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Audi S3 Sportback 2016 review

EXPERT RATING
7.5
Tim Robson road tests and reviews the new Audi S3 Sportback with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

Tim Robson road tests and reviews the new Audi S3 Sportback with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

Audi's line-up of lunatic versions of its broad range of cars is long and distinguished, and includes some truly insane metal. RS7, anyone?

The recently updated all-wheel drive (AWD) S3 is the entry point into Audi's array of hotness since the demise of the baby S1, and it's a very good foil for both the stock A3 and the bonkers RS3.

Audi S3 2016: SPORTBACK 2.0 TFSI S TRONIC
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.1L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$46,990

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

The A3's angular five-door shape doesn't require a lot of reworking to give it a harder edge, and a full bodykit, stock 18-inch rims and a massive spring dump instantly adds a degree of refined lout to the stock A3 hatch's mild demeanor.

The S3 is actually 25mm lower than the stock car, which is a sizable drop in ride height.

The full-size map screen in particular is terrific.

LED lights front and rear, quad exhausts and the exaggerated grille all do their part in toughening up the S3, too.

The front bar ends up being quite low to the ground, but front sensors do a good job of keeping it off parking blocks before you find them via braille.

How practical is the space inside?   6/10

Without a doubt, the star of the all-black S3 cabin is the dash screen. Easy to read and gorgeous to look at, the so-called virtual display has two main views, with each one having an array of options unto themselves.

It essentially renders the retractable centre screen all but obsolete, save for functions like sound settings and the like.

The full-size map screen in particular is terrific, and shows as much - or as little - info about the surrounds as you need.

A note of caution - playing with the screen can get a little distracting initially, and it's no different to being distracted by a phone. Fiddle with the settings at the traffic lights!

The sports focused front seats might not be powered, but they are heated and have full manual adjustment including base height front and rear as well as an extendable base cushion. They aren't massively bolstered, either.

The car's low ride height and relatively narrow rear door apertures will make it a chore to load a kicking toddler.

The rear seats are deep and comfortable according to a 190cm friend, with sufficient leg, head and toe room behind an average sized driver. There are also air vents allocated for rear seaters.

Cargo volume is rated at 340 litres with the rear seats up; it's a 40-litre drop over the front-drive A3, thanks to the S3's AWD components under the rear floor. Total load space with the 60/40 split-fold seats down is 1180 litres.

There are no rear seat flippers, but the backs fold down to an almost flat position. Kudos to Audi for including a cargo net and hooks for the rear boot space, too.

There are ISOFIX baby seat mounts on the outboard seats, but the car's low ride height and relatively narrow rear door apertures will make it a chore to load a kicking toddler.

While there are two cupholders up front, they are shallow and wide, meaning taller bottles aren't very stable. They are also tucked under the centre console, restricting height and making access tough.

The front door bottle holders, too, have sloped leading edges but a flat base, which leaves bottles rattling around in the cavity.

The centre bin is shallow but can easily hold a full size phone.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

Audi refers to the S3 as its most affordable performance car. At $62,900 plus on roads for the hatch (or Sportback in Audi nomenclature), it's reasonably well equipped for the cash, with some surprising omissions.

You'd expect things like leather trim, satellite navigation and blind spot warning, and you get them. However, the liberal use of options kits is a bit surprising.

At $62,900 (up $1800 over the previous car), the S3 hatch does get auto lights and wipers, an improved automatic parking function that can slot the S3 into a perpendicular space, auto emergency braking, basic radar cruise control, dual-zone climate control, LED headlights and taillights and side assist.

The S3's suspension is firmer than before.

A pair of S Performance packages adds adaptive dampers, sportier seats, and a better stereo for $3,490.

Add another $1500 and you can get 19-inch rims and even nicer seats.

Additional safety kit, too, is an extra cost (see below).

