- Doors and Seats
4 doors, 5 seats
2.0T, 4 cyl.
- Engine Power
Petrol (95) 7.3L/100KM
7 Spd Auto (DCT)
5 Yr, Unltd KMs
- Ancap Safety
We head to Hobart, Tasmania, to sample the new fourth-generation Audi S3 range.
- Composed, fast and fun
- New interior layout
- Standard kit and pricing are appealing
- Cabin can be noisy depending on the road surface
- Small boot is now smaller
- Seat memory and head-up display should be standard
In the second half of 2020, Audi stopped building its best-selling passenger car for Australia.
There’s no need to recap on why for fear of sounding like a broken record, but I’m sure Audi Australia felt the pain when its third-generation Audi A3 was discontinued and its fourth-generation replacement delayed.
I’m sure Australian customers felt shortchanged, too, as some had been waiting well over a year for a new and current Audi A3. Whether your old car was long in the tooth, your novated lease timing out, or you simply had a life situation change – you simply couldn’t get one.
So after the long hiatus, it’s back. To celebrate its arrival, the brand invited motoring media to sample the potent Audi S3 range through the hills and a smattering of ex-Targa stages in Tasmania, and then the regular A3 model around town in Sydney, to see whether it was worth the wait.
If you’re interested in a review of the regular Audi A3 range, check back in exactly one week’s time, or on March 25 – as its review will appear then. In the meantime, let’s get stuck into the Audi S3 in particular and what’s new about it.
Ironically, after poking about on the surface and reading the fine print, it honestly appears not much.
It’s clear petrol-powered platforms from the German conglomerate are reaching the ceiling in terms of development. The 2022 Audi S3 uses a familiar ‘EA888’ 2.0-litre turbo four, but now with 228kW/400Nm to play with.
If those numbers sound familiar it’s because they are, and because you read overseas media reports. Australian-bound 2022 Audi S3s are blessed with the ‘full-fat’ European running gear and not the watered-down 221kW/380Nm version from before.
That also means the new Audi S3 range also features a Petrol Particulate Filter (PPF) to keep its emissions low. It’s great to see Australia finally receiving the cleanest petrol engines offered globally, and is no longer a ‘dumping ground’ for old engines.
Other things that smell old include the 2022 Audi S34’s skeleton – as most of it is carryover – and quite possibly the styling too. At a quick glance, it’s not hard to mistake the old for the new visually, so don’t feel bad if you’re up close and squinting at your monitor when viewing the galleries below.
However, as cars like the 2022 Volkswagen GTI have proven to Drive, none of that actually matters. What is new with the 2022 Audi S3 are the ancillary parts and electric architecture buried deep underneath its skin, which both enable it to do far better things than ever before.
To throw some clues your way, its adaptive suspension has a far smarter brain and greater processing power, the all-wheel-drive ‘Haldex’ unit is totally reconfigured and beefed up, and its chassis has the benefit of small upgrades and tweaks.
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But before we get into the nitty-gritty, a quick word on pricing. From launch, the 2022 Audi S3 is offered in both Sportback (hatch) and sedan body types. The Sportback is the cheaper of the pair and is priced from $70,700 before on-road costs, or around $79,000 on the road.
The sedan costs $2500 more at $73,200 before on-roads, or around $81,000 on the road. Options and extras are actually quite slim, with some of the test vehicles equipped with none, one, or a handful of cheap options, like a set of 19-inch Audi Sport wheels for just $300.
If you’re interested in the menu, you’ll find the 2022 Audi S3 options list and colour list below.
|Key details||2022 Audi S3|
|Price (RRP)||From $70,700 (Sportback) / $73,200 (sedan)|
|Price (On the road)||From $79,000|
|Options list||Roof rails in aluminium or black ($750), black exterior styling packages ($1500), body-coloured exterior mirrors ($0), electric tailgate ($850), 19-inch five-double-spoke wheels in anthracite and black ($300), Audi Exclusive individual paint ($3800), interior inlays in Carbon Atlas ($1100), black interior with contrasting stitching in red ($0), black interior with contrasting stitching in Rock Grey ($0), Steel Grey interior with contrasting stitching in Anthracite ($0), Premium Plus package ($3900), roof rails in aluminum or black ($750)|
|Colour list||Mythos Black metallic ($0), Python Yellow metallic ($0), Navarra Blue metallic ($0), Turbo Blue metallic ($0), Daytona Grey pearl ($0), Ibis White solid ($0), Tango Red metallic ($0), Glacier White metallic ($0)|
|Rivals||Mercedes-AMG A35 | BMW M135i | Volkswagen Golf GTI|
Unlike the exterior design, the interior is clearly an all-new affair.
