updated. The 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine now has more power and torque, and the interior has been thoroughly reworked with lots of new technology.
Pricing has been bumped upwards as well. Whereas the old S3 was asking for around $65,000 before on-road costs, this new one starts a fair chunk higher at $73,200 (also before on-roads). However, there is ostensibly a lot more car on offer here.
The question needs to be asked, however. Is this new Audi S3 sedan worth the asking price? It’s a little more expensive than the Sportback (hatch), but also close on price and specification (in some regards) to the new Volkswagen Golf R.
First stepping into the 2022 Audi S3, I couldn’t help but be impressed by what greeted me. It all looks and feels classic Audi: modern, sharp and high quality. There is a design language here that is distinctly within the brand, evolving smoothly with new models and technology.
Rather than having the dual-screen affair that some new (more expensive) Audis are picking up, we’ve got a more traditional affair here: a single infotainment display followed up by physical air-conditioning buttons and power outlets further down.
Overall, it feels well made and solid. There’s a bit of ubiquitous piano-black plastic around the interior, but it’s also broken up by a pleasing variety of other materials and textures.
There are two USB-C outlets below the air-conditioning controls, along with a smartly forward-facing wireless charging pad.
There is more smart design from the twin cupholders in the middle, which have a trick folding function if you want to store something more bulky in that position.
But wait, there’s more smarts here. A little volume dial, which allows you to skip tracks or quickly adjust the volume with a flick of your finger. I haven’t seen this on another car before, and it works quite well.
The nappa leather S Sport seats look and feel good, and finished in a colour that could perhaps be inspired by Audi’s ever-popular Nardo Grey. They call it Steel Grey. The steering wheel as well – not a full-fat flat-bottomed jobbie – continues my love affair with tillers from this brand.
The second row is good too. Kids were happy in the back for me, and adults fit in reasonably well also. Air vents and power outlets help, and the seats are plenty comfortable. It’s naturally going to be a bit pokey to fit big adults in all of the time, but it’s functional and spacious enough for regularly squeezing in more than two.
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You can fit bottles in the door cards front and rear, and the Audi S3’s boot size isn’t too bad either (325L). Don’t forget this is a small car overall, but you could fit some big suitcases into the boot quite well.
|2022 Audi S3 Sedan|
Infotainment and Connectivity
Infotainment in the 2022 Audi S3 is centred around a 10.1-inch touchscreen display that’s sharp and responsive with loads of features to get through. The important ones are covered, like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, digital radio and native navigation.
The operating system itself is both aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate, with a menu on the side (and a side-down on top) allowing you to get around painlessly.
It’s perhaps made better by the fact that it doesn’t have to worry about your climate control. That’s handled by a neat row of buttons – along with a small display – lower down.
And, of course, we’ve also got Audi’s impressive Virtual Cockpit Plus tucked in behind the steering wheel measuring in at 12.3 inches and equally as clear and crispy. The full-screen mapping is a good party trick, but you can also run analogue-style gauges and keep an eye on what song’s playing on the radio. Or, you can go full minimalist.
While the Audi A3 has a recent five-star ANCAP safety result – getting an impressive 89 per cent score for adult occupant protection – this only applies to front-wheel-drive variants. So, this Quattro is effectively untested. However, you might be able to glean some information from the closely related front-wheel-drive results.
Being a top-spec model (before the RS3 arrives, at least), this Audi S3 is well stacked with standard safety equipment. There is autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection. There’s also lane-keep assistance (which is well tuned to not get in the way of normal everyday driving), rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors, reverse AEB, exit warning system and adaptive cruise control.
I also noticed a small detail: blind-spot monitoring was quick to pick up fast-moving vehicles as they approached from behind. The yellow light mounted on the side mirror housing illuminated before the car got into the danger zone, just for some additional warning.
Audi also includes a small first aid kit with the S3, along with tyre pressure loss indicators. And if that happens, you’ll be giving the tyre repair kit a workout to get moving once again.
There’s an elephant in the room in this regard, and it comes from within the same house.
I haven’t driven the Golf R, but my colleague Justin Narayan has. And after he spent time with the S3 as well, I prodded him for his opinion on how they both stand. And while both are fast, impressive and composed vehicles, there are a few advantages to spending up into an Audi over the Golf.
Some advantages lie in the quality of the ride – derived from the tuning of the adaptive dampers – as well as the quality, tactility and practicality of the interior.
For reference’s sake, the new Golf R is priced from $65,990 for the hatch or $68,990 for the longer, more spacious Golf R wagon. On the other hand, this Audi S3 goes for either $73,200 (sedan) or $70,700 (hatch).
