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Audi S3 sedan 2017 review

Audi S3 sedan
EXPERT RATING
7.5
Richard Berry has gone low-profile and high-performance behind the wheel of Audi's S3 sedan, a Bavarian wolf dressed in very stylish sheep's clothing.

Richard Berry has gone low-profile and high-performance behind the wheel of Audi's S3 sedan, a Bavarian wolf dressed in very stylish sheep's clothing.  His road test and review includes specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

Would you be comfortable wearing a flat-brimmed baseball cap in public? If you answered: “FTW! I do already, brah!” then head over to our Golf R review here. If your answer was a definite no, then stay where you are because the Audi’s S3 Sedan could be for you. And if you don’t know what a flat-brimmed baseball cap is then you might be interested in reading about a Camry here.

See, the S3 Sedan takes the boy racer recipe of crossing a little car with a high-output engine and puts it in a grown-up package – a sedan, and a small one at that. Based on the A3 Sedan the S3 is visually so subtly different from its sedate brother that only those who know would know that this car is a bit of an animal. It’s not as much of a beast as the RS3, however. That thing is brutal. 

Audi’s not the only one to cotton on to the small prestige missile concept: Mercedes-Benz has its CLA 250 Sport 4Matic and BMW has the M240i. Both awesome, and a step down from the full-blown AMG and M versions.

Audi updated the S3 Sedan just as 2016 was shutting up shop and it’s this new, quicker and smarter version we’ve road tested here.

So, what’s it like to live with? Why is sitting in the backseat a pain in the neck for me? How do the magnetic shock absorbers work? Is a virtual cockpit as good as it sounds? Where’s that noise coming from? So many questions… all answered.

Audi S3 2017: 2.0 TFSI S TRONIC
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.1L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$49,990

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

Okay, if you can spot the difference between the new S3 and the previous S3 then you’re an Audi spy or you own one, because the changes are minor.

The grille is now wider and its corners meet at sharper points, while the LED running lights, which are still integrated into the headlights, provide more of a frame around a new intricate lens design, while the outside plastic casing is more angular in its styling. The tail lights have been redesigned and the rear indicators have gone all Vegas and now use strip LED lighting which progressively illuminate in the direction the vehicle is turning. The rear diffuser has also been restyled.

The S3 is a playful and safe-feeling little missile with great pedal feel.

Picking an S3 from an A3 is tricky – they look so much alike. The easiest way to know if you’re looking at an S3 and not an A3 is if it has the beefy rear diffuser and quad exhaust tips.

Apart from those tail pipes, the S3 looks a lot like an A3, which looks a lot like an A4, and an A6, and an A8, only smaller. Which is no bad thing – it’s a sleek good looking shape and the S3 appears perfectly proportioned despite its small size.

It really is small. At 4469mm long, 1960mm wide and 1392mm tall the S3 Sedan is shorter than a Mazda3 sedan. As for its rivals the S3 is 171mm shorter than the four-door CLA 250 Sport and 37mm longer than the two-door M240i.

The cabin is refined and prestigious and shares the same materials and styling as higher-end Audis.

How practical is the space inside?   6/10

Yes, it has four doors and five seats but space in the back row is limited. Tall friends won’t be pleased sitting behind you. I’m 191cm and can only just sit behind my driving position. The bigger issue is the lack of headroom and I can’t sit up straight without having my cheek up against the roof. That’s literally a pain in the neck.

Up front you’d never know about the space issues behind you. The cockpit is roomy from the pilot’s seat, with good headroom, plenty of space in the footwell and stacks of shoulder room.

There was somebody that did love sitting in the back seat - my two year old son in his car seat. Apart from him having plenty of space, the low window sill meant he had a better view of the outside world than many other cars I’ve tested lately.

So a young family or empty nesters with grandchildren may find the size suits their life best, or treat it as a two seater with a bonus back row if you need to give people a lift.

Storage throughout isn’t great – there are no cup holders in the back, but there are two up front. You’ll find small bottle holders in the back doors and larger ones in the front.

Boot size is impressive though at 425 litres – that’s just 55 litres less than the A4’s luggage capacity. The M240i’s cargo capacity is 390 litres. It’s even bigger than the boot in the A3 Sportback hatch (340 litres), but the boot opening itself isn’t big and we couldn’t fit the CarsGuide pram in no matter how much violence we directed towards it.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

The S3 Sedan 2.0 TFSI quattro S tronic lists for $64,500 and that’s $1600 more than the S3 Sportback, but $7500 less than the S3 Cabriolet.

Standard features in the S3 Sedan include 18-inch alloy wheels, leather seats (sports buckets up front), dual-zone climate control, a 7.0-inch screen, sat nav with six monthly map updates, CD and DVD player, digital radio, 10-speaker 180W Audi sound system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as Bluetooth connectivity. There’s also the Audi virtual cockpit – a fully digital instrument cluster.

You’ll also get LED headlights, drive mode selector, front and rear parking sensors plus reversing camera and blind spot warning. There’s also new advanced safety equipment – read about that below.

It’s disappointing that features such as auto parking, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assistance, collision warning, auto headlights and even hill hold need to be bought as options, particularly when they are offered standard on many HyundaisKias and Volkswagens.

