Audi created the Sportback segment, a five-door premium hatchback, and applied it across their vehicle range. From the A1 to the e-tron the Sportback design incorporates a compact and sporty exterior with the technology and connectivity you would expect from a premium motor vehicle company.
The Audi A3 Sportback is as versatile as it is eye-catching and in the S line guise, like the Navarra blue A3 I drove, just that little bit more special. However, if you trade a few more tokens and advance further through the Sportback ranks, you’ll arrive at the S3 Sportback, here shown in Tango red.
The S line exterior styling on this A3 means there many similarities on the outside between these two models. To add to these, the A3 is also fitted with optional 19” inch wheels ($500) and metallic paint ($1,250) matching the 19” rims and metallic paint that come as standard on the S3. The S3 can be differentiated though thanks to the red brake callipers with the S logo on the fronts and it comes with Matrix LED headlights while this A3 only has standard LED headlights.
Both vehicles are powered by a 2.0 litre, turbo-charged, 4-cylinder petrol engine paired with a 7-speed S tronic transmission and Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system. The A3 has 140kW of power and 320Nm of torque, consumes 6.7L/100km for the official combined fuel consumption (9.3L/100km for my week) and will complete the 0-100km dash in 7.0 seconds. The S3 gets a bit more oomph with 228kW of power and 400Nm of torque pushing its 0-100km/h time down to 4.8 seconds. The official combined fuel consumption is also a little higher at 7.4L/100km, and for my week I used 8.3L/100km. Although the S3 offers decent acceleration it’s not spine tingling and there is a distinct lack of aural excitement from the exhaust regardless of the drive mode selected.
The A3 and S3 actually come with five drive modes, Efficiency, Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual. In the A3 under the Individual mode you can select between Efficient, Balanced or Dynamic for the Drive system and Comfortable, Balanced or Dynamic for the Steering. In addition to these two options in the S3 you can also customise the Suspension, thanks to the inclusion of S Sport suspension with damper control, and the Engine Sound.
The subtle differences between these two variants continues on the interior with the A3 equipped with leather appointed seat upholstery here in Steel grey colour and the S3 getting the finer Nappa leather upholstery in black with express red stitching, which I preferred. The upholstery is not the only difference between the seats, in the A3 the front seats only have manual adjustment for recline, forward/back, seat height front and rear and front leg extension. Whereas the S3 front seats are heated and have power adjustment for recline, forward/back, seat height front and rear, and lumbar support. Both come with keyless entry on all four doors, which you will appreciate when your child pulls on the door handle before you can unlock it at the front, and it has keyless start so your key can stay in your handbag. Unless it needs charging, then you can use the wireless charging pad for the smart key located in the centre console cup holder on both of these hatchbacks.
A sporty looking leather steering comes standard in both the A3 and the S3, but I don’t like the cheap feeling plastic wheel mounted paddle shifters for ‘manually’ changing the gears. The multifunction selections on the wheel include a voice control button with a feminine looking silhouette on it. In both vehicles the voice control worked well for me when making calls, was okay for setting a destination on sat nav, but did not work well for changing the radio station. The driver also gets the Audi virtual cockpit instrument cluster in both Sportbacks, but in the S3 it is larger at 12.3” (compared to 10.25”), fully digital and configurable with S specific functions.
The 10.1” central touchscreen is the same in both vehicles and it comes with Audi connect plus. The Audi A3/S3 have an optional wireless charger, but in the vehicles I drove phone charging was done by plugging into one of the two USB-C ports in the cubby at front of centre console or the 12V outlet in the centre console. The A3 does come with wireless Apple CarPlay though, with the pad in the deep cubby at the front of the centre console, and the S3 has wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The S3 also gets a premium Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system to enjoy your music with surround sound reproduction via 15 high-performance loudspeakers including subwoofer and 16-channel amplifier with a total output of 680 watts.
Both vehicles have basic ambient lighting, but the S3 dash is just a little more stylish thanks to the red stitching that matches the seats. I don’t like gloss black surround around gear selector because it collects dust and gets finger marks on it and this is annoying. The cup holders in the centre console are clever though with a flip style arm that allows the size of the area to be changed and it has a removable rubber mat for easy cleaning. There are also good-sized drink bottle storage cubbies in front doors as well.
The rear seats have adequate head and leg room for me, but taller adults may find it a tighter fit. For your junior passengers there are two ISOFIX/three rear tether child seat restraint points, but only enough room for two car seats due to width. The centre seat folds down as arm rest with two shallow drink holders with grippy sides and there are awkward shaped drink bottle storage cubbies in rear doors. To keep the Team cool there are two central air vents with manual open/close and direction control below this one 12V outlet. There are rear carpet floor mats but no mat over transmission tunnel so this carpet may become worn over time.
Both the A3 and S3 come with a power assisted manual tailgate to access the reasonable sized boot that fits a small weekly shop or a stroller and a small shop. For convenience there are four tie down points with a cargo net, two hooks, two lights and one 12V outlet, but no space saver spare tyre. If extra room is required the rear seats have a 40:20:40 split fold mechanism to make the boot space larger.
Only two-wheel drive variants of the A3 model range have a 5-star ANCAP (2021) safety rating, all-wheel drive variants are unrated. Passive safety on the A3/S3 quattro includes seven airbags, with front airbags for driver and passenger, side airbags for front seats, centre airbag, head level curtain airbag for front and rear. These two both have a standard rear view reversing camera with front and rear sensors, auto lights and auto wipers.
Active safety on both vehicles includes Audi’s pre-sense front with Autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and pedestrian and cyclist detection, Lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring. The S3 also has Adaptive cruise control whereas the A3 has standard cruise control and both are set using the older style stalk that is behind the steering wheel rather than buttons on the steering wheel.
All new Audi vehicles sold come with a 5 years/unlimited kilometres manufacturer warranty and if your Audi is less than eight years old and has travelled less than 120,000 km it may be eligible for the Audi Advantage package. The package currently costs $2,900 for the A3/S3 and includes a two-year unlimited km Warranty – added to the end of any existing warranty or extended warranty, two years of Scheduled Servicing – added to the end of any existing service plan, and two years of Roadside Assistance – applies during the same period as the two-year Audi Advantage warranty and can be combined with any existing Audi roadside policy. The service interval for the A3/S3 is one year or 15,000kms, whichever occurs first and you can purchase a five-year service plan upfront for the A3 currently for $2,250 and for the S3 at $2,580 to keep your new Audi in game-ready condition.
The Audi A3 S line and S3 are both solid feeling, comfortable, nice looking hatchbacks, but for me I would level up and go for the S3 for its better engine stats and nicer interior. The Audi A3 Sportback 40 TFSI quattro S line starts at $53,500 excluding dealer delivery and on-road costs and as tested the A3 was $54,990 excluding the above costs. The Audi S3 Sportback TFSI starts at $70,700 excluding above costs and as tested this S3 was $71,000 excluding above costs, thanks to an optional 19” wheel design ($300). You can shop now for an A3/S3 Sportback online or visit your preferred Audi dealer for more information.
|Stylish exterior design||Plastic paddle shifters|
|Keyless open on all four doors||No aural entertainment from the exhaust|
|Nicer upholstery in the S3||No ANCAP safety rating for AWD A3/S3 models|
Photographs by Driven Women Magazine.