And I see it, as well. Without driving the Golf, I can see appeal in this Audi that runs deeper than just the cachet that comes from the four rings on the grille. The Audi feels a little more grown-up as well, in comparison to the Golf.
On the other side of the coin, the S3 sedan costs you a cool $17,200 over the most expensive ‘normal’ A3 variant, the A3 40 TFSI S Line at $56,000.
And if you want some extra niceties on your S3, you’ll be needing to spend $3990 on the Premium Plus package. This nets you a panoramic glass sunroof, colour head-up display, 360-degree camera system, and driver’s memory function (which also includes power-fold mirror positioning).
|At a glance||2022 Audi S3 Sedan|
|Warranty||Five years / unlimited km|
|Service intervals||12 months or 15,000km|
|Servicing costs||$2580 (5 years)|
Servicing is covered by Audi’s five-year service plan, which is set at $2580. This equates to $516 per year, which seems reasonable for a vehicle with this kind of performance and powertrain complexity. Servicing is required every 12 months or after 15,000km, and Audi’s warranty is a good five-year, unlimited-kilometre offering.
And while the S3 offers impressive performance – which I was regularly sampling – fuel economy seemed reasonable at 8.8L/100km. That compares to Audi’s claim of 7.3L/100km.
|Fuel Useage||Fuel Stats|
|Fuel cons. (claimed)||7.3L/100km|
|Fuel cons. (on test)||8.8L/100km|
|Fuel type||95-octane premium unleaded|
|Fuel tank size||55L|
It’s not cheap at 70-odd thousand dollars, but this is a very polished overall driving experience. There are no clear weaknesses, which is important for a vehicle of this price and standing.
This car will cover for a lack of talent as well, with sharp and smart traction control in the all-wheel-drive system working to keep you controlled through corners.
The dual-clutch gearbox is smooth, and one of the best I have come across. In fact, I had to check whether it was a torque converter or not after driving for a short period. High praise indeed.
This transmission has none of the bad hallmarks associated with this kind of technology (haphazard, fiddly low-speed control), but keeps the smooth and fast thuds of gearchanges at high speeds.
The 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine – still the same faithful EA888 that has been powering fast Volkswagen Group cars for many years (in various iterations) – now has more power and torque: 228kW and 400Nm. Impressive stuff from only milk and juice cartons, right?
It feels like a very flexible motor, which is supported by the wide band of revs one can access for peak power and torque. It starts accelerating quite purposefully from 2000rpm, and it pumps up to 6500rpm quite happily.
Gearing through the seven ratios feels bang-on, with second gear being dispatched very quickly as you approach highway speeds.
It’s not as emotional as some might want. That’s because it’s so capable, grippy, fast and responsive. It’s such a sharp and well-honed machine, but could be a little more rambunctious at times perhaps. There’s not a huge amount of noise generated by the powertrain, especially in comparison to some other hotted-up competitors.
The various driving modes (Normal, Sport, Comfort, Individual and Auto) are all very good, and make a marked difference to the experience.
Active dampers are an important part of this S3 having such a breadth of capability. There’s no harsh edge of firmness like you get in other fast small cars, so while it can properly slay some back roads, it’s also adept at ploughing through traffic, potholes and speedbumps with ease and comfort.
Audi’s famed Quattro branding lives on using a Haldex-based all-wheel-drive system. Haldex is used by a variety of manufacturers, and predominantly comprised of an electronically controlled multi-plate clutch pack on the pinion of the rear differential.
As the clutch engages and disengages, it varies the amount of drive going to the rear from zero to a 50/50 split. This is all plumbed into the Drive Select system, allowing the car to constantly adjust things like damping, steering, throttle, gearbox and the all-wheel-drive system.
Selective braking during cornering – using a sharp and intuitive traction-control system – doesn’t seem to impede driving or change the feel. And it goes a long way to help improve one’s driving ability.
|Key details||2022 Audi S3 Sedan|
|Engine||2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol|
|Power||228kW @ 5450–6500rpm|
|Torque||400Nm @ 2000–5450rpm|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive|
|Transmission||Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|Power to weight ratio||143kW/t|
The old S3 was a charming and capable little car, and this new-generation model continues that tradition. It’s more expensive, but does add in a good dose of additional technology, performance and modernity for the asking price.
Of course, you could consider the incoming RS3 – with that extra half-litre of capacity and fifth cylinder – for even more performance. However, this S3 carries a big enough stick in that regard, proving to be more than enough of a companion on the right sections of road. It’s confident, capable and clinical.
But the beauty is the fact that it’s also comfortable, refined and docile at other times, meaning it can be your daily commuter without compromising on a harsh ride quality or overeager steering. And in that sense, this could be the perfect car for many.