There’s no more mental Audi RS3 on sale, with its angry five-cylinder motor thrashing out 294kW and 480Nm. You could argue, however, that the smart money wouldn’t splash out the $85K required. Rather, it would plump for what we have here: the less ludicrous yet impressively quick 2019 Audi S3.
There are only four turbocharged cylinders in the S3 – two litres of displacement makes 213kW at 6500rpm and 380Nm at 1850–5300rpm. That engine and those figures are shared with the Volkswagen Golf R cousin, which is a more cost-effective option in terms of performance. However, the Golf R can’t be had in a pint-sized sedan configuration like this S3, which is something of an outlier in today’s automotive scene.
Regardless of how manic the RS3 is, this S3 is no slouch. Running through a seven-speed ‘S-Tronic’ dual-clutch gearbox, Audi reckons the S3 will hit 100km/h from a standing start in just 4.8 seconds. I don’t care what your name is, that’s pretty quick.
No SUVisms here, however. The Audi S3 can also be had as a hatch ($64,200) and cabriolet ($73,400), but our sedan has a starting price of $65,800.
It’s worth noting that five-banger driveline is still available, but you’ll need to jump into the new RS Q3 to get it, which is classed as an SUV.
Audi says an update of inclusions in 2019 gives the S3 a $9000 bump in value, with a bunch of additional gear included as standard fare: 19-inch Audi Sport alloy wheels, metallic paint, red brake calipers, nappa leather S sports seats, auto-folding mirrors, Bang & Olufsen sound system, and wireless smartphone charging.
Other standard inclusions of note: Audi magnetic ride, active lane assist, high-beam assist and adaptive cruise control (with Stop & Go).
That leaves you with one package to choose: the Assistance Package, which comprises traffic jam assist, hill hold assist, emergency assist and costing $400.
Our crystal-effect Ara Blue is the only paint option that isn’t no-cost, with a $728 surcharge. Our tester also has the 'black exterior styling package' as a $1300 add-on, leaving the final price at $67,828.
That kind of spend doesn’t get you a big sedan: 4466mm long, 1796mm wide and 1392mm tall, with a 2631mm wheelbase and 1516kg tare weight. If you’re looking at the competition, you’ll be running your ruler over warmer takes of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and BMW 1 Series, as well as the closely related Volkswagen Golf R, although the latter two can't match this Audi’s mini-sedan format.
The interior looks and feels premium, with quality materials laid out in a ‘less is more’ style. There are metallic splashes on the doors, air vents and controls, which bring some mature style to the otherwise blacked-out cabin. There are a few spots for storing your bits and bobs, but it’s not what I would call an overwhelmingly practical cabin: two cupholders, room for a bottle in each door card, and a shallow centre console bin where a wireless charging dock is hiding.
If you’re still a fan of playing CDs, you’ll be happy to find one ensconced in the glovebox. They’re starting to become a bit of a rarity these days, and a good opportunity to give the 705W 14-speaker sound system a run for its money.
The seats, great to look at and sit in, finish off the cabin on a high point. They have manual adjustment (save for electric lumbar control), but grab you in all of the right places for a sports car.
What’s known as Virtual Cockpit is a 12.3-inch digital instrument binnacle, which lets you control navigation, phone and audio via steering wheel controls. It works well in concert with the infotainment display, or can run in lieu of it: the centre display can fold down into the dashboard, leaving you with a dashboard unencumbered by today’s digital demands.
Said infotainment display is controlled through the rotary dial aft of the gearstick, which allows easy navigation to your different screens and settings. Crucial boxes to tick these days, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility is taken care of. The worst criticism I can level at it is that the design of the operating system looks a little tired compared to some of the more modern systems, and the map graphics feel particularly dated.
The steering wheel is another highlight in the cabin, whose perforated leather and stitching look and feel great. Sporty pretensions are there with the S branding and flat-bottomed design. But more importantly, they’re accounted for when things get moving. Steering is light and pliable in Comfort mode, but transforms into something purposefully meaty in Dynamic mode.
Magnetic Ride (Audi’s take on adaptive damping) gives a perceptible difference in the way the S3 carries itself. It’s never outright smooth and buttery on rough roads, but if you’re willing to accept a few sporty jiggles, then you’ll find the S3 comfortable enough in Comfort mode.
Move into Dynamic mode, and things tighten up purposefully. The ride is very firm, verging on harsh over slow bumps and rough surfaces. It’s for good reason, however. Body roll is reined in and that meaty steering yields loads of grip and a dash of feedback in corners. The S3 turns in eagerly, feeling very balanced through the Haldex-based quattro all-wheel-drive system. To the point of tyres squealing in protest, the S3 remains unfazed. You can really feel the S3 rotating through tight corners, without any erring towards under- or over-steering.
Dynamic mode lets the engine snarl, be angry, and loud in the upper rev ranges. There's plenty of farting on the fast upshifts and gargling on the overrun, as well. For weekend punting through the twisties and track days, you could do plenty worse than this S3. Aside from a brief pause at standstill as the dual-clutch gets into action, that wide thump of mid-range torque gives the S3 startlingly rapid and easily accessible acceleration.
There’a a launch-control function on the S3, no doubt needed to help slide under that five-second barrier. You need to switch off stability control to do it, however.
Frivolities aside, Audi’s dual-clutch S-Tronic automatic gearbox gives tame and timid performance when stuck in the grind of town and traffic. It’s never going to be as outright smooth as a torque-converter automatic, but in my books it’s plenty good enough.
The claimed combined consumption figure is 6.6 litres per hundred kilometres. In our driving, which comprised traffic, highway and some backroad bombing, we settled down to 9.2L/100km.
For those passengers stuck in the back, the good news is there’s enough space for most adults to be comfortable, although I’m not as demanding in terms of overall space. Head room is in short supply, but as long as you’re not piggy in the middle, there is a decent serving of leg and toe room.
Boot size is modest, but fair for a vehicle of this size. There’s some extra space down amongst the space-saving spare, as well as a hatch on the driver’s side. Pedants will notice the ceiling of the boot (not the lid) is unlined panelwork, but modest trips to IKEA and Bunnings are possible thanks to flat-folding 60/40 seats.
In terms of ownership costs, Audi lists three years at $1850 and five years at $2380 under the service plan pricing, doing a visit every 12 months or 15,000km.
Audi is holding firm on its three-year warranty, with unlimited kilometres allowed within that time frame.
In isolation, the S3 stacks up as a well sorted and resolved vehicle overall. You’re paying a bit of a premium for the S3 experience, especially when compared to the mechanically very similar Volkswagen Golf R. However, you don’t feel stooged when you are behind the wheel. Audi’s improved list of standard offerings certainly helps.
The sedan format, teamed up with Audi’s styling and quality touchpoints, leaves the S3 with an air of mature grace that sets it apart from other hot hatches. It’s proper fast, and a rewarding drive through the twisties, but can also adeptly pull double-duty as a comfortable and reasonably efficient means of getting from A to B.