The dashboard features a sharp, driver-focused layout that wouldn’t feel astray in a sports coupe. A unique element includes an unusually high-mounted pair of air vents that flank an S3-exclusive 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit Plus digital gauge cluster.
Not only do these air vents form part of the driver’s gauge binnacle, but really frame up the cabin as one for the driver. This upper-grade version of digital instrumentation found exclusively in the Audi S3 is a masterclass, as it enables endless customisation of whatever data you wish to view simultaneously.
My preferred combo includes viewing map and navigation data while knowing the artist and track I’m listening to alongside monitoring fuel statistics. Audi likes to appease a nerd, and I can appreciate it as one.
However, if you want nothing but traditional dials in your fancy gauge cluster, it’ll humour you too. Ironically, despite being a modern and fresh luxury car, traditions are something that Audi adheres to dearly.
Things like its button-heavy climate-control panel speak volumes to that point, as it shows the brand eschewing the trend of non-tactile and digital-display-based climate-control systems as seen in Land Rover, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, and other luxury cars.
In fact, Audi’s latest-and-greatest E-Tron GT electric car still uses buttons as per the 1980s for its digital climate-control system, so go figure. The gearshift area includes a couple of other nice tricks, too, like a neat toggle for shifting from park to drive, a new start button that’s now coloured black for the first time, and a single interactive dial for controlling the audio.
It’s a beautifully simple yet symmetrical lower centre console area that’s also wonderfully elegant. The audio wheel is quite cool, too, as you can simply roll your finger clockwise or anti-clockwise to adjust volume or press to skip a track.
It’s why you pay for an Audi: not just high-end materials and great construction, but also well-considered design that is both aesthetically pleasing yet ergonomic wherever you look.
The sports seats are right on for the package. Not only is the upper back section deeply bolstered to keep you still, but the lower seat base is also well-proportioned to cater for someone lanky (like this writer).
Furthermore, they’re electrically adjustable with four-way lumbar support, heated, and with two-position memory, as expected. The roads we drove were fast and flowing, yet I never felt uncomfortable or concerned I was rolling about the cabin.
Over in the second row, space is decent enough for the class. I’d consider it a 2+2 if you’re loading adults, as putting a fully grown human in the middle seat is truly drawing the short straw.
Even the aggressive bolstering of the seats in the back alludes to that point, and plays to the Audi A3’s dimensions that inherently work better with four adults instead of five. That same aggressive contouring is why the second row is comfortable despite being a bit squashy.
In terms of space (I’m 183cm tall), my knees were clear but close to the front seat backs, feet somewhat squashed underneath, and head just shy of the roof lining. The dark material cladding the interior’s ceiling does it no favours either, but there’s enough glass to peer out to reduce any cave-like atmosphere.
The second row has access to a pair of air vents, a 12-volt power outlet, and two cupholders in its fold-down armrest. Surprisingly, there’s not one USB port back here, which is a bit of a let down.
Boot space for the hatch is down for the new fourth-generation Audi S3, as the Sportback body type now allows for 325L of luggage, some 15L less than it used to before. The Audi S3 sedan offers 370L of storage, some 20L less than the 390L it also once offered.
Regardless of being a bit smaller, it’s big enough for a month’s worth of groceries if you stack like a pro, or will accept a compact stroller alongside a week or two’s worth. Under the boot floor lies a tyre repair kit sadly and no spare wheel.
|2022 Audi S3|
|Boot volume||325L seats up|
Infotainment and Connectivity
Things like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and DAB+ radio are handled by an Audi MMI 10.1-inch infotainment screen that’s now solely a touchscreen affair.
