The landscape of cars may be outdone by SUVs and crossovers, but for some buyers, the nimble performance, efficiency and tidy size of the compact sports sedan are just the ticket. After a year away from the market, the Audi A3 returns in 2022 with a new angular body, upgraded mechanics and a redesigned interior.
The 2022 Audi S3 tested, starting at $47,900, is the sportier of the two versions available. Canadian enthusiasts will be sad to learn that the turbocharged, five-cylinder 401-hp RS didn’t make it here for 2022. But that doesn’t mean the slimmer S3 isn’t up for a bit of fun. It’s a stylish little platform that expertly blends performance, comfort and refined appointments.
The 2022 S3 is slightly larger than the outgoing model – 30 mm longer, 20 mm wider, and a longer smidge. The 2.0-liter quad-turbocharged engine produces 306 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, up from 292 hp and 280 lb-ft. It drives all four wheels through an intelligent seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which stabilizes through quick shifts and provides low-speed, idle-free operation.
The S3 sits 15 mm less than a regular A3 and rides a standard 18 inch alloy. As with most Audis, the driving modes include Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual, the latter allowing for tailoring a personalized dynamic cocktail.
The top-model $53,900 S3 Technik boosts the game with advanced LED headlights, power-folding mirrors, a Bang and Olufsen navigation and audio system, and Audi’s 12.3-inch virtual cockpit. Dipped in Daytona Gray ($890), this specimen is picked up around 60,000, with the biggest ticket item being the $1,600 Advanced Handling package. You’ll want to get the most out of your S3 Sport from this. It adds 19-inch wheels with 235/35 performance rubber along with adaptive damping.
The cabin of the 202 S3 includes a new angular design, and the 10.1-inch touchscreen is nicely integrated into the instrument panel. Build quality is up to usual Audi standards, although the hard plastic door pulls a bit. We see wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and B&O’s audio gets this jukebox to heart. The $1,300 Driver Assist package adds adaptive cruise and some semi-autonomous functionality.
Heated but not ventilated, the faux leather sports seats offer a great combination of comfort and lateral support. As with Audi, many analog controls were sent to the pastures. The usual volume knob on the console is replaced by a small circular touchpad that controls volume, station selection, etc. Certainly not as intuitive as Audi’s previous MMI rotary console which made whisking through the infotainment menus relatively easy.
However, we do have hard buttons for controlling HVAC and seat heating, and a description below that for drive modes, stability control, auto start/stop, and parking functions. The driving position of the S3 is positional and the outward visibility is good. Rear seat space is a bit cramped, and the trunk isn’t as roomy as you might hope, but hey, this is a compact sedan.
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The new S3 proves to be an excellent multi-level. Settle into a motorway cruise and laser beam the road with the confidence and serenity expected of fine euro iron. What I didn’t expect was the S3’s captivating fervor upon revealing a trail behind my back. It looks like Audi has just added some fun to this latest version of its smallest sports sedan. The S3 may be cheaper and less powerful than the Audi S cars, but it delivers the most smiles per mile…er, kilometer. Calling in dynamic mode and pushing the shift lever back into the “S” comp raises the suspension, invoking a more aggressive shift schedule, increasing throttle response, and adding more heft to the rudder. It also injects some exhaust sound into the cabin to match the sounds of pops and tones emerging from the quad exhaust pipes.
But unlike the previous S3 that got the job done with aim-and-shoot sanitization, the 2022 variant invites you to join in the fun. It’s quick, grips, pulls out of corners, and even makes a sweet aid to overdrive for some smile-inducing spin when…oh, attacking that deserted spinner. The rotation is supported by torque vectoring to the front wheels. The dual-clutch transmission responds to paddle inputs at a decent speed, and unlike its direct competitors from BMW and Mercedes, riding the S3 won’t even hit you with all the systems in “Go!”
This new desire to live comes with slightly improved fuel economy over the previous model – 8.8 l/100 km combined versus 9.5 l/100 km combined. Excellent fuel required.
Avid watchers will note that the S3 shares the MQB platform and most mechanicals with the new Volkswagen Golf R, so can we call the S3 Golf R a box? not exactly. The Volkswagen has a bit more power, is tuned significantly more aggressively, and sports that shiny rear clutch set that can distribute the power side-by-side for more exhilarating fun. Plus the R is available with a six-speed stick.
But what the Audi S3 offers is a similar pace, a smoother ride, and a less frustrating interface. It’s a charming piece that does everything extremely well, from cruising in luxury to dining in a back road at surprising speed. But dang, please choose a brighter color.