Our test car was optioned with Navarra blue metallic paint for $1150, Magnetic Ride dampers for $1600, the $850 black high gloss package and $1350 18-inch five spoke 'Turbine' design alloy wheels, bringing the total package to $69,450.

On the upside, the S3 Sedan’s list price undercuts its rivals, with the CLA 250 Sport selling for $67,600 and the M240i listing at $74,900.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   9/10

The latest S3 Sedan is more powerful and quicker than the previous one – by a smidge. Power has been increased to 213kW (+3kW) with torque staying at 380Nm and the claimed 0-100km/h time drops by 0.2s to 4.8s. It’s a better sprinter thanks to the new transmission – the six-speed dual-clutch from the previous version has been swapped for a seven-speed.

Drive goes to all four wheels thanks to Audi’s signature quattro system.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Audi says the S3 should drink premium unleaded at an average rate of 6.5L/100km when driving under combined conditions. My fuel consumption was a bit more than Audi’s serving suggestion at 11.0L/100km, but I drive like I’m on the run.

There’s a stop-start system which is great at saving fuel but it’s annoying in traffic, particularly with a DSG gearbox. The system will cut the engine when coasting to a stop which I find unnerving, particularly when I’m turning at an intersection. For these reasons, unless I need to save fuel, I’ll switch it off.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

Just say you were looking for a getaway car then the S3 may be ideal. It’s low key enough for it not to stand out and quick enough to out accelerate mostly everybody else you’ll encounter. A sprint time of 4.8s for the 0-100km/h dash is almost a second in front of Ford’s new V8 Mustang and only 0.2s behind an entry-spec Porsche 911.

The M240i is quicker at 4.6s to 100km/h, but the CLA250 Sport is way back at 6.4s.

The best part of the S3 is the driving. This thing feels sharp, agile and well balanced. There were times I wanted more grunt when climbing corkscrewing hill roads, or coming out of turns onto a straight, but that would begin to encroach into the RS3’s territory.

No, the S3 is a playful and safe-feeling little missile with great pedal feel, and an excellent low seating position. Dynamic mode can be set through the Drive Select function to adjust steering weight, change the throttle mapping and firm the dampers for better handling.

The Magnetic Ride Control system adjusts the dampers continuously to suit the situation. Charged particles in the oil inside the shock absorber align themselves when a magnetic field is applied in connection to the driving conditions – this changes the viscosity of the fluid.

The S3’s sound completes the fun package, although it's slightly artificial. There’s an actuator under the bonnet which looks like a hockey puck and vibrates to enhance the sound to a deeper growl. I’m not a fan and don’t see the need for it when the engine note would still sound great without it. Oh and yes, the S3 lets rip a burp on the upshifts.

The Virtual Cockpit is an excellent feature. You can digitally configure the instrument cluster to your own tastes – the view which reduces the speedo and tacho down and fills the screen with your sat nav map means you don’t have to keep looking across to the main display.

That main display, by the way, is looking dated and small – it’s been the same since the A3 launched in 2013, and tech (as proven by the virtual cockpit) has come a long way since then.

Mechanically, the S3 is closely related to the all-wheel drive Golf R (both being in the Volkswagen Group family), although the current version of that hot hatch is more like the old S3 with a six-speed dual-clutch and 206kW engine.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

The S3 Sedan has seven airbags and the maximum five-star ANCAP rating, but that score has really become the new minimum these days, so the way to see if a brand is going further is to look at the advanced safety equipment list. AEB with pedestrian detection (up to 65km/h) is offered for the first time in this S3 and so is rear cross traffic alert. 

For child seats there are two ISOFIX mounts in the back row and two top tether anchor points.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

The S3 Sedan is covered by Audi’s three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Owners can purchase a three-year/45,000km servicing plan for $1700. Servicing is recommended at 15,000km/one year intervals.

Verdict

The S3 Sedan is the perfect midpoint between domesticated and wild. It doesn’t have the sledgehammer performance of the BMW M240i or the bling factor of the Benz CLA 250 Sport, but for many buyers that’s just what they’re after – a low-key, quick, fun, but prestigious car.

Click here for more 2017 Audi S3 pricing and spec info.

Are the S3 Sedan's looks too subtle or do you like it low-key? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Pricing Guides

$54,990
Based on 34 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$49,990
Highest Price
$64,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
2.0 TFSI S TRONIC 2.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $49,990 – 64,990 2017 AUDI S3 2017 2.0 TFSI S TRONIC Pricing and Specs
2.0 TFSI S TRONIC QUATTRO 2.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $52,030 – 59,840 2017 AUDI S3 2017 2.0 TFSI S TRONIC QUATTRO Pricing and Specs
S/BACK 2.0 TFSI QUATTRO BLK ED 2.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $50,050 – 57,530 2017 AUDI S3 2017 S/BACK 2.0 TFSI QUATTRO BLK ED Pricing and Specs
Sportback 2.0 TFSI Quattro 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $56,100 – 64,460 2017 AUDI S3 2017 Sportback 2.0 TFSI Quattro Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.5
Design8
Practicality6
Price and features7
Engine & trans9
Fuel consumption7
Driving8
Safety8
Ownership7
Richard Berry
Senior Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$49,990

Lowest price, based on 10 car listings in the last 6 months

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