The outgoing and third-generation Audi S3 was one of the last to feature Audi’s fantastic rotary dial in the centre console, which I honestly find more intuitive to use when driving than just a touchscreen.
In some ways, I feel like this new pokey-only system is a slight ergonomic slip-up. However, the voice control works pretty well with an Australian accent, and when using Apple CarPlay in particular, you don’t need too many gestures to get around the various menus.
Equally so, my thinking could be outdated, so let me know how you feel in the comments below. Something that’s not up for debate, however, is the quality of the standard-fit stereo, which in the case of a 2022 Audi S3 is a 15-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system with 680 watts of power.
It’s the clarity and might that grabs you most, with Massive Attack’s Angel reproduced with huge scale and ambiance, and Erik B and Rakim’s Paid In Full sounding like you’re line-and-centre in the studio.
Other nice-to-haves include wireless charging, two USB-C charging ports, and Audi connected services (SOS/service).
Safety and Technology
Only the two-wheel-drive Audi A3 has been given a five-star ANCAP safety rating having been tested under 2020’s criteria. Even though the Audi S3 isn’t covered, it’s built on the same structure and has more safety technology than the entry-level model, so it is likely going to be just as safe.
As a result, we’ve capped the scoring at 8.0 and left the scoring blank, but included a link to the test results for the awfully similar two-wheel-drive version for your information.
It’s worth mentioning that the whole Audi A3 range comes standard with Audi Connect plus security and assistance technology, which enables a car finder and remote signal, remote lock and unlock, emergency calls, and online roadside assistance via your smartphone.
It also means the car comes with two pre-installed sim cards too. One enabling data connectivity between you and the car, and the other dedicated connectivity to things like emergency services, as the system is able to do so in the event of a severe accident.
Value for Money
As we all know, the hot hatch segment has morphed into two other sub-segments. One is a class of luxurious yet fast cars, the other seriously capable, track-ready yet slightly austere offerings.
As a recap, the 2022 Audi S3 range starts from around $79,000 on the road. The Mercedes-AMG is priced from $77,869 before on-roads and options – so well over $85,000 on the road – and isn’t as well-equipped as the Audi. I’d argue Audi offers more performance too.
Although a different proposition, a fully optioned 2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI is actually priced quite similar. One with both option packs and premium paints will cost you a bit over $67,000 drive-away, whereas the Audi with zero options is within 10 grand of that depending on the deal you get.
Also, if you’re salary-sacrificing the purchase, then the extra value for the extra spend could likely be in your favour. The last is the 2022 Hyundai i30 N, because you can’t talk performance hatch without mentioning Drive’s Car of the Year from the segment. Although not in the same league in terms of interior quality of fit-out, it’s quite a fair whack cheaper at $56,000 drive-away.
In terms of maintenance, Audi offers an upfront five-year/75,000km service plan – to match its newly minted five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty – for $2580.
|At a glance||2022 Audi S3|
|Warranty||Five years / unlimited km|
|Service intervals||12 months or 15,000km|
|Servicing costs||$2580 (5 years)|
|Fuel Usage||Fuel Stats|
|Fuel cons. (claimed)||7.4L/100km|
|Fuel type||Unleaded (95RON)|
|Fuel tank size||55L|
For the drive, we were invited on a three-ish-hour drive loop on some solid driving roads out of Hobart’s town centre, including a back catalogue of ex-Targa stages. Carefully selected for all the right reasons, they were honest enough to reveal warts and all over harsher bumps and ruts, but were also typical of the Apple Isle in that they were smooth, fast and flowing.
In turn we’ll keep ride-quality talk to a minimum and focus on its more athletic qualities, which are arguably the best parts about the car. The new fourth-generation Audi benefits from a new style of electro-hydraulic adaptive dampers that replace the brand’s old magnetic ride style set-up.
Without going into detail, this new system – and its electrical architecture attached – can adjust the vehicle’s damping quicker, faster and with more breadth. Usually with sports hatches or performance cars, I find myself gravitating toward softer settings on the street as Australian roads can be quite awful compared to some of Europe’s.
