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REVIEW | Understated Audi S3 impresses with strong performance

For certain drivers the high-performance RS badge is the key to realising driving nirvana in the Audi camp, and the more powerful and angry the car, the better.

But not everyone needs a hot-tempered Rottweiler, and Audi’s line-up of lesser-powered, S-badged cars provide athletic thrills without all the seething rage.

It was about 20 years ago that the four-ringed badge entered the sporty premium compact market segment with the first S3, and the car recently arrived in SA in its latest guise.

Until the more powerful RS3 comes along later, the S3 is top dog in the new fourth-generation A3 range. It’s available as a five-door Sportback for R815,000, and a four-door sedan for R830,000 — the subject of this test.

Sharing a platform with the new eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf, the new A3 is a bolder looking car than its predecessor, thanks to its larger single-frame grille and more prominent wheel arches. The S3 gets additional styling aggression with a large rear diffuser, four tailpipes, 19-inch wheels, red brake calipers and S-model specific bumpers.

It crouches 15mm lower than regular A3s and is optionally available with adaptive damper control (not fitted to the test car) that lowers the ride height by another 10mm.

Both the Sportback and sedan retain the same wheelbase as the old A3, but interior space has grown a little. The sedan packs four people into its cabin in reasonable comfort, but taller rear passengers might prefer more legroom.

Boot space is unchanged from before, with each body style offering its pros and cons. The sedan has the larger boot at 425l versus 380l, but the Sportback allows bulkier items to be loaded through its hatch door.

The interior’s undergone a major restyle, becoming more digitised and driver focused. Trapezoidal air vents have replaced the previous round ones, and the automatic gear lever has shrunk to aluminium stub.

A digital instrument cluster now comes standard, along with a touchscreen infotainment system that recognises letters entered by hand, provides acoustic feedback, and can be voice controlled.

Smartphone pairing via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto can be done wirelessly and the car offers inductive smartphone charging.



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