The Vegas Yellow of our tester is $650 extra, while metallic finishes are $1150.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   8/10

The updated S3's EA888 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine gets a slight boost in kilowatts – up three to 213kW – and a useful tweak of torque – up 20Nm to 380 from a low 1500rpm.

The seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is new and unique to the S3, with shorter low gears for a better getaway and taller gears up high for more comfortable cruising. It also has the ability to decouple itself from the drivetrain – known as coasting - when the throttle is closed to reduce drag and thereby fuel consumption.

A six-speed manual is available, and has the same gearing characteristics as the dual-clutch gearbox.

The S3's suspension is firmer than before, and it rides on front MacPherson struts that are complemented by a four-link rear end and electromechanical steering. 

Its permanent AWD set-up is a Haldex system that's designed to send more drive to the rear end depending on the setting of the five-mode drive select switch.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Audi claims the S3 Sportback can return 6.6 litres per 100km on the combined fuel economy cycle in automatic spec, and 7.1 in manual.

Our 220km test saw a dash-indicated figure of 8.2 litres per 100km.

A 55-litre fuel tank nestles underneath the S3, which weighs 1505kg in auto guise.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

There's a bit of theatre to the S3, though it's by necessity not as out there as its truly crazy RS3 brethren. Still, the S3 will ignite its unburnt fuel in the exhaust for a satisfying 'crack' on the upshift in sport.

There's plenty of talent there, but it has to be teased out of it in the right environment.

It's very tied down in its ride, but it doesn't manage to trip over into 'brittle' mode, especially with the optional adaptive dampers doing their part to soften the package around town. It's certainly sharper than a regular A3, though.

The S3 has a good turn of pace, too, with plenty of torque combining with a tight set of lower ratios to give the hot hatch a fair kick along; anything with a sub-five second dash to 100km/h is pretty capable.

Based on the VW Group's MQB chassis, the S3 is always going to be stiff and impressively quiet. It's a bit of a slow burner, the S3; there's plenty of talent there, but it has to be teased out of it in the right environment.

This is a great attribute, actually, because it means for the rest of the time you're enjoying a good looking, well-built car with driveway cred and a bit of practicality to boot.

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 comes with seven airbags, basic radar cruise control, collision pre-sense with auto emergency braking and attention assist that can tell if a driver isn't on his or her game, sounding a chime and displaying a message that a rest may be in order.

You'll need to spend $1500 to get an Assistance Package that includes a more sophisticated radar cruise that can warn of impending rear-enders at up to 200km/h, corrective steering lane assist and a high-beam assistant; no, not a tiny person flicking on high beam for you, but automatically dimming high-beam headlights.

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

Audi offers a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty on the S3. There's a service plan that covers the car for three years or 45,000km for around $1700.

Verdict

If you’re not fussed by the underplayed sophistication of the stock A3, but not quite ready for the madness of the RS3, then the S3 is a great foil for both. 

It’s a reasonably practical hatch that is comfortable for four adults, as well, which adds to its appeal.

Is the S3 too hot, too cold, or just right? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Click here for more 2016 Audi S3 pricing and spec info.

 

Pricing Guides

$44,989
Based on 63 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$38,490
Highest Price
$57,490

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
2.0 TFSI Quattro 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $38,490 – 51,890 2016 Audi S3 2016 2.0 TFSI Quattro Pricing and Specs
2.0 TFSI S TRONIC 2.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $40,990 – 57,490 2016 Audi S3 2016 2.0 TFSI S TRONIC Pricing and Specs
Sportback 2.0 TFSI Quattro 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $40,990 – 45,990 2016 Audi S3 2016 Sportback 2.0 TFSI Quattro Pricing and Specs
SPORTBACK 2.0 TFSI S TRONIC 2.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $46,990 – 48,888 2016 Audi S3 2016 SPORTBACK 2.0 TFSI S TRONIC Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.5
Design8
Practicality6
Price and features8
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption7
Driving8
Safety8
Ownership7
Tim Robson
Contributing Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$33,800

Lowest price, based on 51 car listings in the last 6 months

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