However, in automatic mode, the 2022 Audi S3 will, unbeknownst to you, tick-tack between damper settings in either sport, comfort, or anywhere else in the mix depending on how you’re treating it. It’s calibrated quite intuitively, and did a bloody stellar job of getting firm when the inputs got harsh, yet remaining comfortable on the slower and straightaway sections of road.
A couple of bends on the drive loop featured terrible imperfections around mid-corner, which the Audi S3 took in its stride without passing alarm through the steering wheel. Speaking of which, all Australian-bound 2022 Audi S3s feature progressive steering as standard, which is in contrast to other markets where it may be found on the options list or buried within a package.
The variable-ratio steering is great, direct, and intuitive to use, as you’d expect from a performance car. It’s weighted on the light side, but feels great to use now that all Audi performance cars receive a perfectly circular, thin-rimmed and rather large steering wheel.
Personally, I love the change the brand has made back to a traditional-shaped steering wheel, as the old flat-bottom Audi Sport ones – with their pointy bits – always felt ugly in your hands during day-to-day maneouvres like a three-point turn.
Overall, the surety and trustworthiness felt through its steering feels nicely aligned to the composure offered by its Quattro all-wheel-drive system, which has also been tweaked for 2022. The Haldex-based set-up has more clutches than before, beefier internals, and can now theoretically distribute all power to the back axle (not that it ever does, or needs to, for long durations anyway).
Over the test route I can say the car is more composed, more planted, and easier to get into a rhythm with than before. I used to own a 2017 Volkswagen Golf R personally, and have spent a decent amount of time behind the wheel of one.
Although the new 2022 Audi S3 offers way more ability, it’s in essence more of the same great philosophy. If you’re thinking of an upgrade from a Volkswagen Audi Group performance hatch, then definitely get on board. If you’re coming from an outgoing third-generation Audi S3 in particular, you’re the perfect person to notice the 228kW/400Nm European tune that we now finally receive here in Australia.
Although whisper quiet due to petrol particulate filters, modern emissions rules and maybe even the brand itself, it’s still as gnarly and flexible as ever, if not a touch more responsive too. The performance ramps up like a light switch after 2500rpm, and there’s enough mumbo to power out of corners in a higher gear after avoiding the brake pedal.
Some will miss the loud crackles and flatulence between gear changes via the seven-speed torque convertor automatic, but the new 2022 Audi S3 has moved to become more modern and contemporary. You get the odd burble out back, and plenty of turbocharger hiss via the intake, but it’s a more mature affair and less antisocial than before.
It’s more rapid, fast, and easier to drive fast than before, yet also more supple too when you just want to take it easy. A win/win overall, then, other than a pinch of intrusive levels of road noise when barrelling down coarse-chip motorways.
I guess grippy performance tyres will always induce road noise, but a few kegs of sound deadening would go a long way to quieting the thing down at 110km/h on rougher sections of road. That’s genuinely as bad as it gets.
|Key details||2022 Audi S3|
|Engine||2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol|
|Power||228kW @ 5450-6500rpm|
|Torque||400Nm @ 2000-5450rpm|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive|
|Transmission||Seven-speed torque convertor automatic|
|Power to weight ratio||143.8kW/t|
The wait has been long, but the 2022 Audi S3 is still the giant-slaying everyday driver it always was.
Throwing a properly considered all-wheel-drive system at the hot hatch was the perfect move, and after a few goes, Audi now has the solution incredibly dialled in and so well-sorted.
For the money, you get kerb appeal, luxury, speed, and even a cracking stereo and room for your dog – if you go for the Sportback. What’s also nice is that regardless of the body type you pick, you don’t need to shop for the options either, as nearly all the good stuff comes for the asking price.
If anything, maybe go for those fancy-looking 19-inch wheels, as they only cost $300 after all. Don’t be scared to pick the bright colour either, as colour choice is a free decision on an Audi S model, so pick something bold.
I quite like the blue, but Daytona Grey is always a classic hue. We look forward to getting the Audi S3 range in for a more thorough review, and some comparisons, in the coming weeks.